Juliette Daisy Gordon Low was born on October 31, 1860 in Savannah, Georgia. She had a total of three sisters and two brothers. “Daisy” was Juliette’s nickname when she was a little girl. She remembered the year of 1864 as vividly as if she had been fourteen instead of three years old. For some of her life as a child, Daisy lived on a plantation in the North of Georgia. The first organization that Daisy founded was in the winter of 1876. It was called “Helpful Hands.” The club name was changed to “Helpless Hands” because by some curious mischance, she taught the members all to thread their needles with their left hands. “Helpless hands” was ended in the summer of 1876, when the yellow epidemic came to Savannah. The yellow epidemic took one of the young girl’s that was in the “Helpless Hands” club. When Daisy was fourteen years old, she was staying at the plantation with her brothers and sisters and her aunt. While she was staying there, she had her first grown-up callers.
Daisy loved her big sister Eleanor (Nellie). She always followed her around. Daisy’s mother was from the North, and her father was from the South. Daisy was conscientious about her lessons, but she always had so many irons in the fire that her sister could not remember her as being enthusiastic about any one of them. If there was anything that was unusual, it fascinated Daisy. As a child, she believed that “a snake across the road means an enemy in your faith.”
Every year the three Gordon girls, Nellie, Daisy, and Alice, came up from Savannah to spend the summer with their Aunt Eliza, at the Old Stiles home in northern Georgia, Etowah Cliffs. Daisy was gifted with acting and she used to play acting with her cousins at the plantation. Daisy also had a great deal of talent for art, and she and Caroline Stiles --cousin-- were continually making paper dolls. Daisy was, of course, a Daisy. She was a gifted writer and illustrator, and contributed many amusing poems and well-drawn pictures. Daisy wrote “The Piggy” when she was eight or nine years old. “The Piggy” was written as a protest against the “Sanford and Merton” and “Little Rollo” stories which the children were forced to read. As Daisy grew older, she never forgot Etowah Cliffs.
When she was old enough for school, she went to a French boarding school in New York City. This school was extremely strict. There were no games at the school, nor did the teachers think that they needed them. When there was a snow day, Daisy and her best friend that she made, Abby Lippit, decided to have a snow fight. They were punished by being kept inside for three days. Boys were equally unwelcome either as callers or escorts. When the girls were outside, they were not allowed to talk to boys. Boys, when they were allowed to be close to a girl, were never alone. There was always a chaperon within earshot. Daisy was the only girl who was ever allowed to go out unaccompanied. This was so because she was one of the older pupils and at that time she was studying oil painting with a famous artist, and it was necessary for her to go to his studio for her classes. When she was fourteen years old she had gone away from home to attend Edgehill, a school in Virginia conducted by the Misses Randolph, who were granddaughters of Thomas Jefferson. The school itself was across Thomas Jefferson’s old home. She was there for two years and for one year after at Stewart Hall, which was also in Virginia. Then she came to New York.
Her father was William W. Gordon. He was a southerner of the old school. He fought for four years for the Confederacy, serving in the Virginia and Western armies, suffering both wounds and the bitterness of defeat. Her mother was Eleanor Kinzie Gordon. She was from the North and her husband, Daisy’s father, fought in the South. Eleanor had three brothers who fought in the Union Army. One was killed and two were captured. Daisy resembled her mother more than her father. Daisy was born just before the Civil War, which brought financial ruin to her parents and subjected the children who had thus far arrived to the danger, sorrow, poverty, and struggle, not only of war days, but of the period of reconstruction as well. Like her mother, Daisy was absolutely brimful of energy and the zest of living. She loved animals. She had so many pets. She loved horses the most and loved riding them all the time. Daisy had a curious habit of studying her financial situations in bed. Outdoor sports attracted Daisy. She was a fair tennis player, unusually good swimmer, but horseback riding was her favorite exercise. On December 21, 1886, her parents' 29th wedding anniversary, Daisy married William Mackay Low, a wealthy Englishman, at Christ Church in Savannah, Georgia. She lived in England with her husband. She also lived in Egypt. Her mother died in 1916.
