Frequently really good things can arise from adversity, hardship and unhappiness. Such is the case with the founding of the Girl Scouts on this date in 1912. Born to privilege in Savanah, GA in 1860 Juliette Gordon Low watched her parents struggle and succeed after the devastation from the Civil War. They set an example of accomplishment that she wanted to emulate. She was an adventurous, compassionate child with a good sense of humor. But in a culture where young women were kept on a pedestal rather than expected to actually do important things beyond having children, she felt stifled. Similar to Downton Abby, Juliette married a rich English nobleman who whisked her off to his impressive mansion in England.
Unlike Downton, she struggled unhappily in a loveless marriage where her husband let her occupy one wing of his mansion while he occupied another wing with his mistress. When he died, leaving his fortune to the mistress, Juliette was on her own.
Looking for something meaningful to do with her life, she found it when she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell. He had started the Boy Scouts in England. Juliette thought what a wonderful idea it would be to create a similar organization for American girls to provide skills and self-esteem.
She returned to Georgia and started the Girl Guides which later became known as the Girl Scouts. As early as 1917 selling cookies was the preferred fund raising effort to help pay for camping trips. The selling of the cookies helped develop a sense of accomplishment and independence. They actually bought the ingredients, baked the cookies, sold them door-to-door and delivered the cookies. It wasn’t until 1936 that the Girl Scouts began using outside bakeries to make the cookies, insuring uniform taste and quality.
Low developed breast cancer in 1923 and would eventually succumb to it in 1927. However her creation of the Girl Scouts lives on and has made a difference in the lives of millions of young girls around the world. Her birthplace in Savanah is a beautiful home and is available for tours.