A talented artist and sculptor. A scorned wife. Deaf. Founder of a world wide movement as a middle-aged woman. The legacy of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, was somewhat the result of an unintended life.
Low, born in Savannah to a wealthy family, didn't start out to change the world. She was educated in the arts and married in her early twenties. But after her marriage fell apart, Low found herself as the initiator of what would become the largest girls organization in the world.
The birthplace of Low is a lovely look into the private life of this world admired lady. The home has her personal treasures in every room. Guests begin on the basement floor which is home to the gift shop and some educational spaces. Tours are offered frequently by a variety of guides. Tourists then go outside to the main floor and pause in the entry hall. Low’s portrait is there along with the framed Presidential Medal of Freedom she received more than 50 years after her death.
Low had a traditional Southern upbringing, filled with art and poetry. She attended boarding school and then studied art in New York City.
She married William Mackay Low in 1886; he was a friend of the family. They set up homes in both England and Scotland. He became a heavy drinker and their relationship soured. Eventually, she was faced with a husband who was distant and having affairs. For several years, she went back and forth to the United States while attempting to reconcile. Eventually, their marriage ended with her husband’s death in 1905. Low found herself widowed and bored. While living in England, she had a meeting with Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts. She was inspired by his successful program to establish Girl Guides that same year. Telephoning a cousin from her home, she announced, "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!" In The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, the record book listings the original 18 girls can be seen. Tours also include the guest books from her home in England along with stunning works of art (paintings, sculpture and ironworks.) Much of the furniture is original to the home as are books, decorative pieces and clothing.
Low spent the next 15 years expanding the organization through lobbying, networking and constantly striving to further the idea of the Girl Scouts (originally Girl Guides).
That small gathering of girls Juliette Gordon Low hosted more than 100 years ago is now a remarkable a global movement that today includes 2.6 million Girl Scouts (1.8 million girls and 800,000 adults) in 92 countries and more than 50 million alums, united across distance and decades by lifelong friendships, shared adventures, and the desire to do big things to make the world a better place.
Low spent the rest of her life promoting the Girl Scouts. She died of breast cancer at the age of 66.
Past and current Girl Scouts have the opportunity to win $2 million for the Low Birthplace.
The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace is a finalist in Partners in Preservation, a program of American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Interested persons are asked to help the birthplace continue its important work to preserve the site while ensuring it meets the needs of 21st century girls. Today, the Birthplace needs to change, grow, and innovate to serve the needs of today’s girls. Funding will empower Girl Scouts to revitalize the Birthplace and make it more sustainable, accessible, flexible, and engaging for the general public, so that every person who experiences it can be inspired by the life of Juliette Gordon Low, the Savannah community she knew and loved, and the vibrant movement she founded. Individuals may vote once a day through Oct. 29 by visiting https://www.nationalgeographic.com/voteyourmainstreet/savannah/ .
The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace is located at 10 East Oglethorpe Avenue in Savannah, Georgia. Guided tours are available Monday to Saturdays and last about 40 minutes. Adults $15; Girl Scouts and leaders $10; students and seniors $12.