Most people do not know that Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of America, was deaf. She began to lose her hearing when she was 17, and became almost totally deaf in her adulthood.

Juliette Gordon was born on October 31, 1860, in Savannah, Georgia. Her family and friends all called her Daisy. When she was 14 she was sent to a school in Virginia that was run by some of Thomas Jefferson’s grand-daughters. A few years later, at the age of 17, she transferred to a school in New York.

Juliette married William Mackay Low and they went to England to live. Juliette became interested in the Girl Guides Association there. She observed their meetings and was very impressed because the girls acquired many useful skills. They learned how to cook, knit, tie knots and give first aid. They also learned about the history of the flag. Moreover, they developed important social skills as they learned how to work together. Juliette thought that girls everywhere should have this opportunity, so she decided to organize more troops.

Juliette organized several Girl Guides troops in both England and Scotland. Since she could not do all the work herself, she had to ask other women to help her. Sometimes the women were reluctant to give their time due to family responsibilities. However, Juliette was a very determined woman. When the women refused, she would pretend that she didn’t understand what they said. As a result, the women helped her in spite of being busy.

Juliette always persevered until she motivated others to help her with her goals. One encounter that required her persistence happened while she was in Scotland. She was walking along a road one day when she came to a stream. The only way across the stream was by a foot log, and Juliette was afraid to cross it alone. She was wondering what to do when she saw a peddler coming down the road. She told the peddler to go across the bridge first, and she would follow with her hand on his shoulder. Although the peddler started to protest, her stubborn insistence again paid off. He reluctantly led her across the foot bridge. Once they were safely on the other side, the peddler explained to her that he was blind!

When Juliette came back to America for a visit, she started the first Girl Guides troop in the country in her home town, Savannah. By the time she went back to England six months later, there were six Girl Guide troops in Savannah. At that time, the girls each made their own uniforms.

In 1913, the Girl Guides changed its name to the Girl Scouts. Juliette Low came back to Savannah that same year. She decided that there should be Girl Scout troops all over the United States, so she worked toward that goal. The first national Girl Scout convention was held in Washington, DC, on June 10, 1915.

Juliette died in Savannah on January 17, 1927. Thanks to her, there are now Girl Scouts all over the world. Juliette’s home in Savannah is a national Girl Scout center.

Adapted from: Goodstein, A. & Walworth, M. (1979). “Interesting Deaf Americans.” Washington, DC: Gallaudet University. Used with permission from the Gallaudet University Alumni Association. Revised by Vivion Smith.

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