Yesterday, on International Day of the Girl, Boy Scouts of America announced plans to open its membership to girls. I want to assure you that Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana is more committed than ever to ensuring that girls take their rightful place as leaders in their communities, their country and the world.
With more than 100 years of research, experience and results, Girl Scouts remains the premier leadership organization for girls. Our unique girl-led approach and girl-friendly environment is unmatched in creating a safe space where girls are free to be themselves, take risks and thrive.
Research shows that participating in Girl Scouts helps girls develop key leadership skills they need to be successful in life. Compared to non-Girl Scouts, our girls are more likely to have confidence in themselves and their abilities; seek challenges and learn from setbacks; take an active role in decision making; and solve problems in their communities.
In fact, the Girl Scout Gold Award, which represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouts, requires girls to identify a community issue, create a sustainable solution and take action. With more than 80 hours of community service, the Girl Scout Gold Award is a top-tier credential that enables girls to earn college scholarships and enter the military one rank higher.
Simply put, Girl Scouts works. And we’re here to stay.
Yours in Girl Scouting,
CEO, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana
After learning about displaced animals due to Hurricane Harvey, Alexia Porter knew she had to do something.
“I just saw all of the animals being rescued on the news and I felt bad, so I wanted to do something,” she said. “My mom said, ‘you’re a Girl Scout, you can figure it out.'”
And figure it out she did. Alexia, a 9-year-old Girl Scout Junior from Gurnee, Illinois, immediately started texting family members and friends to help her gather pet food for the Houston SPCA. She also visited local pet stores for supplies as well.
In about a week, Alexia collected more than 100,000 pounds of pet food – so much so that The Shipping Point in Gurnee needed a semi-truck to haul it all.
“The Houston SPCA called to say ‘thank you’ and to tell her she was an angel of a Girl Scout,” said Dena Porter, Alexia’s mom. “She was so honored and felt such a huge sense of accomplishment and pride for helping so many defenseless animals left orphaned in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.”
Alexia, who has a pet Dachshund named Hershey and a Blue Siamese cat named Elsa, is passionate about helping animals and hopes to someday become a veterinarian … or a doctor, teacher, singer or dancer.
“I felt really good because I think it’s awesome that we went from a really little truck to a big one,” she said. “I learned about giving back in Girl Scouts, and to be kind and caring in the Girl Scout Promise. I use it every day.”
Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) has received a $20,000 grant from Conagra Brands Foundation to support the council’s GirlSpace Chicago Healthy Living initiative.
“The Conagra Brands Foundation focuses a majority of its efforts on making a positive impact on the issue of hunger in the communities where we live and work. To help alleviate hunger, we support a variety of high impact community initiatives including healthy and active lifestyles programs,” said Nicole Noren, Senior Specialist, Community Investment, for Conagra Brands. “The GirlSpace Chicago Healthy Living program provides girls with education on how to make informed, healthy food choices and reinforces valuable principles needed to lead a healthy lifestyle. Not only is there clear alignment in our end goal, the outcomes from this program will provide the girls an increased understanding and knowledge of how to live a healthy lifestyle. We are proud to support this program and excited to partner with the Girl Scouts.”
The grant has helped Girl Scouts such as Deanna, who is a student at Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Paideia Academy in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood.
“Currently, Deanna lives in a community that is a food desert and she can’t go to her local store to get fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Ede Crittle, Director of Community Outreach for GSGCNWI. “Since participating in our healthy living program, she has learned the importance of adding more fruits and vegetables to her daily meals, as well as exercise and proper sleep.”
Additionally, Deanna shared that Girl Scouts has been a lifesaver for her.
“She believes Girl Scouting has helped her build the courage and confidence to achieve her full potential and she wants to be a dietician or fitness instructor when she grows up,” said Crittle.
GirlSpace Healthy Living is one of three 12-week components that comprise GirlSpace, an after-school program for at-risk girls that operates year-round and partners with approximately 40 Chicago schools and Chicago Park District sites on the city’s underserved South and West sides. The program reaches about 3,000 girls annually and seeks to bring the Girl Scout Leadership Experience to life through a variety of curricular areas, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), financial literacy and healthy living.
“We know that alleviating hunger is a multi-dimensional societal issue and has to be addressed through various avenues,” said Noren. “We believe that providing access to nutrition education and healthy lifestyle programs is a key component to alleviating hunger.”
The program is offered in other Chicago neighborhoods as well such as Auburn-Gresham, Bridgeport, Chatham, East Garfield Park, Englewood and Woodlawn. More than 113,000 girls have been served through GirlSpace since it began in the mid-1980s.
Daisy had a very compassionate heart, but Willy tried to dissuade her from doing charitable work. However, Daisy unobtrusively carried on with her kindhearted ways and contributed greatly to Warwickshire life. She was a frequent visitor to the Stratford-upon-Avon workhouse where she would visit the destitute men and women housed there. A woman in Wellesbourne had contracted leprosy, and was shunned by the other villagers. Daisy’s concern caused her to quietly disappear one day each week, so she could visit with this neglected woman.
