Women's History Month
The National Park Service is pleased to feature a National Historic Landmark that commemorates the contributions of women in our nation's history and the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting on March 12, 1912. The Juliette Gordon Low Historic District, located in Savannah, Georgia, was designated as a National Historic Landmark on June 23, 1965, with revised documentation being approved on March 21, 2006.
Juliette Gordon Low Historic District, Savannah, GA
The Juliette Gordon Low Historic District consists of three individual properties in Savannah, Georgia: the Wayne-Gordon House/Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, the Andrew Low House, and the carriage house and servants' quarters for the Andrew Low House which became commonly known as the First Girl Scouts Headquarters.
The Wayne-Gordon House was the birthplace and early home of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts in the United States. Juliette Gordon lived here from her birth in 1860 until she married William Mackay Low in 1886. The house was originally built for James Moore Wayne, a prominent Savannah jurist and politician who served as Mayor of Savannah, United States Congressman, and United States Supreme Court Justice. Moore sold the house in 1831 to his niece and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. William Washington Gordon I (Mrs. Low's grandparents). The property remained in the Gordon family until 1953 when the Girl Scouts of the United States of America purchased it and began the process of restoring many features while adapting the house to new uses. The house subsequently opened to the public in 1956. Interpretation of the site emphasizes Juliette Gordon Low's life, the history of the Gordon family, and the history of Girl Scouting. The property is now officially known as the Juliette Gordon Low Girl Scout National Center and is visited annually by thousands of Girl Scouts who participate in a variety of educational programs.
The Andrew Low House, built in 1848-1849 for Andrew Low, a wealthy cotton broker, fronts Lafayette Square, one of the squares of the renowned Savannah town plan. The house was designed by New York architect John S. Norris, who also designed the U.S. Custom House in Savannah as well as numerous other private and public buildings in the city. The Andrew Low House was the adult home of Juliette Gordon Low. Low, who traveled for extended periods, used the house between 1886 and 1905. She inherited the property from her husband after his death in 1905, and it became her Savannah residence in 1918; she remained there until her passing in 1927.
The First Girl Scout Headquarters is situated behind the garden in the rear of the Andrew Low House. The central two-story portion was likely built at the same time as the Low House in 1849. The one-story wings date to the early twentieth century. In 1912, Mrs. Low had the interior remodeled as a meeting place for local Girl Scout Troops while retaining the north wing as her garage. When Mrs. Low died in 1927 she bequeathed all but the garage to the Savannah Area Girl Scout Council. Low's estate sold the garage to the Colonial Dames, who donated it to the Girl Scouts in 1939.
Founding the Girl Scouts
Ms. Low's inspiration for the Girl Scouts came in May of 1911 when she met Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, while traveling in England. Low also met Baden-Powell's sister, Agnes, who was at the time in charge of the Girl Guides, an organization for British girls that was the counterpart to Boy Scouting. Mrs. Low was impressed by the methods Baden-Powell employed to positively influence boys through Scouting, principles she later adapted for the Girl Scouts.
In Savannah in March of 1912, Mrs. Low designed, organized, promoted, and funded the Girl Guides (soon renamed the Girl Scouts), an early and influential movement for girls and young women in the United States. She held preliminary meetings with local girls in her parents' home (her birthplace) and possibly at the Andrew Low House. She gave the scouts the use of the carriage house behind the Low House as a headquarters.
In the early days, the focus of Girl Scouts was in areas including the outdoors, health, art, science, and travel/patriotism. Girls could earn awards in bird watching, nature studies, sculpting, stargazing, Morse code, and patriotic songs. Through Girl Scouting, girls were encouraged to reach their full potential, develop meaningful values for sound decision-making, demonstrate personal responsibility, and contribute to the improvement of humanity. The Girl Scouts helped shape the cultural values of American girls, giving them the self-confidence to pursue educational and intellectual opportunities, gain access to opportunities in business and politics, and participate in outdoor educational and physical activities.
Girl Scouting represented a major educational and character-building enterprise reflective of the social and humanitarian impulses of the first two decades of the twentieth century. From the organization's founding in 1912 until her death in 1927, Mrs. Low oversaw the development of the Girl Scout movement as it grew from its local origins with 18 members, to a national organization with more than 168,000 members at the time of her death.
As society has evolved Girl Scouting has progressed as well. The areas of focus today in Girl Scouting are leadership; community outreach; environmental awareness; financial literacy; health and wellness; science, technology, engineering and math; the arts; and travel. Today the Girl Scouts number more than 3.7 million around the world. Since the group's inception, 50 million girls have enrolled in the organization. By 1999, two-thirds of all the female members of the U.S. Congress were former Girl Scouts.
The Andrew Low House, Carriage House, and Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace are significant for playing a distinctive role in helping shape American girls' interest and participation in the world around them through the Girl Scout program. The three properties in the Juliette Gordon Low Historic District are significant to the Girl Scouts, and the birthplace in particular has become a commemorative site for the Girls Scouts to honor Juliette Gordon Low. Approximately 10,000 Girl Scouts every year travel to the birthplace for a day-long “Girl Scout Heritage Visit.”
The text for this feature was taken from The Juliette Gordon Low Historic District National Historic Landmark Nomination.