A meeting in 1911 with Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts, changed the course of Juliette Gordon Low’s life. Like Juliette, Baden-Powell enjoyed sculpting, nature, the outdoors, and the company of young people. They had plenty to talk about.
Baden-Powell suggested that Juliette work with Girl Guides in England and Scotland, the sister group to Boy Scouts, which was first organized by his sister Agnes in 1910. She jumped right in, starting Girl Guide troops in London and rural Scotland.
In 1912, Juliette sailed home to Savannah from England, determined to bring Girl Guiding to the United States. Arriving at her family home (the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace), she immediately telephoned her cousin, school principal Nina Pape, and said, "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!"
The first official meeting was held at the Louisa Porter Home in Savannah, where a group of girls from Nina Pape’s school gathered with newly-appointed board members, recited the Promise and Law, and learned to tie knots before walking across the street to view the future site of their new headquarters in the carriage house of the Lafayette Square house Juliette Gordon Low inherited from her husband.
Whenever there was a question about what to do next, Juliette said “ask the girls.” It was the girls themselves who decided they wanted to be called “Scouts” in America instead of “Guides.” The name was officially changed to Girl Scouts in the United States in 1913.
Juliette Gordon Low worked tirelessly to grow the new organization and for many years used her own money to pay expenses, even selling her valuable pearl necklace when she was short of funds. Using her innate talent for fundraising and public relations, combined with her vast network of friends and supporters, Juliette led Girl Scouts with passion and determination.
Juliette Gordon Low died on January 17, 1927, at home in Savannah, Georgia, after a long and private struggle with breast cancer. Two hundred Girl Scouts attended her funeral. She was buried in Savannah’s Laurel Grove Cemetery, wearing her Girl Scout uniform.
Since 1912, leaders and girls all over the world have worked to grow the Girl Scout Movement and ensure it lives up to the promise of being a community that welcomes all girls to have fun and reach their full potential.
Juliette Gordon Low is remembered today with camps, schools, and scholarships established in her honor. Other tributes include postage stamps, a World War II battleship, numerous biographies, and even an opera about her life. In 2012, 85 years after her death, Juliette was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her services to the nation by President Barack Obama.