March 2016: Juliette Gordon Low and the Little Stars
It’s March—Women’s History Month, and Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927) comes to mind. She founded Girl Scouts of the USA. Daisy, as she was known to her friends, was an artistic, courageous, and energetic world traveler who thrived on instilling in “her girls” a sense of responsible citizenship. Her charming eccentricities made her the center of attention at every party. Unstoppable in her enthusiasm for scouting and generous to a fault, she was loved and admired by countless people the world over for the ways she helped people help themselves.
But there was a time before the Girl Scouts when Daisy thought herself a failure, ashamed of the way her life was unraveling.
A Wasted Life?
Even great heroes can experience crippling doubt and regret.
Less than a year before founding the Girl Scouts (originally known as Girl Guides), 51-year-old Daisy was a depressed, childless widow. Her wealthy alcoholic husband had left her for someone else. He then died, leaving his fortune to the other woman. Though she loved children, Daisy had none of her own, and felt pangs of unworthiness as a result. A couple of unfortunate incidents in her youth left her nearly deaf. In a June 1911 journal entry she wrote about “futile efforts to be of use and the shame I feel when I think of how much I could do, yet how little I accomplish…I feel that my life brings forth ‘nothing but leaves.’ A wasted life.”
Sir Robert Baden Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, was a close friend of Daisy’s. He’d recently proposed to her, but she refused him, probably because she couldn’t give him the children she knew he deserved. But the two remained close. Powell became an advocate who encouraged her to think big and have faith in herself. “There are little stars that guide us on,” he wrote, “although we do not realize it.”
Inspired by Powell, Daisy turned her life around by helping others. While crossing the Atlantic in a steamship with Powell, she decided to create for girls what Powell had created for boys. In her hometown of Savannah, Georgia, one night in March, 1912, she raced into action gathering the first group of Girl Guides. From that evening on, there was no looking back for Daisy. She provided healthy, fun activities for girls while teaching them to be loyal, courteous, friendly, and trustworthy. The principals and core beliefs she employed to create the Girl Scouts were imparted to her girls. In return for her gifts, her own spirits were revitalized.
Daisy is fondly remembered as the first Girl Scout and the best Girl Scout of them all. Her devotion and unwavering, unstoppable energy, enabled her organization grow into the largest voluntary association of young women on the planet. There are now 2.3 million Girl Scouts worldwide. Over 50 million people have so far been involved with Girl Scouting.
Indeed, Daisy’s little stars guided her well.
“A hero is someone who helps bring out the best in us, who inspires us with hope that our own lofty dreams can come true.”
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