In my family, Juliette Gordon Low is known as “Aunt Daisy.” My mother, Margaret Gordon Seiler (“Peggy”), is now 88 years old and the last surviving niece of Daisy Low. She’s also the last little girl to grow up in the beautiful house in Savannah that locals call “The Birthplace.” “It’s my birthplace, too!” my mother would say. Mom was born at 10 E. Oglethorpe in an upstairs bedroom, just like her aunt. She was born in 1923—Daisy died just four years later. Mom’s only memory of her aunt is when she was “riding” on one of the stone lions in front of the home Daisy lived in after her marriage, the Andrew Low House. She says she called out, “Look at me, Aunt Daisy! Look at me!” but Daisy did not turn to look at her. Mom remembers someone leaning down to say, “She can’t hear you. She’s deaf.”
Mom’s father, Arthur Gordon, was one of Daisy’s younger brothers. He was the youngest of six Gordon children and was a close confidante of Daisy’s—many of the stories we all know about her today were originally told by my grandfather. I’m sorry that I never got to meet him—he died when my mother was only 18. One of my favorite stories about Aunt Daisy is the one about the party she gave for my Aunt Mary Stuart (Mom’s older sister) when she made her debut. The party was in March and it was to be held in her garden. It was unseasonably cold in Savannah that year and the camellias did not bloom in time. So Daisy sent friends and servants out all over town to “borrow” camellias from other people’s trees and have them tied on her own! Another time she borrowed a piano from my grandparents without telling them—my grandmother came home to find men carrying it down the steps. It turns out Daisy was having a party and she just sent for it—she said she knew if she asked, the answer might be no. Her strong will and determination were sometimes a trial for her family, but of course they served her very well.
Another well-known story about Daisy is that she once stood on her head in a Girl Scout meeting to show off her new Girl Scout shoes. It was a Gordon family tradition to stand on one’s head on birthdays to show how young and virile you still were. I have one of my grandfather on his 55th birthday standing on his head on the beach outside Savannah.
My mother was a Girl Scout for a few years–her mother did not push her to stay with it very long but she does remember being trotted out in her uniform for Girl Scout events in Savannah. I was a Brownie when we lived in Manila, the Philippines, in the 1960s, where my father was working. I have a picture of Mom with Imelda Marcos, the well-known wife of the dictator, at a national Girl Scout conference! I was also a Girl Scout for a couple of years after we moved back to the States and lived in New Jersey. My mother led the troop one year and I remember meeting a couple of times with a sister troop, all African American, from neighboring Newark. I also remember Mom speaking to local troops about her Aunt Daisy.
I now live in Brooklyn, New York, and have two daughters. Both my girls joined troops here in New York City and enjoyed being Scouts for a few years. My older daughter got a real thrill when she and I flew down to Savannah to witness my mother christen the Juliette Gordon Low ferry boat. Mom fell down some stairs while staying with my cousins and did not want to walk down the plank so she asked Livia, then 9, to christen the boat for her!
I am so looking forward to reading all the new books coming out about my Great-Aunt Daisy. We are all so proud of her. I like to think my daughters have some of her grit and character, as well as her eccentricity. On March 12, I hope to be in Savannah with some of my family to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts where it all began.
Photo of the ferryboat from Wikimedia. The other photos belong to Margaret Seiler and are used with her kind permission.