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The History of the Girl Scouts-There's More to It Than Cookies!

By Edited Jul 14, 2016 5 12

More than fifty million women across the country are alumnae of the Girl Scouts of America. Among those them are these well known and highly accomplished leaders in their field…

Journalist and News Anchor Barbara Walters

Secretary of State and former First Lady Hilary Rodham Clinton

Grammy winner Mariah Carey

The first female Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

The first American woman to fly in space-Sally Ride

Award winning country singer Taylor Swift

Home guru Martha Stewart

Award winning actress Mary Tyler Moore

News anchor Katie Couric

Comedienne Lucille Ball

Women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem [3374]

This year, the Girl Scouts of America celebrated it’s milestone 100th anniversary. How did it all begin?

A Daisy by Any Other Name

Juliette Gordon Low founder of the Girl Scouts

Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born in Savannah, Georgia on October 31, 1860, the second of six children. Her uncle nicknamed her “Daisy” as a baby, and it is what she was called throughout her life. As a child she suffered from chronic ear infections and lost hearing in one of her ears because she was not treated properly. 

Her hearing loss did not deter Daisy. An athletic child who loved swimming and playing tennis, she was also very interested in the arts and spent hours drawing and writing. She was also very fond of animals.

Because Daisy came from a well-to-do family, she led a life of priviledge. After attending school in Savannah, she was sent to boarding schools in Virginia and New York. It was at these schools that Daisy would form lifelong friendships.

After finishing her schooling in 1880, she spent the next several years helping to care for her younger siblings and pursue her interest in art.

Daisy Gets Married...and Divorced

William Low was a wealthy British businessman who also conducted business in the United States. He married Daisy on December 21, 1886. A freak accident happened at their wedding that would cause Daisy to have bouts of depression throughout the rest of her life. 

While guests threw traditional rice at the newly married couple, a grain of rice got stuck in her ear. When the doctor tried to remove it, he punctured her eardrum and damaged the nerve endings, resulting in a total loss of hearing in her ear.

After living in Savannah for a year, the newlyweds went to live in Warwickshire in England. As the years passed, they had no children and began to live separate lives. While Daisy went on searches to look for cures for her deafness, William partied hard. When he wasn't hunting, he was gambling and womanizing. He left Daisy for Anna Bateman and filed for separation in 1902. Low died in 1905 before the divorce was final. Even though he had left most of his estate to his mistress in his will, Daisy contested it in court and won a sizeable settlement. This left her a very wealthy woman. 

With money and time on her hands, Daisy was able to travel and live in her homes in Savannah and England. During he travels, she often invited her nieces and nephews to join her, as she loved being around young people.

Daisy Finds a Purpose-The Girl Scouts

Although she enjoyed traveling, Daisy was still searching for some kind of purpose in her life. She found it when she became friends with Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts in Great Britain. She worked with his sister Agnes, who had started the Girl Guides-sisters of the boys attending the Boy Scouts. Daisy started several of her own troops, and saw the positive effect it had on the girls in her charge. Encouraged by her friend Baden-Powell, Daisy decided to take the Girl Guide organization over to the United States.

Juliette Gordon Low founder of the Girl Scouts(94508)


With the help of friends and family, the seeds for the Girl Scout movement were born. On March 12, 1912, Daisy took eighteen girls and registered the first two patrols of the American Girl Guides. The name changed to the Girl Scouts the following year.

The purpose of the Girl Scouts was to teach and prepare girls for their futures. Whether it was being a traditional homemaker or having a career, Girls Scouts was created to give girls all kinds of opportunities that they would not normally have at home. Girls were taught to be independent. Another important aspect of the movement is teaching girls to give of oneself to others and to take on leadership roles in the community.

Another big part of Girl Scouting was to develop a love of nature and the great outdoors. Camping and outdoor activities plays a big part in scouting, and girls today can attend on of the many Girl Scout camps and learn about nature and the environment.

Juliette Gordon Lowe founder of the Girl Scouts(94487)

Since Daisy was an athlete, so were the first Girl Scouts.  Sports such as basketball were all part of being a scout.

Badges were developed to show that girls had become proficient at a skill. Some of the first Girl Scout badges were for first aid, knot-tying, cooking and map reading. 

Daisy was a huge financial supporter of the Girl Scouts during the early years. She also wrote the first Girl Scout handbook, designed the uniforms, and even led meetings. 

