the birthplace of the founder of the Girl Scounts
The Birthplace of Girl Scouts of the USA founder, Juliette Gordon Low, is one of the three significant landmarks that make up Savannah, Georgia’s Juliette Gordon Low Historic District. The early-19th century manor we know as “The Birthplace” was initially built in 1818 for James Moore Wayne, mayor of Savannah, and subsequently sold to the Gordon family.
The estate is currently owned by the Girl Scouts, operating as a historic house museum and space for organization members to congregate. It embodies the achievements of one of the city’s first female entrepreneurs while preserving the history of the significant all-girl movement.
Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low (1860-1927) was born in Savannah, Georgia, to William Washington Gordon II, a successful cotton merchant and Civil War hero, and Eleanor Kinzie Gordon, a writer. As the daughter of a wealthy southern couple, she was exposed to sophistication and proper etiquette from a very young age. The eye for detail and elegance she developed during her childhood proved to be especially useful later in her life when hosting her lavish Girl Scout tea parties.
Since she was a young girl, Gordon Low exhibited an immense passion for the arts, becoming known for her beautiful poetry and jarring theater performances. Pastimes aside, her fortunate upper-class status also made it possible for her to receive an excellent education. During her formative years, she attended boarding schools in New Jersey and Virginia, before moving on to prestigious French finishing schools, and art institutes in New York.
The eccentric “Crazy Daisy” - as she was often called - was endearingly empathetic, always thinking of ways to help others. As a random act of kindness, she formed a group known as the Helpful Hands Club, geared towards teaching women how to sew. The club was significant since it would contribute to the community by donating the finished garments to immigrant families.
She married William Mackay Low in 1885, and the couple moved to Warwickshire, England, where Daisy added skills like woodworking and metalworking to her repertoire. Despite much opposition from William, who preferred his wife remained at home, she worked as a nurse, caring for lepers and assisting the needy in nearby villages.
While in England, in 1911, Gordon Low met Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts. Powell, who was an English war hero, founded the Boy Scouts as a way to prepare young men for military defense in a fun, encouraging environment. Impressed by Powell and his vision, Daisy joined the Girl Guides, a small girl troop led by Powell’s sister, Agnes. While participating in the Girl Guides, Daisy taught young girls different survival and homemaker skills.
Gordon Low felt incredibly fulfilled as a guide and realized that America was screaming for a similar movement. Not wanting to waste any time, she returned to Savannah, where, on March 12, 1912, she made the phone call that kicked off the Girl Scouts of the USA, declaring, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we’re going to start tonight!”
The famous call was made in the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, marking the house as not only the birthplace of the founder but also the birthplace of the organization.
World War I (1914-1918) broke out only two years after the Girl Scouts had been established. The problematic event gave the girls a chance to put what they had learned to the test and make a difference. The troops assisted the Red Cross by making gauzes, knitting clothing for soldiers, and volunteering in hospitals. They also supported the U.S. Food Administration by spreading awareness about the importance of food conservation and by canning perishable foods.
The incredible leadership Gordon Low demonstrated, coupled with the girls’ steady effort during the war, was truly remarkable. Gordon Low continued to guide her troops for several years, remaining invested in the organization even after developing breast cancer and falling ill.
Juliette Gordon Low passed away on January 17, 1927, from complications related to her battle with breast cancer. Her remains were transported to Savannah’s Laurel Grove North Cemetery by a large group of Girl Scouts who, with a beautiful ceremony, said goodbye to their beloved role model.
What was once a small, local movement has since grown exponentially, with millions of members worldwide. Today, the Girl Scouts of the USA welcomes girls from all backgrounds, helping them develop leadership skills, character, and confidence. Despite its incredible growth, the organization remains true to Daisy’s vision, giving girls the tools to help them achieve their highest potential within the community.
After Daisy’s passing, the organization was searching for a place to bring everyone together and commemorate their cherished leader. It wasn’t until the purchase of the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace that this dream was made possible.
During the 1950s, as several historic buildings faced the threat of demolition, locals grew increasingly aware of the importance of protecting these unique structures. In 1953, while Juliette Gordon Low’s abandoned Birthplace was awaiting tear down, it was purchased by the Girl Scouts and saved from destruction.
The gravely deteriorated building was in desperate need of repair when the organization acquired it. True to form, the Girl Scouts took on the restoration project, organizing worldwide fundraisers to collect the money necessary to rehabilitate the house. Troops from all over the world sold cookies, held talent shows, and did whatever they could to restore the imposing building to its former glory.
The newly refurbished Birthplace was opened to the public in 1956 as a historic house museum that included many of the family’s original furnishings as well as art that Daisy herself painted. On June 23, 1965, the house was designated a National Historic Landmark, one of the first buildings in the city to receive such honor.
Thousands of girls visit the house every year to learn about the history of the organization and the woman who made it possible. The museum offers interactive exhibits and a beautiful garden and courtyard visit after the tours.
The famous Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace is currently open to the general public. The museum offers guided tours appropriate for all ages. The museum operates Monday through Saturday from 12:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. The store operates Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
10 East Oglethorpe Avenue
Savannah, GA 31401