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Juliette Gordon Low is the founder of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.
IN THESE GROUPS
Born in Savannah, Georgia, Juliette Gordon Low, or "Daisy" as she was fondly called, spent her early life in the South as a member of an socially and financially elite family. After the death of her millionaire husband, Low met William Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, which inspired her to create the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.
Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born on October 31, 1860, in Savannah, Georgia, to father William Washington Gordon and mother Eleanor Lytle Kinzie. The second of six children born to the Gordons, Juliette was named for her maternal grandmother, but was quickly dubbed "Daisy," a common nickname at the time. Daisy's parents described their second child as "a beautiful baby" with "a sweet disposition."
Entering infancy shortly before the Civil War, Daisy's childhood was complicated by the war efforts and her parents' conflicting views on slavery. Her father, a Georgia-born Southern slave owner, believed in the succession of the South from the Union, while her Northern-born mother, whose family had helped found the city of Chicago, believed in abolition. While Daisy's father was joining the war efforts on behalf of the South, her maternal relatives were enlisting in the Northern militias. Daisy's mother struggled with the conflicting feelings of having loved ones on both sides of the war, and often faced wrath from angry neighbors, who didn't understand the Gordon family's divided feelings.
As the war dragged on, Daisy's mother grew increasingly despondent about her husband's absence, and her ability to provide for the family. By the time Daisy was 4, the South had lost the war, and the little girl—malnourished and sickly—still had yet to truly see her father for more than a few days at a time. Her mother and sisters, under the protection of General William Tecumseh Sherman, moved to Illinois to stay with Daisy's maternal grandparents.
At her grandparents' home in Illinois, Daisy was exposed to an entirely different way of life. Her grandfather, a member of the Chicago elite, helped found the Chicago Board of Trade, the Chicago Athenaeum, and the city's public schools. He was also a savvy investor, who earned his wealth through the railroads, copper mines and his presidency of the Second State Bank in Chicago.
As a result of her maternal grandparents' influence in the community, Daisy encountered a variety of new people, including many Native Americans, who sought business and investment advice from her grandfather. Her interactions with Native Americans gave her an early appreciation of Native American culture, which she would idealize for the rest of her life.
By 1865, the family had reunited in Savannah and, thanks to her mother's efforts to recoup their financial losses in the South, Daisy's father was able to revitalize Belmont cotton plantation.
Adulthood and Marriage
As Daisy grew, her empathy for others, and her unconventional outlook on life became more and more apparent. Her siblings often commented on her inability to keep track of time, her frequent "experiments" that went awry, and acts of kindness that resulted in good-natured disasters. Her antics earned her the new nickname "Crazy Daisy," giving her a reputation for eccentricity that would stick with her throughout her adulthood.
Her adventurous and eccentric nature resulted in a restlessness of spirit when she was entered into a series of boarding schools, including the Virginia Female Institute, Edgehill School, Miss Emmett's School, and Mesdemoiselles Charbonniers. While she was taught the typical social graces of a highborn lady in school—excelling in drawing, piano and speech—she yearned instead to explore, hike, play tennis and ride horses—all activities discouraged by her restrictive finishing schools. Defiant in nature, Daisy was frequently caught breaking the rules.
By the age of 19, Daisy was torn between being a dutiful daughter and pursuing her dreams of being an independent woman. After a scuffle with her mother over finances, Daisy was able to convince the family that she should move to New York to study painting‚Äîone of the few pastimes considered appropriate for women of her time period to pursue. Daisy believed she might be able to turn her painting into a means of financial support and self-sufficiency.
Yet, Daisy was also expected to marry, which she did at the age of 26. Her union to wealthy cotton merchant William Mackay Low, who she considered her one true love, took place on December 21, 1886. During their ceremony, a grain of rice, thrown by a well-wisher at her wedding, became lodged in Daisy's ear. The pain of the impacted rice became so great that the couple was forced to return home to have it removed. As a result, Low's hearing was permanently damaged, and resulted in frequent ear infections and eventual deafness in both ears.