Leader of the Pack
JULIETTE GORDON LOW:
The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts.
By Stacy A. Cordery. Viking. 382 pp. $28.95
Millions of American women have worn a Girl Scout uniform, including Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, Lucille Ball, Mariah Carey, and Sandra Day O’Connor. Aside from those ubiquitous boxes of thin mint cookies, the organization, which today claims more than three million members, is synonymous with the best values of American culture, including devotion to public service and chipper self-sufficiency. It owes its existence to the vision of a vibrant if eccentric promoter of opportunities for girls, as historian Stacy A. Cordery recounts in Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts.
Low, known all her life as Daisy, was born in Savannah in 1860, on the brink of the Civil War, to a Confederate captain and his Yankee wife. As a young woman, she grew smitten with William Mackay Low, a rich squire with a likewise geographically divided pedigree: His mother was a local belle and his father was British. After months of Southern romance, “Willy” left for Oxford, where he was too busy carousing with other women to answer Daisy’s letters, though he spent every summer with her. Once he decided to settle down, however, the two became engaged—Daisy evidenced the fine breeding he required in a bride, and she was attracted to his wild streak.
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Laura Claridge is the author of Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners (2008). She is currently working on a biography of Blanche Knopf.more from this author >>