The Washington Post reports that when Juliette Gordon Low learned that 6,000 girls had lined up at London’s Crystal Palace to join the brand- new Boy Scout organization, she couldn’t contain her excitement. Her enthusiasm over that dramatic demonstration became a passion that changed her life and has influenced the lives of almost 60 million American girls. In the century since she founded the Girl Scouts, those girls have grown up to be secretaries of state and scientists, astronauts and actors, teachers and TV anchors, Supreme Court justices and singers. And they probably also invented s’mores.
The article points out that Girl Scouting Works: The Alumnae Impact Study, a recent survey by the Girl Scout Research Institute, found that almost one out of two women in this country has been a scout, and they have out-performed their non-scout sisters in education, income, civic engagement and volunteer activities.
The organization producing these successful women would probably not be the force it is today without the industry, energy, connections and cash of “Crazy Daisy” Low, as the founder was known. Two very different books tell her life story: Stacy Cordery’s “Juliette Gordon Low” is intended as a definitive biography, while Shannon Henry Kleiber’s “On My Honor” is an inspirational how-to manual for current scouts and their leaders.
Writers of women’s history usually struggle to find original documents — either the subjects destroyed their letters (as Martha Washington is believed to have done), or their descendants didn’t deem them important enough to preserve. Low’s biographer faced the opposite problem: an overabundance of material for a woman whose story is frankly not all that fascinating until her full-force entry into the world of scouting, though in some ways that makes her accomplishment all the more extraordinary.