Note from Stacy: It is not just the holiday spirit that tempts me to share my blog with Shana Corey, author of many wonderful books for children. It’s also the fact that her hot-off-the-press book, Here Come the Girl Scouts! is a really wonderful read and I want you all to know about it. Enjoy this story of Shana Corey’s life and her interest in Daisy Low—and the sneak previews of the inside of the book and its illustrations!
Over to Shana:
First off–thank you so much for having me on your blog, Stacy! I’ve been reading with interest since I started my own Girl Scout journey and can’t wait for February when your book comes out so I can read it! (I wish it had been out when I was doing my research!)
My book, Here Come the Girl Scouts! The Amazing, All-True Story of Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low and her Great Adventure, is an illustrated picture book and tells Daisy’s story for a younger audience. It has just been published, and I’m so excited to share it with you all.
I started it because the Girl Scouts have always had a special place in my heart. My mother is from Savannah (I was born there, too) and when I was growing up, my favorite stories were her stories about being a Girl Scout there in the early 1960s. If I was lucky, she’d even pull out her old badge sash (which I have now!). If I was really lucky, she’d set up the home movie projector and we’d watch flickering black and white movies of Savannah’s 50th Girl Scout Parade. We moved away from Savannah when I was very young, but on visits back, we’d tour to the Juliette Gordon Low house and my mom would tell me about the time her Girl Scout troop served tea there.
Those memories of Savannah and of my mom’s stories were very much in my head as I began researching Here Come the Girl Scouts! And the more I read, the more in awe I became of Daisy Low, and the more I wanted to share her story with Girl Scouts today. She had so many qualities I admire‑-gumption, courage, a sense of adventure, as well as the perseverance and self-confidence to do what she believed was right, no matter what others said. I think she’s an amazing role model; she certainly is for me!
I was also completely bowled over by the Girl Scouts themselves. They were so ahead of their time! Even back in 1912 they weren’t sitting in stuffy parlors as one might expect, instead they were out camping and hiking and playing basketball (which they played wearing hair bows and bloomers, with a curtain strung up around their court so passersby couldn’t get a peek at their legs!). What’s not to love?!
And from the very beginning, they were all about encouraging girls to get outside and be active and appreciate nature–things that are so relevant and timeless that parts of the first handbook read as if they could have been written today. It’s filled with these gorgeous quotes, such as “We walk too little in America” and “Every time we show our courage it grows,” that are just so lovely and wise they make me weepy. I’ve tried to weave many of those quotes into my story.
Daisy didn’t just believe in herself, she believed in her Girl Scouts and their abilities. Instead of telling them how to be proper young ladies, Daisy told them that could be architects or airplane pilots and that they could and should make a difference in the world. And at a time when social classes and ethnic groups really weren’t encouraged to mix, Daisy and the women who worked with her looked across those lines and actively sought to form troops in orphanages, churches, and synagogues (in fact, one of the earliest troops was from the Temple my parents were married in). They also visited shops and factories to encourage young girls working there—many recent immigrants or the daughters of immigrants—to join. They even asked the city of Savannah to put up lights around the basketball court so that girls who spent their days toiling in shops would be able to play in the evenings.
I was fascinated by the idea that this “proper” southern lady of 1912 would start an organization that was so forward thinking, and I loved that she had enough confidence to do it even though the odds were against her. In 1912, Daisy was 51 years old. She had never done any kind of major organizing in her life, and yet she was able to found this organization that’s affected literally millions of women the world over. I find that very inspiring and I hope that it will inspire today’s girls the way it does me.
Working on this book was filled with serendipitous moments. As part of my research, I spent time at the National Historic Preservation Center in New York and had the pleasure of meeting the wonderful women who work there and reading through old documents including a fabulous travel journal Daisy kept during one of her adventures. I also spoke to the inspiring and very generous folks at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace and sent my trusty southern research assistants there to do further digging (thanks mom and dad!).
One morning, I was reading the biography Lady from Savannah on a crowded subway, and the woman sitting next me looked over and said, “Oh, Daisy Low, I’m friends with her great-niece.” She then very kindly put me in touch with Daisy’s great niece Margaret (who it turns out lives just a few blocks from me and who was amazingly generous with her time and stories).
I also contacted Girl Scout alums to get their perspectives, and had the pleasure of hearing from people ranging from soccer champ Shannon MacMillan to Kathy Bellamy (former Director of both the Peace Corps and of UNICEF) to Christie Todd Whitman (the first female governor of New Jersey). It was so inspiring to see how far former Girl Scouts have gone, and to hear them rave about their own Girl Scout experiences. The absolute highlight for me, was the morning I turned on my computer and found an email from one of my personal heroes, Gloria Steinem. She sent me an incredibly powerful essay about what the Girl Scouts meant to her, ending with “We all have a place at the campfire. It was the Girl Scouts who taught me that first.” I think that perfectly sums up what Girl Scouts are about.
And now, I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation and talking to current Girl Scouts, Brownies, and Daisies about Daisy and their own Girl Scout experiences! (I’ll be doing some skype visits with troops who have read the book, so feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to set one up (or just to say hello!).
Thank you all for reading–and thank you again for having me, Stacy! Happy 100th everyone!