Another instance exemplifies Daisy’s tremendous compassion. One Sunday morning when coming home from church, she found a tramp outside the gates of Wellesbourne House. She could tell he was cold and in a very poor way. She urged the man to come with her into the kitchen. He refused, but Daisy brought him a tray with some tea and bread. The man didn’t want to take it because he was convinced it was poisoned.
Daisy continued to coax him until he ate some of the bread and drank some of the tea. She took the tray back inside the house, but when she returned to check on the man, he had vanished. The next day he was found a few miles away dead from exposure. She soon learned that he had escaped from a mental institution. Daisy was inconsolable over the incident, since she blamed herself for this man losing his life. Daisy Low always showed her benevolence to those less fortunate.
Because Willy was away so much on hunting trips, racing his horses, or gambling with his friends, Daisy started to feel the loneliness. She had been an artistic soul from an early age and delved into a variety of pursuits to take up the time whenever Willy was absent. Daisy had already proved herself to be an excellent portrait artist, but she branched out into other endeavors. She took up woodworking and carved a beautiful mantel for Willy’s smoking room, along with other ornamental pieces for her home. Then she took to metal working.
It’s not for certain who taught her how to forge, but it’s suspected that the village blacksmith John Thomas Thorpe was the one who instructed her. She took on a major endeavor by designing and then forging the gates for the entrance to Wellesbourne House. Those original gates were later shipped to Savannah and to adorn the entrance of Gordonston Memorial Park, but are now on display at the Birthplace. However, replicas made from Daisy’s design still hang at the Wellesbourne House entrance.
Although Daisy was thoroughly devoted to her husband, it cannot be said the same for him. Willy had a roving eye and was very keen on women. In 1901, Anna Bateman, an actress, was discovered to be Willy’s mistress. This was particularly hurtful to Daisy, since she had welcomed Mrs. Bateman to Wellesbourne House on several occasions. Now Daisy had a dilemma; how to end her marriage quietly and honorably. If she filed for divorce on grounds of adultery, then her husband and Anna Bateman would be subjected to embarrassment and shunned in polite society.
Not wishing to bring scandal to either of them, Daisy decided to leave Wellesbourne and take up residence in London. At a later time, she did file for divorce, but on the grounds of desertion. However, before the divorce was finalized, William Mackay Low died of a seizure in 1905. Without her knowledge, Willy had changed his will and left the entirety of his estate to Anna Bateman. Nevertheless, Daisy was able to persuade Willy’s four sisters to contest the will. In the end, Daisy did receive a small settlement, along with the house in Savannah. Willy’s sister Amy Low Grenfell kept Wellesbourne House.
Daisy needed to put the heartbreak of her marriage and Willy’s death behind her. Without a career or the prospects of remarrying, she set her sights on traveling. However, this strong woman wanted to have a purposeful life and continued to search for something meaningful to do. In 1911 at a luncheon, she had the good fortune to be seated next to Sir Robert Baden-Powell. Daisy was extremely impressed with all that Sir Robert had accomplished, especially his organization of a youth group for boys call the Boy Scouts, and then for girls called the Girl Guides. The two soon became good friends, and he encourage her to do something useful with her life.
Having Robert as a friend put Daisy’s life on a new path, one she had desired to walk for a long time, that is, being of service. Robert’s inspiration gave Daisy the courage to take an enormous step on that path. Having rented a summer home in Lochs, she called together a group of girls in the Scottish Highlands, and started her first troop of Girl Guides. When she returned to London for the fall and early winter, Daisy started two more troops. Having made arrangements with friends for her Girl Guide troops to carry on in her absence, Daisy set sail for America in early 1912. By coincidence, Sir Robert was on his way to America as part of tour to promote the Boy Scouts, and he found himself on the same ship as Daisy. Supposedly, during the voyage, Daisy and Robert made plans to organize the Girl Guides in America.
On March 12, 1912, the first Girl Guides meeting was held in Savannah, Georgia with 18 girls joining the troop. In 1913, a National Headquarters was opened in Washington, D.C., and the organization’s name was changed to the Girl Scouts of the United States of American (GSUSA). Juliette wanted to put her girls on an equal footing with the boys, which prompted the name change from Girl Guides to Girl Scouts. Juliette’s vision and remarkable dedication kept the movement alive. Since its inception, the Girl Scouts of the USA has promoted courage, confidence, and character through the Girl Scout Promise and the Girl Scout Law, touching the lives of over 50 million American girls.
Juliette Gordon Low died in Savannah, Georgia on January 17, 1927. She was buried in her Girl Scout uniform. A note was placed in her pocket which read: “You are not only the first Girl Scout, but the best Girl Scout of them all.”
