In Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts, Stacy A. Cordery delves into Low’s fascinating and untraditional life.
What first piqued your interest in the founding of the Girl Scouts?
I first learned about Daisy Low from my troop leader when I was a Brownie. The story of her creating, nearly singlehandedly, the whole, huge, successful Girl Scouts organization despite the hearing loss that resulted when a piece of wedding rice lodged itself in her ear was so spellbinding that it never left me.
Daisy Low lived a fairly nontraditional life, particularly with her world traveling. How did this independent spirit influence the Girl Scouts?
When Low’s husband cheated on her, she was shocked and stunned. His betrayal forced her to accelerate the independence she had been cultivating as their relationship deteriorated. Surely part of what resonated for her was how Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting could prepare young women for several possible futures: marriage and motherhood, yes, but also “single blessedness,” desertion, divorce, widowhood, or a career. Girl Scouting taught girls how to take charge of a household, a hike, a hospital, even an airplane.
How did the early evolution of the Girl Scouts in America differ from that of the Boy Scouts?
Girl Scouting in the United States has a clearer beginning than the Boy Scouts of America in that there were several men who took an interest in Baden-Powell’s [U.K.] movement and wanted to see it grow in the U.S. The Girl Scouts were well and truly Low’s vision, fed by her energy, her money, her family and friendship networks, and her consistent belief that American girls would benefit in countless ways from the fundamental tenets of Scouting. Hers began as a one-woman show, and few expected Low to display the commitment and entrepreneurial spirit she did to launch the movement.
How closely does today’s Girl Scouts adhere to Daisy’s original vision?
According to the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. today, “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place,” and Low would wholeheartedly endorse that mission. She would, I believe, celebrate the changes in Girl Scouting, from new badges to the emphasis on teamwork, from their new CEO, Anna Maria Chavez, the first Latina to head the Girl Scouts, to the continued involvement of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. in worldwide Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting. Most of all, Low believed that the girls themselves would know what was best—if they did not enjoy a new venture, then it should be discontinued. “Trust the girls,” she repeated often, and that would likely be her advice for her organization today.