In 1919, Juliette Low was famous nationally and even internationally as the founder of the Girl Scouts. In her home town, Savannahians knew her best as the quirkiest of Nellie and Willie Gordon’s children, the one who rescued helpless animals and hopeless humans, who careened around town in a barely controlled automobile, and who–at this stage in her life–spoke her mind on all subjects with the certainty that everyone within hearing would heed her and do her bidding.
She always identified as a Savannah native, and even during the long years living in England, Juliette Low took pride in her birthplace. She served Georgia peach-fed hams and waffles to the surprise of her British dinner guests who were delighted by the serenading of her Georgia mockingbirds. She was quick to tell of the bravery of the veterans in her family. She bragged about the beauty of her city and state.
In the spring of 1919, when Juliette was nearly sixty years old, she got into a battle of words with the rector of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the Rev. Joseph D. Mitchell. The boys from the Savannah Catholic school under his aegis were misbehaving, and Juliette had had enough. They had been throwing papers and other detritus into Lafayette Square and littering the property that sat between her home and the cathedral. She fired off an angry note to Fr. Mitchell.
But Juliette, who was highly charismatic, knew the importance of tact. She was that proverbial steel fist in a velvet glove. She believed in the old saying “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” So, eventually, into the envelope containing the very crescendo of her complaints, Juliette Low tucked some free tickets to a local event and some kind words about the rector’s efforts. It worked. At the end of their exchange over the miscreant boys, he had been thoroughly won over.
“I gave the tickets to some of the boys,” Fr. Mitchell was happy to admit. “I really believe,” he concluded, “you are doing an excellent thing in your work for the Girl Scouts.” Juliette must have smiled. And that was the end of her troubles with the boys of the Cathedral.
|The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah|
James D. Mitchell to Juliette Gordon Low, 29 March 1919, Gordon Family Papers, MS 318/15/163, Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Georgia.
Photograph taken by Prof. Greg Gbur and used with his permission. His website is: http://skullsinthestars.com/2010/05/10/a-trip-to-savannah-georgia/