She resigned from the presidency of the organization in 1920, and began to work on the international organization of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides. By 1925, the movement had grown to over 90,000 girls in the United States.

The Girl Scouts welcomed girls with disabilities to participate, something that other organizations in that era did not do. Daisy did not let her hearing loss affect her accomplishments, and she wanted to encourage other girls to overcome their disabilities.

The organization did not discriminate. Any girl, no matter what race, ethnic background, religion or financial status could be a Girl Scout. In fact, three of the original leaders were Jewish.

Daisy developed breast cancer in 1923, but continued to work for the Girl Scouts until her death on January 17, 1927. She was buried in her Girl Scout uniform. To honor Daisy, her friends established the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund, which finances international projects for Girl Scouts and Girl Guides.

So What About the Cookies?

Girl Scout Cookies-Operation Cookie Drop

Many people associate Girl Scouts with those delightful cookies that they sell. They are a means offundraising for troops, and are a mandatory fundraiser if the troop wants to do any additional kinds of activities to raise money.

Homemade cookies were first sold by Muskogee, Oklahoma’s Mistletoe troop. The idea caught on an soon troops across the country were selling their own cookies for dough. By 1951, there were three kinds of cookies that were sold-a sandwich cookie, Shortbread and Thin Mints. Popular flavors remain and those that did not sell well are never seen again. 

The purpose of selling cookies was more than monetary. Selling cookies helps girls develop a business plan by setting goals and discussing ways to achieve them (and it should not include parents hawking them at the office!) Girls also learn responsibility by participating in cookie booth sales and interacting with the public.

This year, 2012, is “The Year of the Girl” in the Girl Scout movement. Celebrations and special programs are taking place throughout the year. With almost four million members in the United States, Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low would be proud.



Apr 16, 2012 3:53am
I agree that supporting scouting is much more than cookies. Thumbs up!
Apr 16, 2012 9:18am
Thank you for reading!
May 7, 2012 10:45am
I really enjoyed reading about the founding of the Girl Scouts. It is an amazing program. Kudos to you for your work with this organization. This is a great featured article, congratulations. Thumbs Up!
May 8, 2012 9:10am
Thank you! I really love being a Girl Scout leader!
May 7, 2012 3:41pm
The Girl (and Boy) Scouts of America are top-notch organizations. Congratulations on another great featured article!
May 8, 2012 9:10am
Thank you for reading!
May 7, 2012 4:58pm
My Girl Scout neighbors sold me some cookies a little while ago. I think they were more than three dollars a box. I just bought one box just to give them some support! I must say though, I wish they sold the cookies year round.
May 8, 2012 9:12am
They are four dollars a box by me. While my troop does not sell cookies, many do and it is stressful. That is why they don;t sell them year round! You have to stock up on your Thin Mints while you can! Thanks for reading!
May 10, 2014 7:42pm
I want to buy more cookies but rarely see them. Girl Scouts rock!
May 11, 2014 4:11am
JD, if you want cookies, ask a local,Girl,Scout if her troop has any extras. Many overbuy and eat the cost of those that are unsold. And yes, I agree, Girl Scouts rock!
Sep 25, 2015 10:26pm
We have Guides in Canada, and I am actually curious about whether there are any differences between Guides and Girl Scouts.
Sep 29, 2015 3:47am
That is a really interesting idea for an article or blog post!
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  1. "20 Famous Girl Scouts." Forbes.com. 14/04/2012 <Web >
  2. "Juliette Gordon Low Family History." Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace. 14/04/2012 <Web >
  3. "Who We Are-History-Juliette Gordon Low." Girl Scouts of America. 14/04/2012 <Web >
  4. "Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927)." georgiaencyclopedia.org. 14/4/2012 <Web >
  5. "Juliette Gordon Low Biography." Biography.com. 14/4/2012 <Web >
  6. Shannon Henry Kleiber "Juliette Gordon Low, Who Had No Children of Her Own, Started the Girl Scouts in 1912." Washingtonpost.com. 9/03/2012. 14/4/2012 <Web >
  7. Rebecca Steinitz ""Juliette Gordon Low" by Stacy Cordery." articles.boston.com. 19/02/2012. 14/4/2012 <Web >
  8. Jesse Rhodes "The History of the Girl Scout Coolie." Smithsonianmag.com. 12/01/2012. 14/04/2012 <Web >

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