Who Was Juliette Gordon Low? by Dana Meachen Rau


Who Was Juliette Gordon Low? by Dana Meachen Rau. Penguin Workshop, 2021. 9781101995563

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Paperback

 Genre: Biography

What did you like about the book? This in-depth biography of the founder of the American Girl Scouts provides background not only on Juliette Gordon Low’s fascinating and unconventional life but on the history of the scouting movement.  Juliette Gordon was born just at the outset of the Civil War to a wealthy family in Savannah, Georgia.  Her father fought for the Confederacy while her mother, struggling to keep the children healthy and safe, moved to her family home in Chicago for part of the war.  After the war, Juliette, nicknamed Daisy (and sometimes ‘Crazy Daisy’), had an adventurous childhood playing with siblings and cousins, exploring and performing plays, while also attending a succession of schools to learn proper etiquette, dancing, and other ‘womanly’ talents.  At the time she entered Savannah society as a debutante and married millionaire William Low in 1886, she began to experience hearing loss, which was an issue throughout her life.  The Lows moved to England and lived a life of leisure in wealthy society; but they began to drift apart when a back injury left Juliette temporarily bedridden.  William Low died in 1905, and Juliette used her inheritance for philanthropy, study, and travel, and kept homes in Scotland and Savannah.  

A fateful meeting with Robert Baden-Powell in 1911 inspired her to start a group of Girl Guides.  Her first troop assembled in her Scottish countryside home, and she established a group in London as well.   She soon brought the idea home to Savannah with the first troop meeting of 18 girls in March 1912.  The idea quickly spread throughout the city, and the nation; Low moved the headquarters to Washington, D.C., changed the name to Girl Scouts and published the first American version of what would become the Girl Scout Handbook, called How Girls Can Help Their Country.  She was a much-beloved figure throughout the organization, forming troops around the world and helping out with the war effort during World War I, until her death in 1927.

Readers will be very interested to learn about this brave and generous woman who founded the Girl Scouts, particularly the many ways she defied the social norms of her time, and lived with her hearing disability.  It would make an excellent resource for a biography or women’s history research project (whether for school or for Girl Scouts).  The author is a frequent contributor to the Who Was? Series, and writes in a clear and to-the-point tone.  Black and white illustrations appear throughout, as do fact boxes on such topics as etiquette and hearing aids.  Timelines and a bibliography are included as well.

Anything you did not like about the book? No

To whom would you recommend this book? Readers who participate in Scouts will be interested to read this account of the founding of the Girl Scouts and learn about what inspired Juliette Gordon Low; it provides a lot of insight into women’s roles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well.  

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Biography

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: September 22, 2021

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