Girl Scouts Has Deep Ties To This Southern City

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Georgia, Savannah, Juliette Gordon Low Historic District, birthplace, house museum.
Juliette Gordon Low birthplace and house museum in Georgia, Savannah. Photo:

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Girl Scout cookie season might have come and gone, but in Savannah, Georgia, the spirit of Girl Scouts lives year-round, especially at the Wayne-Gordon House. Located at the corner of Oglethorpe Ave and Bull Street, the Wayne Gordon House served as the birthplace of the very first Girl Scout, Juliette Gordon Low. It is here that Juliette, appropriately nicknamed Daisy, lived with her family until Savannah was occupied by Union forces in December 1864. It is also from this house that Juliette called her cousin, Nina Pape, to spread the news that she was rallying the troops: Girl Scout troops, that is. Juliette was founding American Girl Guides, eventually changed to Girl Scouts in 1913. 

As the story goes, Juliette spent her childhood at the house before eventually getting married there to her husband, William Mackay Low, on ​​December 21, 1886. “We even have wedding pictures of her at the house which is really fun. They had a huge bridal party!” says Shannon Browning-Mullis, Executive Director of the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace. Once wed, she and William moved to England where they became friends with Robert Batton Powell, the Boy Scouts founder. Juliette and Powell eventually founded two Girl Guide groups before Juliette brought their idea back stateside, specifically to Savannah. 

Encouraging Southern women to enlist their daughters in a Girl Scouts program that taught independence and leadership took some convincing. “When you describe the program to moms of upper-class families in 1912, they were confused about why they would want that experience for their daughter,” says Browning-Mullis. So, as any Southern woman would, Juliette threw a good party, a tea party. “We have a letter where Juliette’s mother says, ”Juliette is throwing fancier teas for these girls than I threw when the president came to town!” 

The idea stuck, and today, the Girl Scout organization serves more than 2.5 million women and girls across the world, all of whom are invited to visit the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace. Though the home isn’t just for scouts; it’s open to the public for guided tours as well. Hours change according to the season, but the sentiment is the same. “We try to make sure we're accommodating the visitors who want to visit with us,” says Browning-Mullis. Besides visiting the birthplace, people are also encouraged to go to the rest of the Juliette Gordon Low Historic District which includes the site of the first Girl Scouts Headquarters, a carriage house turned residence at 330 Drayton Street.

Browning-Mullis says the founding of Girls Scouts in a place like Savannah is especially poignant. “It was the middle of the Progressive Era, so women all over the country were starting to become more active in their communities. They were taking on social causes; they were leaders; they were founding organizations,” she explains. “I just love to think of how this organization fits into that broader time period. All of those early troop leaders are connected to other Progressive Era causes.” Girl Scout or not, that’s something we can all appreciate.

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