There’s a lot of cultural and religious debate that swirls around Halloween. For some, it’s a holy day, a precursor to the Catholic All Saints Day. For others, it’s a loathed day where you have to wear cat ears to work or risk being asked about the whereabouts of your costume constantly. For kids, it’s a chance to shake down your neighbors for candy and eat Dots until you puke. For girls aged 16-21, it’s a celebration of a different sort. But all of these different Halloween celebrations miss the real reason we should be celebrating on October 31st: Juliette Gordon Low. For Girl Scouts around the country, October 31st is celebrated as Founders Day, the day their Beloved Founder, Juliette Gordon Low, was born.
JGL definitely would make the Sistorian #Squad. She’s from Georgia, she started a girls empowerment group, her mom’s name was Eleanor, she invented Girl Scout cookies, and she shares initials with underrated hunk-man Joseph Gordon Levitt.
JGL didn’t found the Girl Scouts until she was 51 years old. The first five decades of her life were fairly eventful — her parents disagreed about the Civil War, so when her father went off to fight for the Confederacy, her mother moved her up to Illinois to stay with family. She was accident-prone and earned the nickname “Crazy Daisy” for her unladylike antics. She bounced around boarding schools (including one called the Virginia Female Institute — hooboy.) She courted her husband in secret and once they married, according to the Girl Scouts website,
“Juliette returned often to the United States to connect with her many friends and family members — and also to find support during what ultimately proved to be a calamitous marriage that ended shortly before her husband’s death in 1905.”
Shoutout to the Girl Scouts for not entirely skating over that period of their Beloved Founder’s life. Because this marriage was a doozy.
It started off on a bad foot. At their wedding, a grain of rice thrown by well-wishers lodged in JGL’s ear and subsequent surgeries to have it removed left her almost completely deaf. (H/T to Corinne for knowing that fact off the top of her head…)
Wikipedia says “They spent much of their first two years of marriage apart due to her medical problems and his long hunting trips and gambling.” [Eds. note: Only one of those person’s reasons is valid.] “The long separations, combined with Gordon Low’s inability to have children, caused a strain on their relationship.” [Eds. note: I’m assuming they didn’t have sperm count tests in the late 1800s, so maybe we don’t really know whose fault this is…]
The couple began divorce proceedings after JGL discovered Mr. Low was having an affair with a fellow London socialite. He held all the financial power (because 1800s) but she negotiated hard to get a stipend from him to live off of. After Mr. Low had a stroke, JGL temporarily called off the divorce proceedings to care for him. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, they are JUST like the nineteenth-century Khloe and Lamar.
Then he died and left everything to his mistress. NO, SERIOUSLY. Low’s family brought in the lawyers and she did eventually get some $$ and the Low house in Savannah.
So, at this point in the story, I would probably just pack it in, take my inheritance and cry in my giant old house about how this was not how I saw my life going. Girls everywhere are glad that JGL and I have some serious personality differences.
In her 50s, widowed slash divorced, recovering from a long legal battle, technically deaf, JGL decided it was time to do something BIG. She met the founder of the Boy Scouts, Robert Baden-Powell, and was inspired by his double names and double mission: to prepare boys for military service and to have fun. RBP’s sister had founded the Girl Guides, a similar group for girls in the UK, and helped JGL start a few troops in London and Scotland.
JGL returned to the US, ready to bring the Girl Guides to her home country. She called her cousin 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!”
True story: I’ve said that like 15 times, and I usually get distracted by Netflix, or realize that it’s hard to start something at night because no one is awake. Or I get all hype and start the plans and in the light of day, it turns out I’ve been planning an amusement park for dogs. Again, so glad JGL and I have little in common.
Because she did it. What started as the Girl Guides, a small Savannah off-shoot of the British organization, is today the largest women’s organization in the world. There are Girl Scout troops in every state, wearing those adorable little sashes and vests and pushing cookies onto unsuspecting dieters. Starting in the Daisy program, girls are taught skills ranging from campfire building to coding, knot-tying to Not Taking Crap From Anyone.
Every year, the 2.7 million active Girl Scouts celebrate October 31st as something larger than just Halloween. It’s Founder’s Day, dedicated to celebrating the life and legacy of Juliette Gordon Low, role model, fighter, and leader. This year, as you’re picking out your costume and preparing your candy bowl, perhaps you’ll consider doing the same.