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Juliette Gordon Low is the founder of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.
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Her siblings often commented on her inability to keep track of time, her frequent "experiments" that went awry, and acts of kindness that resulted in good-natured disasters. Her antics earned her the new nickname "Crazy Daisy," giving her a reputation for eccentricity that would stick with her throughout her adulthood.
Her adventurous and eccentric nature resulted in a restlessness of spirit when she was entered into a series of boarding schools, including the Virginia Female Institute,
Edgehill School, Miss Emmett's School, and Mesdemoiselles Charbonniers. While she was taught the typical social graces of a highborn lady in school—excelling in drawing, piano and speech—she yearned instead to explore, hike, play tennis and ride horses—all activities discouraged by her restrictive finishing schools. Defiant in nature, Daisy was frequently caught breaking the rules.
By the age of 19, Daisy was torn between being a dutiful daughter and pursuing her dreams of being an independent woman. After a scuffle with her mother over finances, Daisy was able to convince the family that she should move to New York to study painting‚Äîone of the few pastimes considered appropriate for women of her time period to pursue. Daisy believed she might be able to turn her painting into a means of financial support and self-sufficiency.
Yet, Daisy was also expected to marry, which she did at the age of 26. Her union to wealthy cotton merchant William Mackay Low, who she considered her one true love, took place on December 21, 1886. During their ceremony, a grain of rice, thrown by a well-wisher at her wedding, became lodged in Daisy's ear. The pain of the impacted rice became so great that the couple was forced to return home to have it removed. As a result, Low's hearing was permanently damaged, and resulted in frequent ear infections and eventual deafness in both ears.
Because of her husband's wealth, the Lows traveled often and socialized with the educated and monied. They made their home in London, purchasing the Wellesbourne House in Warwickshire, and spent autumns hunting in Scotland, and winters seeing family in the United States. But William, who had limitless funds and no restrictions, began spending more and more time apart from his wife, gambling, partying, hunting, and splurging on extravagant toys. Daisy was also gone on frequent trips, searching for cures for her hearing loss.
All was not well with Daisy and her husband, who remained childless—most likely due to Daisy's struggles with ovarian abscesses. By September 1901, it became clear to Daisy that William had taken on a mistress, a Miss Anna Bateman. As a result, William requested a divorce—at the time a shocking decree—but Daisy had to prove desertion, adultery and cruelty, all of which would require besmirching her name as well as those of her husband and Bateman. During this time, William also began drinking heavily and his social circle, worried about his mental and physical stability, all but deserted him.
Buy Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts, by Stacy A. Cordery, on Amazon.com
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