Robert Baden-Powell was a gallant soldier who had defended Mafeking in the South African War. He discovered the boy scouts. Sir Robert gave Juliet Low the idea of Girl Scouts. They met in 1910 or 1911. He encouraged his sister, Miss Agnes Baden-Powell, to put herself at their head, suggesting that they be called Girl Guides. Mrs. Low started a company of Girl Guides in the lonely Scottish valley, Glen Lyon, and invited every girl she could lay a hold of to come up to her house on Saturday afternoons. They learned knots, the history of the flag, and the guide laws. Then they went on to knitting and cooking and first aid. And what was more exciting, the young Guards officers who were staying with Mrs. Low, taught them map reading and signaling, which latter was dome from one hill to another. October, 1911, when Mrs. Low came south to London, she began to start more Guide companies. On January 6, 1912, she sailed the Arcodian for New York. At Jamaica the party separated and Mrs. Low went on to Savannah to start the Girl Guides. Imagine a woman, delicate, no longer young, with no great future, handicapped by deafness, deliberately setting out to conquer the U.S. for Girl Guiding! The International Council was one of Mrs. Low’s most cherished children. She never missed a meeting when she was in Europe, and often came over especially for it. She was that rarest of human beings, an original thinker; she had a fresh and unbiased approach to any problem. There are in the world few personalities as vivid as that of Juliette Low. Nothing that she ever did was a greater, finer thing than when she stepped back and let other people take charge of Girl Scouting in the United States. She never ceased to battle for the things for which she cared and in which she believed, especially for the principles that the girls’ point of view must never be overlooked or forgotten. And if this little book can give to those who never saw her, some idea of the personality of the woman who was not only the first Girl Scout but the best Girl Scout of the United States, it will not have failed of its object.
In 1912, Daisy brought Girl Guiding to the United States. Mrs. Low never forgot her girls. There was a two weeks camp held at the Y.M.C.A. which was generously loaned by good friends. The Red Cross had just made an award to a Savannah Girl Scout Captain for the best instance of life saving done by Red Cross methods. The Captain was taught to apply artificial respiration and she had resuscitated a Negro overcome by gas while digging a ditch. In 1913, from this time until the day of her death, the Girl Scouts and the Girl Guides were the most important thing in the world to Juliette Low. Her mind was upon the future--and the girls. And the girls paid their tribute to her by thinking of her as their “Miss Daisy”--their friend. The First Honorary committee of the Girl Scouts was in 1913. The states that came were: Washington D.C.; Savannah, Georgia; Atlanta, Georgia; Boston, Massachusetts; New York City, New York; Worchester, Massachusetts; Orange, New Jersey; Newark, New Jersey; Birmingham, Alabama; Chicago, Illinois; and Baltimore, Maryland.
There was a camp that was given for the Girl Scouts and the Girl Guides and it was called Lookout Mountain. This camp was in Georgia. This camp was given to Daisy for the girls to stay here and learn about living on their own and surviving on their own.
Girl scouting, to Juliette Low, was a game and she lived to see it played by more than 150,000 girls in 1927. They established a magazine and they called it “The Rally.” Josephine Daskam Bacon saw Juliette in three pictures--a dauntless little Joan of Arc, planting her precious banner all over the country; a broadminded administer, adapting herself shrewdly to changing condition; and a gracious Southern woman, honoring her friends with every means in her hand.
Adoring adventure, never afraid of anything new, in 1922 Juliette was invited to go up in an airplane, and her reply was, “When do we start?” Daisy refers to herself as “just a plain woman with common sense.” She loved going in motors, trains, and aero planes because, as is the case with many people who are deaf, she heard far better in an atmosphere of violent vibration. She quotes that, “I have enjoyed tremendously. I’m not at all afraid of dying, but I am petrified at the idea of becoming old, a bore and a burden.”
One of Juliette’s dreams was to have the World Camp of the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts meet in the United States. World camp would be a camp called Camp Edith Macy. This is where Girl Guides and Girl Scouts all over the world would come together and share something of their homeland, whatever it may be. (This tradition is still done today in a small community or a large community, but each troop chooses a country and makes something from that country.)
The 1926 World Conference was in America, in New York. The fourth International Conference at Camp Edith Macy was from May 11-17, 1926. Four hundred acres of wooded hillside had lately been given to the Girl Scouts of the United States by Mr. V. Everit Macy in memory of his wife, Edith Carpenter Macy, who was one of the first people in the United States to believe in the movement, and who for six years was the chairman of the National Executive Board.
Juliette Low had faced death many times before 1926. On Monday, January 17, 1927, the day of her death, she asked that her will be brought her, as there was something she wished to add. She was buried in her Girl Scout uniform, the girl scouts acting as guard of honor; the flag on the City Hall at half mast. And when her will was read, this was the last paragraph:
I trust I have no enmities, and I leave and bequeath to my family my friendships, especially my beloved Girl Scouts.