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Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts

The Girl Scouts of the USA is the largest and most beloved organization for girls and women in the United States. In this exciting new biography of its founder, Juliette Gordon Low, Stacy A. Cordery tells the story of the intrepid, charming, and idiosyncratic woman at its core. Juliette, or “Daisy,” as she was called, was born in Savannah on the eve of the Civil War to a brash and independent young mother and a deeply patriotic Rebel father. Growing up in post-war Georgia was a challenge for Daisy, who struggled to reconcile her training as a good Southern belle with her desire to run barefoot through the fields. Known fondly to her family as “Crazy Daisy,” it was no surprise when Juliette eventually fell in love with the dashing, aristocratic, and slightly dangerous Willy Low. Nor was it a surprise that their marriage failed. Daisy’s frequent illnesses—including her hearing impairment—and Willy’s fondness for racing and gambling took a toll on their relationship. Once Willy publicly took up with another woman Daisy tried to free herself in a very messy and fraught divorce. He died before it was finalized, leaving her widowed and wealthy, but wounded.

Daisy entered a new and unlooked for chapter in her life. Dissatisfied by the emptiness of the aristocratic lifestyle, she was free to travel and do the charity work which her husband had so vigorously disapproved. Daisy searched the world for diversion, but also for a sense of greater purpose.  She shot tigers in India and traveled through its provinces buoyed by the same zeal with which she visited the great cathedrals of Rome and other wonders of the world. But the real discovery came when she met Robert Baden-Powell, war hero, adventurer and founder of the astoundingly popular Boy Scouts. Daisy was instantly enamored of Scouting, which aimed to teach young boys useful outdoor skills and good moral values while insisting they have fun. Juliette eagerly fell in with Baden-Powell’s Girl Guides, a sister organization to the Boy Scouts, and created three Girl Guide troops in the United Kingdom. Not content to stop there, Daisy imported the Girl Guides to her hometown of Savannah, changed the name to Girl Scouts, and became a one-woman grassroots campaign spreading the excitement up and down the East Coast.

Her success surpassed Daisy’s wildest expectations—and the nation’s. While her goals for the organization were to provide a place for girls to learn useful domestic and career-related skills, maintain their health through sport, and above all, to have fun, darker days expanded the reach of the Girl Scout organization as the nation entered World War I. Girl Scouts aided the Red Cross, sold liberty bonds, learned to can and preserve food, made trench candles for soldiers—and were positively recognized across the nation for their efforts, after which Girl Scouting grew exponentially.

Daisy Low was a Southern belle both brazen and modest, traditional in manner and yet impossibly forward-thinking. Her failed marriage turned her into a fierce advocate for the broadened potential of all young women, rich and poor. She studied the fine arts and knew royalty, but taught herself to be a social entrepreneur and community organizer whose achievement is still revered around the globe. Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts is a lively, probing and empathetic account of a true pioneer, who, with all her wonderful contradictions, embodied the heart, soul, and spirit of her beloved Girl Scouts.

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