Juliette Low (October 31, 1860 - January 17, 1927) was an American youth leader and the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1912.
She was born Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon in Savannah, Georgia, and was known as "Daisy" for most of her life because when her uncle saw her as a baby girl, he said, "I'll bet she'll be a daisy!." Her mother's family came from Chicago and her father was a Confederate Captain in the American Civil War. Daisy was also called "grasshopper", because she would always be jumping into new games, hobbies and ideas. Another one of her nicknames was "Litlle Ship." Her grandparents in the North called her that because she would always beg to hear the story about her great-grandmother, who was captured by Indians. Even though she was a captive, she was always joyful, so the Indians started calling her "Little-Ship-Under-Full-Sail."
Juliette was educated in several prominent boarding schools, including the Virginia Female Institute (now Stuart Hall School) and Mesdemoiselles Charbonniers (a French finishing school in New York City).
When she was about 25 years old, Juliette suffered an ear infection which was treated with silver nitrate. This treatment damaged her ear, causing her to lose a great deal of her hearing in that ear.
At the age of 26, even though her parents had apprehensions, she married William Mackay "Willy" Low, the son of a wealthy cotton merchant in Savannah and England. His mother was a native of Savannah, Georgia. Their wedding took place on December 21, 1886, which happened to be her parents' 29th wedding anniversary. A grain of rice thrown at the wedding became lodged in Juliette's good ear. When it was removed, her ear drum was punctured and became infected, causing her to become completely deaf in that ear. Her hearing was severely limited for the rest of her life.
Her marriage to Mr. Low proved to be childless and unhappy. Although the couple moved to England, Juliette continued her travels and divided her time between the British Isles and America. During the Spanish-American War, Juliette came back to America to aid in the war effort. She helped her mother organize a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers returning from Cuba. Her father was commissioned as a general in the U.S. Army and served on the Puerto Rican Peace Commission.
As early as 1901, due to her husband's infidelities, Juliette intended to get a divorce. However, her husband died before the divorce proceedings could be finalized. When his will was read Juliette discovered that her husband had left his money to his mistress. She was left with a small widow's pension. It was in 1911 that Juliette met Second Boer War hero (and founder of the Scouting movement) Robert Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes. She and Sir (later Lord) Baden Powell shared a passion for sculpture and art. She also enjoyed working with iron.
While in the UK, Juliette worked as a Girl Guide leader for troops she organized in Scotland and London. Juliette decided to found something similar for the girls of America. On March 12, 1912, Juliette gathered 18 girls to register the first troop of American Girl Guides. Margaret "Daisy Doots" Gordon, her niece and namesake, was the first registered member, but did not attend the first meeting. The name of the organization was changed to Girl Scouts the following year. The organization was incorporated in 1915, with Juliette serving as president until 1920 when she was granted the title of founder.
In personality, Daisy was known for being eccentric and charming. One commonly related anecdote recounts how, at an early Scout board meeting, she stood on her head to display the new Girl Scout shoes that she happened to be wearing. She also wrote poems; sketched, wrote and acted in plays; and became a skilled painter and sculptor. She had many pets throughout her life and was particularly fond of exotic birds, Georgia mockingbirds, and dogs. Daisy was also known for her great sense of humor.
Juliette Gordon Low contracted breast cancer in 1923, but kept it a secret and continued diligently working for the Girl Scouts. Low died January 17, 1927, from this cancer, and was buried in her Girl Scout uniform in Savannah, Georgia.
In Savannah, Georgia tourists and locals can visit three historic sites which relate to the life of Juliette Gordon Low. The home of her birth, The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace is one of the most visited house museums in Georgia. The Andrew Low House became her Savannah home after her marriage to William Mackay Low in 1886, and The Girl Scout First Headquarters is the former carriage house of the Andrew Low family. Juliette converted the carriage house into her Girl Scout headquarters shortly after the first meeting in 1912 and willed it to the local Savannah Girl Scouts upon her death in 1927.