March 12, 2012, marked the 100th anniversary of the official founding of the Girl Scouts of America by Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low, in Savannah, Georgia. A few biographies have thus been released in time for the celebration, and this is one of them. Since I was a Girl Scout in my youth, back in the 1960s and 1970s, I thought this would be the perfect chance to revisit those roots. I learned a lot here that I don't remember having heard before.
Daisy Gordon was born in Savannah just before the American Civil War began. Hers was an interesting childhood, as part of a close-knit family of some means. Hard work, accompanied by charity and volunteerism, were the expectations of life for the Gordons. Daisy was able to attend good schools, make close friends, and do a bit of international traveling before she married Englishman William Mackay Low, a man who can now be seen to have been an absolute cad. (Alas, Miss Gordon's head could always be turned by a handsome man in uniform.) Had she lived in our generation, Daisy could have more quickly removed herself from a dreadful situation that lingered for 20 years. But divorce was not an easy task to accomplish in Victorian and post-Victorian England. Her ties were finally released when Willy died in 1905. At last she could finally be herself and find herself, at the ripe old age of 45.
And yet: If she hadn't married Willy, moved to England, and made all sorts of important contacts there, she might never have stumbled into the circumstances that led her to meet General Sir Robert Baden-Powell in May 1911. The Boy Scout movement in England was growing around that Boer War veteran. Daisy soon found her calling with the Girl Guides (the female equivalent) in that country ... and then figured out a way to organize such a group in Savannah, within a year of meeting Baden-Powell. The local initiative in her hometown grew into the establishment of more patrols throughout the country. And "the rest is history."
Cordery has done much research, especially on Daisy's family tree, as well as the genealogies of many of the other individuals in Daisy's path. Some readers will find these details intriguing; others may wonder how they relate to the subject of the biography. Daisy doesn't start the Girl Scouting movement on this side of the pond until we're two-thirds of the way through the book. If that's the only part you're interested in, you'll have a way to go to get there.
Still, this narrative makes for good reading. Daisy Low can be a role model for anyone. She recuperated from a bad marriage. She coped with varying degrees of deafness almost all of her life. And she started an organization that has lasted a century! The fact that she persevered is to be celebrated as much as the Girl Scout program itself. Without Daisy Low, I wouldn't have an old green badge sash lying in my top bureau drawer. And I'll bet I'm not the only woman who can say that.