Happy Birthday, Juliette – Happy Birthday, Daisy!

A birthday message from GSHPA President and CEO

Close your eyes and make a wish!

Have you ever blown out the candles on a birthday cake?  Most of us have.  I can remember the single candle on our oldest daughter’s first birthday cupcake, and the cake in full blaze at my grandmother’s last birthday celebration.   I can remember my childhood birthday cakes; my mom always let each of us choose our favorite and she would bake it – even if no one else liked it.  It always came from a box – add 2 eggs, 1/2 cup water, and 2/3 cup oil, but it couldn’t have tasted better.  My childhood birthday cake was always Butter Brickle with Heath Bar.   

When I had my own children, I did the same for them.  For all three, their childhood favorite was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.   When they were old enough to help bake, they made my birthday cake – and, of course, it was covered from top to bottom with sprinkles.  

After dinner, the candles were placed on the cake, the lights turned out and the match was struck. Then each candle was lit and the singing began.  “Happy Birthday to you.  Happy Birthday to you. . .” And then – the wish.  “Make a wish!  Blow out the candles!”   

I think back to what Juliette Gordon Low, affectionately called Daisy, might have wished for in her childhood. Did she wish to see the day when women might vote?  Did she wish for a movement that would last a century?  I think back to my own childhood birthday wishes.  Honestly I don’t remember any of them, even birthday wishes as an adult.  I am sure there were definitely years when I hoped for a particular present when I blew out the candles, but generally, I remember being caught off guard when my mom said, “Make a wish and blow out the candles.”   How could that be?  Every year, it is the same.  The lights go out, the singing begins, and I have to make a wish, yet, I never felt ready to do so.  

Perhaps, it’s because even as a child, I understood that wishes were just that: wishes.  A dream so light, airy and fun, but not likely to come true without something more.  Even as a child I somehow understood the saying, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”   Somewhere along the line, I learned that wishing isn’t enough.  You need a vision and you need a plan.  I think Juliette Gordon Low came to understand that as well. Her vision to see young girls become resilient and self-reliant women and her plan to do that one girl at a time started in Savannah, Georgia with 18 girls. Juliette Gordon Low’s wish slowly grew into the largest girl’s leadership development program in the world with one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands. 

Juliette Gordon Low’s wish slowly grew into the largest girl’s leadership development program in the world with one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands. 

So how do we further today’s Girl Scout vision of creating girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place? We still do it with a plan – one girl at a time, one leader at a time.   We each bring new girls to the movement.  We each help every girl to experience all the pillars of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience from life skills to entrepreneurship to the outdoors, to STEAM.  We each participate in projects throughout our own communities as reflected in our highest awards of Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards.  And all of us live by the Girl Scout Law.  So that is my wish, but that is also my plan.   

On this, what would have been Juliette Gordon Low’s 160th birthday, I wonder what she might wish.   Today, on Juliette’s birthday let’s every one of us close our eyes and make a wish that every girl gets to experience Girl Scouts.  Better yet, let’s close our eyes and make a plan.  I think that’s what Juliette would wish.   

A birthday message from Janet Donovan, GSHPA’s President and CEO

Juliette Gordon Low’s Story

October 31st has many traditions and reasons to celebrate, but this date holds an extra special meaning to Girl Scouts across the world. The founder of Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low, was born on this day, so we celebrate it as “Founder’s Day” throughout the Girl Scout Community.  

In honor of this day, Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA would like to share a story with you – the story of Juliette Gordon Low.  

On a cool autumn night while kids explored the streets in search of treats and tricks on Halloween, Juliette was born on October 31, 1860 in Savannah, Georgia. At birth Juliette was named: Juliette Magil Kinzie Gordon, but was soon given a nickname. Her uncle saw baby Juliette and said she looks like a daisy, and quickly the rest of her family and friends began to call her “Daisy”, which stuck with her as an adult. 

