105 years ago today, on March 12 in 1912, Juliette Gordon Low (1860–1927) assembled 18 girls from Savannah, Georgia for the first-ever Girl Scouts meeting in the USA. It signaled the birth of a movement that broke with convention – reaching across class, cultural, and ethnic boundaries – to ensure that all girls be given an opportunity to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually, while learning self-reliance and resourcefulness.
“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!”
Within just a few years, Juliette’s dream for a girl-centered organization, which was initially inspired by a 1912 meeting she had with Boy Scouts founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell, was realized. Today, Girl Scouts of the USA boasts a membership of over 2.8 million, and more than 59 million women in the U.S. are Girl Scout alumnae.
What else you should know about Juliette Gordon Low?
- 1979: The National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York, inducts Juliette Gordon Low, along with Dorothea Dix, Alice Paul, and Elizabeth Bayley Seton.
- 1983: President Ronald Reagan signs a bill into law naming a new federal building complex in Savannah in honor of Juliette Gordon Low. At the time, it is only the second such structure in the United States named after a woman.
- 2005: Juliette Gordon Low is memorialized in the Points of Light monument in Washington, DC, the only national monument paying tribute to individuals who selflessly champion “causes to help others realize a better America.”
- 2012: President Barack Obama posthumously awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, to Juliette Gordon Low for her “remarkable vision,” and celebrates “her dedication to empowering girls everywhere.”
How did Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting begin?
This is the inspiring global history, as recounted by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts…
“In 1909, a group of girls appeared at a Boy Scout Rally in the UK declaring themselves to be Girl Scouts. Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts, decided that there should be a Movement for girls.
“Guiding was introduced that same year to respond to the specific needs of girls and young women. Groups of Girl Guides soon started in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand and South Africa.
“A year later, the Girl Guide Association was officially established in the UK under the leadership of Agnes Baden-Powell, Robert’s sister. By 1912 there were also groups in Ireland, Portugal, Norway and Juliette Low founded Girl Scouting in the USA in 1912.
“The movement continued to grow over the years, and today there are Girl Guide or Girl Scouts Associations in 146 countries!”