Here Come the Girl Scouts!: The Amazing All-True Story of Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure
by Shana Corey; ill. Hadley Hooper
I know it sounds curmudgeonly, but kids don’t get outside enough these days.
We parents are too scared of catastrophe; kids are too enmeshed in devices (also a parental failing, since we’re the ones who are supposed to set limits on the things). And don’t get me started on the lack of recess and P.E. at school.
Being constantly indoors is simply not good–for the immune system, for overall health. And it means that kids miss out on simple pleasures like birdsong and swinging, not to mention myriad opportunities for creativity, initiative, and (where children move in herds) cooperation.
The late 19th- and early 20th-century girls of Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low’s day faced similar problems, but for very different reasons.
They spent their days sitting–occasionally outside, but mostly inside–because that was all that was considered appropriate for girls of “good breeding.” Physical activity, it was said, would make them coarse, forward, and a host of other heinous things.
Not to mention that they were considered “too delicate” for play and sports, a stereotype probably reinforced by the actual physical limitations of corsets, bustles, and other body-distorting garments. Glowing, outdoorsy skin was the mark of lower-class women and girls who had either too much freedom or too much responsibility, depending on your perspective.
Daisy, however, wasn’t buying it. And as Shana Corey and Hadley Hooper show in Here Come the Girl Scouts!: The Amazing All-True Story of Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure, her refusal to accept cultural norms gave birth to one of the most enduring and empowering girls’ movements in history.
Daisy grew up in Savannah, Georgia, part of a family whose wealth enabled her to travel extensively and indulge in expensive hobbies. With a chronic itch for adventure, she gained a reputation for stunts like ditching a dinner party to go fishing in full evening dress.
Eventually, she married a wealthy Englishman and settled in the UK, where she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes. Robert, a former war hero, had founded the Boy Scouts; Agnes led its offshoot, the Girl Guides.
Daisy was already looking for some way to turn her thirst for adventure into something that would benefit society. Her friendship with the Baden-Powells gave her a concrete idea. Returning to the United States, she founded the Girl Scouts with just a handful of girls from Savannah’s upper crust.
From the start, Daisy emphasized physical activity, practical skills, and charity. She also insisted on inclusion, both racial and socioeconomic. It was controversial from the start, but Daisy simply didn’t care–she knew it was good for girls and for society.
There’s so much to love about this book. Corey tells the story in clear, cheery prose while still communicating important concepts like individuality and courage. She makes energy, activity, and initiative seem appealing and fun–much more so than sitting on the couch all day (or accepting limitations on one’s personhood).
Hooper’s punchy, graphic illustrations add to the book’s energy, and their sly humor augments Corey’s sense of fun. There’s also a more detailed, but accessible, biography of Daisy and her organization, along with a great bibliography for girls (and grown-ups) who want to know more.
But my favorite part of the book are the quotes. Curving around the text, incorporated into the illustrations, they inspire readers in Daisy’s own words.
“Every time you show your courage, it grows.”
“The work of to-day is the history of to-morrow, and we are its makers.”
“To make yourself strong and healthy it is necessary to begin with your inside.”
They made both me and my daughter want to–made us feel like we could–run out the door and do something to improve ourselves and the world. And that, my friends, is what empowerment feels like.