Monday, March 12, 2012

Famous Girl Scouts

Famous Girl Scouts, On Monday, March 12, Girl Scouts of the USA celebrates its 100th anniversary.

In 1912, when Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low founded the group in her hometown of Savannah, Ga., 18 girls signed up to be American Girl Guides. The following year, the group changed its name to Girl Scouts, at the insistence of the girls.

Years earlier, the 51-year-old Low had endured some life-defining disappointments. Her marriage to William Mackay Low, who died in 1905, had been troubled. And thanks to chronic ear infections and a stray piece of wedding rice that became lodged in her ear, she had suffered significant hearing loss.

But Low’s life had changed course in 1911 when she met Robert Baden-Powell, who had started the couting movement for boys in England. Low returned to Georgia to launch an organization that now boasts 10 million girls and adults around the world.

Stacy A. Cordery, a former Scout and author of the recently published “Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts,” answered questions about this American pioneer.

Q: The second of six children, Low was called Crazy Daisy as child because of her fun-loving nature. How did that role expand as she came of age?

A: By the time she’s 16 to 18, the Crazy Daisy stories dry up. She’s becoming more self-possessed; she doesn’t need that role in the family. But when she becomes hard of hearing, she does things that appear to be strange or eccentric because she can’t hear. Now, is that Crazy Daisy? I think it might be her way to avoid being poor, pitiful Daisy. She can fall back into the role she had as a girl.

Q: Was Low a product of her time?

A: As a woman at that time, she had two roles: She was to be a wife and a mother. She failed at both. Also, I think Willy broke her heart when he cheated on her. In her marriage, I can see evidence of her trying to be a good wife.

Q: Do you think Low could have founded the Girl Scouts if she had been happily married and raising children?

A: Girls Scouts love to debate this question. What I believe is, from her father she got the understanding that you never give up, you never say die. And from her mother she got a sense of civic duty and responsibility. Her church told her you have to give back to the society that gives to you. Many things were in place already for her to respond the way she did to scouting. So I think there’s a good chance she would have founded the Girl Scouts no matter what.

Q: Did Low have a certain type of girl in mind for scouting?

A: She aimed very broadly. All girls were welcome: factory girls, working class girls, wealthy girls, immigrant girls, everybody.

Q: What was so brave about Low’s departure from America in 1920 to promote Girl Scouts and Girl Guides (its British equivalent) internationally?

A: We had just fought World War I, a gruesome war. That war was so hated that Americans turned away in revulsion. We were isolationist. But Juliette Low, who was transatlantic — with one foot in America and one foot in Europe — said that the only thing that will prevent war in the future is the “magic thread” of friendship, from girl to girl.

Q: Is the mission of the Girl Scouts today markedly different than in was in 1912?

A: At many fundamental levels, the mission was exactly the same then. Low did not use these words, but it was an agency to empower girls.

Q: Is there a dominant personality trait of Juliette Gordon Low’s that is still enmeshed in the mission of the Girl Scouts?

A: Fun. That’s what she said attracted her to scouting. As a girl, she was the one who wanted to roll down the hill and pick wildflowers. She thought play was important. She always saw the bright side and the funny angle of things.