Hearing Impairment Series-Disabled Legend Juliette Low

Juliette Gordon Low was born Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon in Savannah, Georgia, she became known as “Daisy” after her uncle saw her as a baby girl and said, “I’ll bet she’ll be a daisy!” Daisy was always jumping into new games, hobbies and ideas. Another one of her nicknames was “Little Ship”. Juliette acquired this nickname while living with her maternal grandparents in Chicago during the Civil War. Juliette’s grandfather, John Kinzie, was a Native American agent and young Juliette often played with Native American children. Juliette loved to hear the story about her great-grandmother, who was captured by Native Americans. A grain of rice thrown at the wedding became lodged in Juliette’s bad ear. When it was removed, her ear drum was punctured and became infected, causing her to become completely deaf in that ear. Juliette’s hearing was severely limited for the rest of her life. Juliette is responsible for founding the first girl scout organization of America.

Juliette was an American youth leader and the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1912.

Juliette was the adopted daughter of the Seneca chief Cornplanter in the years she dwelt with the tribe, Eventually, the Seneca said they’d give Juliette’s great-grandmother whatever gift she wanted, and she chose to go back home. The Seneca let her go. The shorter version of the nickname was bestowed on young Juliette.

Juliette was educated in several prominent boarding schools, including the Virginia Female Institute (now Stuart Hall School) and Mesdemoiselles Charbonniers (a French finishing school in New York City).

When she was about 25 years old, Juliette suffered an ear infection that was treated with silver nitrate. This treatment damaged her ear, causing her to lose a great deal of her hearing in that ear.

At the age of 26, even though her parents had apprehensions, she married William Mackay “Willy” Low, the son of a wealthy cotton merchant in Savannah and England. William’s mother was a native of Savannah, Georgia. Their wedding took place on 21 December, 1886 which happened to be her parents’ 29th wedding anniversary. A grain of rice thrown at the wedding became lodged in Juliette’s good ear. When it was removed, her ear drum was punctured and became infected, causing her to become completely deaf in that ear. Juliette’s hearing was severely limited for the rest of her life.

Juliette’s marriage to Mr. Low proved to be childless. Although the couple moved to England, Juliette continued her travels and divided her time between the British Isles and America. During the Spanish-American War, Juliette came back to America to aid in the war effort. Juliette helped her mother organise a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers returning from Cuba. Juliette’s father was commissioned as a general in the U.S. Army and served on the Puerto Rican Peace Commission.

As early as 1901, due to her husband’s infidelities, Juliette intended to get a divorce. However, her husband died in 1905 before the divorce proceedings could be finalized. When his will was read Juliette discovered that her husband had left his money to his mistress. Juliette was left with a small widow’s pension. It was in 1911 that Juliette met Second Boer War hero (and founder of the Scouting movement) Robert Baden-Powell, his wife Olave, and his sister Agnes. Juliette and Sir Robert (later Lord) Baden Powell shared a passion for sculpture and art. Juliette also enjoyed working with iron.

While in the UK, Juliette worked as a Girl Guide leader for troops she organized in Scotland and London. On returning to America in 1912, Juliette placed her historic telephone call to a cousin: “Come right over! I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we’re going to start it tonight!” On 12 March, 1912 Juliette gathered 18 girls to register the first troop of American Girl Guides. Margaret “Daisy Doots” Gordon, her niece and namesake, was the first registered member, but did not attend the first meeting. The name of the organization was changed to Girl Scouts the following year. The organization was incorporated in 1915, with Juliette serving as president until 1920 when she was granted the title of founder.

In personality, Daisy was known for being eccentric and charming. One commonly related anecdote recounts how, at an early Scout board meeting, she stood on her head to display the new Girl Scout shoes that she happened to be wearing. Juliette Low also wrote poems; sketched, wrote and acted in plays; and became a skilled painter and sculptor. Juliette Low had many pets throughout her life and was particularly fond of exotic birds, Georgia mockingbirds, dogs, cats, and a few horses. Daisy was also known for her great sense of humor.

Juliette Gordon Low contracted breast cancer in 1923, but kept it a secret and continued diligently working for the Girl Scouts. Juliette Low died on 17 January, 1927 from this cancer, and was buried in her Girl Scout uniform in Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah.

In Savannah, Georgia tourists and locals can visit three historic sites which relate to the life of Juliette Gordon Low. The home of her birth, The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace is one of the most visited house museums in Georgia. The Andrew Low House became her Savannah home after her marriage to William Mackay Low in 1886, and The Girl Scout First Headquarters is the former carriage house of the Andrew Low family. Juliette converted the carriage house into her Girl Scout headquarters shortly after the first meeting in 1912 and willed it to the local Savannah Girl Scouts upon her death in 1927.

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