Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low had a difficult relationship with her mother. When she was a young girl, they bickered and battled regularly over many topics, large and small. It wasn’t until Daisy’s courageous conduct during the dissolution of her marriage that her mother, Nellie Gordon, came to see her as an adult. Yet Nellie remained quick to criticize Daisy, even when she was lending her absolutely essential assistance to the formation of the Girl Scouts in 1912.
In 1914, just three years before she died, Nellie penned an extraordinary paragraph to Daisy that demonstrates a remarkable change in the way she thought of her middle daughter. She wrote it on Daisy’s 54th birthday. Nellie makes reference to Daisy’s older sister, Eleanor, called Nelly, and she underlines for emphasis:
“I can’t help laughing now, when I look back to the time when you and Nelly were little tots. We would say–‘Oh Nelly is so clever! She is just as smart as she can be! — and Daisy is a beauty–but she has not got much sense!’ You certainly were a beauty and a very quiet, gentle!…child! So when you began to develop into ‘a genius’ it quite took our breath away!”
|Daisy’s mother, Nellie Gordon|
One can only imagine how Daisy must have felt upon receiving this letter. Her entire life she had been teased by her family for being impractical and too soft-hearted. Her not-altogether-undeserved nickname in the family was Crazy Daisy. Yet her systematic creation of the Girl Scouts impressed her family. They expected her to abandon the project and move on quickly to something else. But Daisy did not “scoot” away from the Girl Scouts, as Nellie first predicted. Instead, her capable, creative, “genius” for the work quite astonished all her relatives.
Such a commendation from her hard-to-please mother was surely the sweetest praise of Daisy’s life.
Eleanor Kinzie Gordon to Juliette Gordon Low, 31 October 1914, Gordon Family Paper, MS318/42/26, Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Georgia.
Photograph used with permission from the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace and Historic Site, Savannah, Georgia.