SCOUTS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN ENVIRONMENTALISTS
by Whit Gibbons
March 10, 2003
I have a new heroine. Daisy Low. To most she is known as Juliette Gordon
Low, rather than by her nickname, "Daisy," and, on March 12,
1912, in Savannah, Georgia, she founded what we now know as the Girl
Scouts. This was an organization ahead of the times in many ways, including
Some of the statements from an early "Girl Scout Leader's Guide,"
the oldest copy I could find having been published in 1955, sound like
something even the Nature Conservancy or Sierra Club might be proud
of because of their environmental message. "The Girl Scout approach
to nature is not through collections of flora and fauna but through
understanding of living things, appreciation of their beauty, and conservation
of them as they live." Today's handbooks continue to support environmental
conservation and encourage ecological understanding on a high plane,
including such environmental education components as environmental health
and appreciating the interconnectedness of nature.
the foundation of the Girl Scouts has always been aimed at developing
personal traits such as self-esteem, leadership, and teamwork, girls
today are also encouraged to address ecological issues. One of the badges
that Girl Scouts can earn is called "Environmental Health,"
a joint project that was developed between the Girl Scouts and the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promote environmental awareness
and stewardship. The "Water Drop Patch" is an award that educates
Girl Scouts about wetlands management and, according to the official
Web site, "Linking Girls to the Land" is a "national
initiative [that] covers all aspects of the environment."
Juliette Low, at the age of fifty-one, organized a group of eighteen
girls in 1912 in Savannah, she showed a strength of commitment unprecedented
for the times. Not only was she not a member of the voting public because
she was a woman, she had also become deaf as an adult. Although she
would legally be able to vote eight years later, she would never be
able to hear. Yet she forged ahead to develop what she at first called
the American Girl Guides. The name was taken from the British Girl Guides,
the female counterpart to the Boy Scouts, on which she modeled the newly
formed American organization. Sir Robert Baden-Powell had founded the
Boy Scouts in England, and his sister Agnes had helped create the British
Girl Guides. Low and Baden-Powell had become friends during one of Low's
numerous visits to England, and he and his sister strongly encouraged
the development of a girl's organization in America, where the Boy Scouts
were already established.
Girl Scouts of the USA soon became the official name of the organization.
Among the notable facts is that more American women--50 million, including
my daughters--have belonged to the Girl Scouts than to any other women's
organization in the world. Today almost 3 million girls and 1 million
women in more than 80 countries are actively involved in the Girl Scouts.
after her death in 1927, as the Girl Scouts became recognized as one
of the most significant women's organizations ever formed, Juliette
Gordon Low received various well-deserved recognitions for her contributions
to society. A liberty ship was named after her during World War II,
and she was honored by a three-cent commemorative stamp in 1948. In
tribute to her efforts, the U.S. Congress officially chartered the Girl
Scouts in 1950. In 1979 she was inducted into the National Women's Hall
of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York; in 1983 a government building in
Savannah was named after her, representing only the second federal building
named after a woman. The city of Savannah has various other landmarks
commemorating her efforts.
Low was an impressive person who created a highly effective and constructive
program for personal development among young women and with the proper
attitude toward environmental matters. Another line in the 1955 book
was "Nature activities help a Scout realize both her debt and her
responsibility to all living things." If the Girl Scouts can maintain
attitudes like that, let's hope that all young girls will become Scouts.
If you have an environmental question or comment, email