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History of the Girl Scout Organization

Juliette Gordon Low, Founder
Girl Scout History

Juliette Gordon Low, founder of
Girl Scouts in the United States

Juliette Gordon Low, founder of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., was born October 31, 1860, in Savannah, Georgia, and died there January 17, 1927.

Daisy, as she was known to family and friends, was the second of six children of William Washington Gordon and Eleanor Kinzie Gordon. Her father's family were early settlers in Georgia and her mother's family played an important role in the founding of Chicago.

A sensitive and talented youngster, Daisy spent a happy childhood in her large Savannah home, which has been purchased and restored by Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. Now known as the Juliette Gordon Low Girl Scout National Center, the handsome Regency house was designated a Registered Historic Landmark in 1965.

Young Daisy developed what was to become a lifetime interest in the arts. She wrote poems, sketched, wrote and acted in plays and later became a skilled painter and sculptor.

In her teens, Daisy attended private schools in Virginia and later a French school in New York City. Following her school years she traveled extensively in the United States and Europe, broadening her education.

On the date of her parent's 29th wedding anniversary, December 21, 1886, Juliette Gordon married William Mackay Low, a wealthy Englishman. Although the couple moved to England, Juliette found time to continue her travels, dividing her time between the British Isles and America.

During the Spanish-American war, she returned to aid her country. With her mother she helped organize a convalescent hospital for soldiers in Florida, where her father, who had been a Captain in the Confederate Army, was stationed as a General in the U.S. Army. At the end of the war she returned to England.

After her husband's death in 1905, Juliette spent several years drifting without a sense of direction. All this changed in 1911 when she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, and became interested in the new youth movement. One year later she returned to the United States and made her historic phone call to a friend saying, "I've got something for the girls of Savannah, and all America, and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight." Thus, on March 2, 1912, Juliette Low gathered 18 girls together to organize the first two American Girl Guide troops. Daisy Gordon, her niece, was the first registered member. The name of the organization was changed to Girl Scouts the following year.

In developing the Girl Scout movement in the United States, Mrs. Low brought girls of all backgrounds into the out-of-doors, giving them opportunity to learn about nature and develop self-reliance and resourcefulness. She encouraged girls to prepare themselves not only for traditional homemaking roles, but also for possible future roles as professional women, in the arts, sciences and business, and for active citizenship outside the home. Disabled girls were welcomed into Girl Scouting at a time when they were excluded from many other activities. This seemed quite natural to Juliette Low, who never let her own deafness keep her from full participation in life.

From an initial 18 girls in 1912, Girl Scouting has grown to nearly 3.3 million in the 1990's. It is the world's largest voluntary organization for girls and has influenced the lives of more than 50 million girls and adult women and men who have belonged to Girl Scouts.

Juliette Low accumulated friends and admirers of all ages, nationalities and walks of life. By maintaining contacts with overseas Girl Guides and Girl Scouts during World War I, she helped lay the foundation for today's World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. After her death in 1927, her friends honored her by establishing the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund, which finances international projects among Girl Guides and Girl Scouts throughout the world.

On July 3rd, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed a bill authorizing a three-cent commemorative stamp in honor of Juliette Gordon Low. The stamp was one of the few dedicated to a woman. During World War II, a liberty ship was named in her honor, and in 1954, the city of Savannah honored her by naming a new school for her.

On October 28, 1979, Juliette Gordon Low was installed in the Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. The purpose of the Women's Hall of Fame is to "honor in perpetuity those women, citizens of the United States of America, whose contributions to the arts, athletics, business, education, government, the humanities, philanthropy and science have been of greatest value to the
development of their country."

On December 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill naming a new Federal Building in Savannah, GA for Juliette Gordon Low. It was only the second Federal Building in history to be named for a woman.

Girl Scout History

How many of these historical Girl Scout facts do you know?

