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Deaf and Hard of Hearing People:  Low, Juliette (Daisy)

Juliette Low: Founder of the Girl Scouts
By  Amanda Souza
Thu, March 5, 2009 - 9:59 PM

As a former Girl Scout and Girl Scout assistant leader, I owe my gratitude of my scouting experiences to the lady who started this foundation. She was born Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon but was given the childhood nickname of "Daisy" which stuck with her through her life. She was well educated growing up, attending some of the best boarding schools. (1, 4, 5, 8) She was very interested in the arts, especially writing and painting. She was also very fond of animals. She was always adopting and taking care of strays or pets of others she felt were not getting the attention they deserved. (3, 5) She always encouraged the good treatment of animals. From "Juliette Low's Notes on the Laws, 1912": "FRIEND TO ANIMALS. All Girl Scouts take particular care of our dumb friends, the animals, and protect them from stupid neglect or hard usage." (2, 9)

She had suffered ear infections for many years but when she was in her early twenties, a particularly severe one, followed by poor treatment, caused her the loss of hearing in it. (3, 8) She lost the hearing in her other ear at her wedding some years later by a completely random circumstance, she reflects on these events in a letter written in 1925, "I had a series of ear infections and was losing patience with "traditional" medicine. I had heard that silver nitrate was the "newest" treatment, and I insisted that the doctor use it on me. Unfortunately, it was too powerful a mixture, and it caused me to go deaf in that ear. Later on at my wedding, a truly freaky thing happened; some of the rice people threw got caught in my other ear. I didn't want to take the time to see a doctor, since I was leaving on my honeymoon. Well, the rice festered in my ear and caused quite an infection. When it was finally removed, the instrument they used to take it out made me deaf in that ear too." (2) She never let her hearing loss stop her or hold her down in any way. She was a very motivated person and believed in the future roles of women in our society. (3)

In her early twenties she married William Mackay "Willy" Low and for most of their marriage she resided with him in Britain. (3, 8) After he died, she began traveling about Europe. In 1911, while attending a luncheon, Juliette met Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the British Boy Scouts. From this meeting, she developed a keen interest in scouting. She started her own female version of the boy scouts known as the Girl Guides. After starting two more troupes in London, she traveled back to the United States, where on March 12, 1912, she established the first Girl Guide troupe in America, becoming known as the Girl Scouts. (4, 5, 6, 7) She recalls, "When I returned to the States and wanted to start the Girl Scouts, I knew I needed some help. The first woman I approached tried to tell me she wasn't interested. I pretended that my deafness prevented me from hearing her refusals. And told her, "Then that's settled. I've told my girls you will take the meeting next Thursday." I never heard a word of argument from her again!" (2) The first troupe was started in her native town of Savannah, Georgia. The movement quickly became popular and in 1915 was integrated with the national headquarters at Washington, D.C. where Juliette served as president of the organization for years.

"From the original 18 girls, Girl Scouting has grown to 3.7 million members. Girl Scouts is the largest educational organization for girls in the world and has influenced the more than 50 million girls, women and men who have belonged to it." (1) Juliette made sure that all girls were welcomed, even those with disabilities. She wanted all girls to experience going out of doors and appreciating nature and animals in the passionate way she herself did. She wanted young women to learn and prepare for homemaking and/or professional occupations, as well as be able to be confident young women in anything they strived to do. (3)

She has been honored time and again for her dedication and commitment to young girls throughout the United States to make them strong, confident, compassionate, self-reliant and resourceful women. In 1948 she became one of the few women, and one of the few deaf citizens, to be honored on a stamp. She has been admitted into the Women's Hall of Fame, has had schools, a ship, and a federal building named after her, she has earned rewards and medallions, and she has changed the lives of many young women for five generations. (3, 8)


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