Friday, March 12, 2010

Let's Hear It For the Girls

Magnet # 191: Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace

Material: Resin

Purchased By: Me

This is Girl Scout Day, the anniversary of the day in 1912 when Juliette Low gathered a group of 18 girls to form the first group of what was then known as American Girl Guides. Low was an active woman who came from a wealthy family and had been looking for a personal project for awhile.  Earlier in her life, she and her mother had helped establish a convalescent hospital for soldiers wounded in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, so she had experience with volunteering. And when, in her travels, she became friends with Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, Low found her calling. She soon began organizing a female counterpart to his organization, the Girl Guides, in Scotland and England. And when she returned home in 1912, she was eager to give the girls of America their own scouting group. Before long, that one group had grown into an entire movement that would be Low's greatest achievement in life.

While I realize that many women could have founded the Girl Scouts, I'm glad Juliette Low was the one who did. First of all, she showed a female independence that not many women did in her day. When she discovered that her husband had been cheating on her and drinking, rather than just accept it, she began divorce proceedings. However, he died before their divorce was finalized, leaving all of his money to his mistress - sounds like a really nice guy. Juliette never married again. Also, thanks to two unfortunate events over the course of her life, she was almost entirely deaf. Early on, she had received poor treatment for an ear infection and it greatly diminished her ability to hear in one ear. During her wedding, one grain of the rice that was thrown lodged in her good ear and when it was removed, it destroyed all of her ability to hear from it. But I think her handicap made her an even better candidate to start the Girl Scouts. Because she had learned sign language, she was able to teach it to her girls and give them exposure to a person with disabilities. The Girl Scouts have always been very accepting of girls with disabilities, and I think Low's disability helped to establish that. Finally, Low was said to be a loving, unusual person who once stood on her head at a meeting to show her girls her new shoes. While she never had children of her own, she has had a considerable impact on generations of girls, myself included.

The Girl Scouts of the USA have now been around 98 years, and they have helped raise countless girls. My Mom was a Girl Scout and I followed in her footsteps, and was a Girl Scout for 11 years total. My favorite part was earning patches - oddly enough, I had a compulsion to try and collect them all (what, me compulsive?). We did some camping when I was younger, but as I got into junior high and high school, my troop's idea of roughing it was going without cable in our hotel rooms. In 1953, the organization purchased and restored Low's birthplace here in Savannah. It has gone on to become a major destination for Girl Scouts all over the world. When I was growing up, I toured it three times, twice on a visit with other Girl Scouts. I had a lot of fun, traveled to all sorts of places, and made friendships that I still have today. The organization has changed since my time, but I'd still recommend it to any girls who are curious. No matter what your interest is - art, math, history, science, sports, and so on - the Girl Scouts can accommodate it. I have heard in recent years that it's harder for the organization to get members, which is saddening to me. I hope that's just a temporary problem. The Girl Scouts were there for me when I was growing up and I hope they're there for many generations of girls to come - long live the girls!

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