Girl Scouts was founded by Juliette Gordon Low on March 12, 1912 in Savannah, Georgia. For the first year it was called "Girl Guides" like the Girl Guides in England, on which it was based. From an original membership of 18 girls, the organization has grown to 3.3 million girl and adult members throughout the country today.
The first Girl Scout handbook was published in 1913 and was called How Girls Can Help Their Country. In the early years of Girl Scouting there was one handbook for everyone. Today there are five -- one for each age level in Girl Scouting. Over the years the handbook has been published in Braille, Spanish, Japanese, and German editions.
The first Girl Scout uniform in 1912 was actually blue. The color was changed to khaki in 1914. It wasn't until 1928 that the Girl Scout uniform became green -- the color most people associate with Girl Scouts. Today, there are different uniforms for each of the five age levels, as well as an adult uniform. The colors? Shades of green or blue (or brown and blue for Brownie Girl Scouts), but you should see some of the new styles tapestry vests, patterned tights, shorts and slacks in addition to the always popular sash and vest.
The first Girl Scout national headquarters was in Washington, D.C. It was moved to New York City in 1916 and has been there ever since.
The first local Girl Scout council charter was issued by the national organization in 1916 to Toledo, Ohio. In the early days, at one point there were as many as 2000 Girl Scout councils throughout the country delivering Girl Scout program to girls. Resources have been organized and consolidated over the years and there are now 324 Girl Scout councils serving girls in all fifty states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
A film produced by Girl Scouts in 1918 called "The Golden Eaglet" was shown in movie theaters in the United States.
Girl Scouts published a very popular magazine for young girls from 1917-1979 called The American Girl (called The Rally from 1917-1920) It is considered a "classic" of its era and is still available on microfilm from the University of Michigan. Girl Scouts still publishes The Girl Scout Leader magazine for all adult members. It began publication in 1921 as Field News. A fiction series, published by Grosset & Dunlap and featuring Brownie Girl Scouts as main characters. began publication in 1993. GSUSA works with Scholastic, Inc. on G * I * R * L, (Girls for Real Life), a magazine for girls between the ages of 8 and 14. Its first issue was published in 1995.
Girl Scouts has had a national conference and training center since 1926. Located in Briarcliff Manor, New York and first called Camp Edith Macy after an early Girl Scout pioneer, it is now called Edith Macy Conference Center. Thousands of Girl Scout leaders and council volunteers and staff have received training there in its 70-year history. The center has also been the site of international Girl Guide and Girl Scout conferences, one of which was attended by Eleanor Roosevelt.
Juliette Gordon Low, founder of Girl Scouts in 1912, was deaf from an early age. She was also multi-talented and could draw, paint, sculpt, and forge iron gates.
Girl Scouts was founded "for all the girls" and as early as 1917 had troops for physically disabled girls. There are also records of Black troops in New York in the 1920s; American Indian and Asian troops as early as the 1930s and 1940s, probably earlier; as well as a continuing history of innovative special projects involving undeserved populations such as migrant girls, Mexican-American girls, girls in the inner-city, girls in rural areas, girls with mothers in prison, girls in Head Start programs.
Girl Scouts have probably sold cookies as an activity since 1912, but the first sale of commercially-baked Girl Scout Cookies took place in the Philadelphia council in 1936. The two most popular Girl Scout Cookies have always been the shortbread trefoil and the thin mint. Participating in the cookie sale teaches a girl important life skills such as the importance of organization and the need to be responsible.
During both World War I and World War II, Girl Scouts served their country on the home front collecting waste fat and scrap iron, growing Victory Gardens, and selling defense bonds. During that time special programs on seafaring and aviation, called Mariner Girl Scouts and Wing Girl Scouts were developed for Senior Girl Scouts.
Caring for the environment -- whether called conservation, ecology or environmental protection -- has always been part of Girl Scout program. Early handbooks contained information on conserving materials and protecting nature. In 1945, the first Lou Henry Hoover Memorial Forest, was dedicated by Girl Scouts in honor of their twice former President and later honorary president. In 1970, Eco- Action, a nationwide environmental education and improvement program, began. In 1992 GSUSA launched a nationwide environmental service project known as Girl Scouts Care for the Earth.
Girl Scouting has always worked to remain contemporary and fun for girls of all ages by continually studying the development of girls and their needs and using the results to create changes in its program and publications when needed. Major program or organizational studies have taken place at least every ten years since 1925. A major change occurred in 1963 when four separate age levels for girls ages 7-17 were launched: Brownie Girl Scouts, Junior Girl Scouts, Cadette Girl Scouts, and Senior Girl Scouts. In 1984, a new age level called Daisy Girl Scouts, for girls age five or in kindergarten, was introduced. As recently as 1993-1995 contemporary new handbooks were published for all age levels.
Over the years, Juliette Gordon Low and the Girl Scouts have been honored by outside organizations in many ways. A World War II Liberty Ship was named in Juliette Low's honor in 1944. In 1948 a three-cent commemorative stamp honoring Juliette Low was issued by the United States Post Office. In 1962 and again in 1987 the US Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Girl Scouts. Juliette Low's portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, and a Federal Building has been named for her in Savannah, Georgia. Girl Scouts of the United States of America was reincorporated under Congressional charter in March 1950.
The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in Savannah, Georgia, restored in the period of the 1880s, was dedicated as a national program center for Girl Scouts in 1956 and was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1965. It was the first building in Savannah to receive landmark status. The Birthplace each year is visited by thousands of Girl Scouts and members of the general public.
In 1975 the National Council of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. affirmed that Girl Scout membership would continue to be limited to girls and elected Dr. Gloria D. Scott as its first Black National President.
A redesigned Girl Scout trefoil was officially launched in 1978 and a three-year campaign to acquaint the public with this new, contemporary identity of Girl Scouting was launched.
Tune In to Well-Being, Say No to Drugs, the first in a series of program resources on contemporary issues, was introduced in 1985. The following years saw the publication of further books in the series dealing with the contemporary issues of preventing child abuse; growing up female; leading girls to mathematics, science and technology; preventing youth suicide; facing family crises; preventing teenage pregnancy; environmental action; promoting pluralism; literacy; and health.
Girl Scouts first used teleconferencing technology in 1989 at the National Meeting of Presidents and Executive Directors by Regions.

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