As Juliette got older she had a need for adventure. She faced the world and its challenges head on, and was known for being compassionate and a strong sense of humor.  As a child she was quick to make friends and serve her community. Juliette attended a boarding school for most of her teenage years, but never forgot her roots. Juliette wanted to try her best to make a difference. While home from school Juliette saw a need for children’s’ clothes in her local community, so Juliette brought together a group of her friends and taught them to create clothes for the children in need. That was just one of her many adventures.  

Juliette was also known for being strong throughout life. As you may know Juliette was nearly deaf for most of her life. As a child Juliette developed countless ear infections which were eventually treated with silver nitrate, a new medical treatment, which resulted in Juliette losing almost all of her hearing in that ear. Juliette did not let that stop her, she accepted every challenge along the way. Juliette continued to stay active, excelling in tennis, swimming, horseback riding, and hunting throughout her life.  

In 1882 Juliette decided to travel to Europe for the very first time. While on this trip Juliette met William Mackay Low. William, also known as Willy, was the son of a successful cotton merchant named Andrew Low. Juliette and William would soon form a relationship and wanted to get married. Juliette’s family did not approve of William. Juliette’s father wanted her to marry an independent hardworking man, rather than one from a rich family. Against their families’ wishes Juliette and William were married on December 21, 1886. While exiting the church after the ceremony Juliette and William met with cheers and showered with rice. Unfortunately a grain of rice got stuck in Juliette’s ear and later when it was taken out, her eardrum was damaged, leaving her with more hearing loss.   

After they were married Juliette and William had two homes, one in Savannah, Georgia and the other in England so they could be close to family. Sadly, their marriage was not one of love and devotion, instead William began spending all the family money and found a girlfriend. Juliette left England to return to the United States during the Spanish-American War. Juliette joined her mother at the Florida hospital she was in charge of, giving aid to soldiers injured in battle. After the war Juliette and William’s marriage was close to ending, Juliette was in the process of divorcing William when he died of a stroke in 1905. When William died he left everything to his girlfriend.  

While Juliette experienced countless hardships and loss in her life, but she never gave up. As the years went on Juliette was involved in many activities, but didn’t find her true calling until she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell in 1911. After their meeting Sir Baden-Powell suggested that she work with a local group of girls in England and Scotland. After this experience with Baden-Powell’s organization Juliette quickly decided to bring a similar concept to the United States. When she returned home Juliette contacted her cousin and announced, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we’re going to start tonight!”  

Juliette knew the importance of girls having a place to grow and flourish. On March 12, 1912 Juliette Gordon Low brought together 18 girls from Savannah, Georgia. Juliette broke many of the social conventions of the time when she started Girl Scouts, she wanted to provide all girls regardless of race, socioeconomic status or culture a group where they were welcome. Juliette strived to give all girls a place to develop their leadership skills.  

Over the years Juliette devoted her time, money and resources to expanding the organization. After three years the organization continued to grow, and it was in need of funds. While Juliette had a talent for fundraising she knew that additional sacrifices would need to be made towards the success of Girl Scouting. So in 1915 Juliette Gordon Low sold her dearly loved string of pearls for $8,000, which today would equate to $185,000.  

Through Juliette Gordon Low’s hard work, sacrifice and devotion Girl Scouting quickly grew and expanded. Today, Girl Scouts can be found across the global continuing to offer a safe environment for both girls and adult women to grow and flourish as individuals.  

Juliette Gordon Low died on January 17, 1927 after a long and private battle with breast cancer. After her death she was honored by the establishment of the “Juliette Low World Friendship Fund” which offers Girl Scouts and Girl Guides financial support towards international projects.  

In 1912 Juliette Gordon Low had a vision. It was her hope that one day all girls would have a place to feel comfortable, connected and challenged to develop as leaders and citizens.  

Today, Girl Scouts across the global, including Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania, strive to continue her mission of creating girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.