Daisy’s legacy has been well recognized over the years. In 1944, the Liberty Ship S.S. Juliette Low was launched. In 1948, the U.S. Postal Department issued a stamp in her honor. The Gordon home in Savannah where Daisy was born was purchased by GSUSA in 1953 and is now an Historic Landmark. A portrait of Juliette has been hanging in the Smithsonian’s National Gallery in Washington, D.C. since 1973. A bust of Daisy was placed in the Georgia State Capitol Hall of Fame in 1974. Daisy was inducted in 1979 into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. An office building was named the Juliette Gordon Low Federal Complex in Savannah in 1983. On May 29, 2012, during the 100th anniversary year of Girl Scouts of the USA, President Barack Obama presented the highest civilian honor to Juliette Gordon Low, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
I had the good fortune to visit Wellesbourne during a recent trip to England. The house Daisy so loved is now an office complex. However, it was nice to see the replicated gates and to imagine what a lovely home it once was. I’m sure the many people who enter those gates today are unaware of the lovely lady who once lived there.
When Willy returned to England in 1881, the impetuous couple continued to correspond, disregarding parental objections. Daisy was given the opportunity to see Willy at Beauchamp Hall in Leamington when her father consented to her first trip to Europe in 1882. Her second voyage overseas in 1884 gave her another prospect to encounter Willy, even though Daisy assured her parents that her trip to Beauchamp Hall was to visit with the Low sisters.
Daisy and Willy strengthened their commitment to each other that summer. Just a few months later, Willy came to Savannah, and the courtship continued. When the couple made know their intention to marry in February of 1886, Andrew Low insisted on a waiting period of a year; otherwise, Willy would forego his inheritance. Willy and Daisy agreed to the arrangement, but then Andrew suddenly died in June. Even though it was customary to have a year of mourning, they decided to get married as soon as possible. Willie Gordon, unwilling to relinquish his daughter totally, requested that Daisy come home to Savannah for six months of each year. The couple agreed, and the date was set for December 21, 1886.
A move to Wellesbourne House
At first, the newlyweds resided in Savannah and occupied the luxurious Low home. However, during the summer of 1887, the couple returned to England. At this time, Willy had two rented homes, one in Leamington, near Beauchamp Hall, and the other near Blair Atholl in Perthshire, Scotland. However, he wanted to own a country home befitting his social position. To that end, he purchased Wellesbourne House in rural Warwickshire in 1889, a 55 acre estate. Having inherited 750,000 pounds from his father’s fortune, Willy could well afford the purchase price, and then he set about making improvements. The estate grew to 20 bedrooms with a stable for 40 horses, a cottage for the gardener, a separate laundry facility, a greenhouse and a garage where the first Wellesbourne automobile was housed. This was a home for entertaining and living the good life. Daisy was excited to have a home of her own, and thoroughly enjoyed selecting the furnishings. From all accounts, Daisy was delighted with Wellesbourne House and relished being the lady of this stately home.
Being a part of the Marlborough set, a group of high society individuals who were close to Edward Albert, the Prince of Wales, meant that Willy and Daisy had many social events on their schedule. Willy became president of the Wellesbourne Cricket Club and was also a member of the Warwickshire Yoemanry, his voluntary cavalry unit. In May of 1895, the Prince of Wales attended a Warwickshire Yeomanry dance. Daisy was flattered to be the only woman in the room of whom the Prince asked to dance. In 1896, Edward actually visited Wellesbourne House with his entourage. Daisy presided over a lovely luncheon for her honored guests.
To read the full post, visit ourwakshire.org.uk, and stay tuned for the third part about Juliette Gordon Low’s her charitable work and artistic endeavours.
It may seem curious to discover that the woman who eventually founded the Girl Scouts of the United States of America spent a good portion of her life in Wellesbourne. However, examining Juliette Gordon Low’s upbringing and ties to England will explain how Warwickshire became a part of her life.
At the dawn of the American Civil War, Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born in Savannah, Georgia, on October 31, 1860. Her mother, Eleanor “Nellie” Lytle Kinzie, was from a prominent family that helped to establish Chicago. While her father, William “Willie” Washington Gordon II, was part of a notable family from Savannah, Georgia. Soon after her birth, Juliette’s uncle made the comment, “I’ll bet she’s going to be a Daisy.” From that time on, she was known to her family as Daisy.
Although the Civil War caused much upheaval for the Gordons, their status and connections did help to protect the young family to some extent. As an officer in the Confederacy, Willie Gordon could have his wife and family with him as he took on various assignments. However, he eventually ordered his wife back to Savannah when the war became more dangerous. At first, Savannah was not effected greatly by the war, but this did not last. Eventually, Union troops, headed by General William T. Sherman, occupied the city. General Sherman was a longtime friend of the Kinzie family. He arranged for Nellie to have safe passage to take her three young daughters to Illinois, where they stayed with her parents for the remainder of the war.
Once the Civil War ended, it became safe for Nellie and the girls to return to Savannah, making it possible to be reunited with Willie. There were still many hardships to bear as the family tried to recover from the ravages of war. Willie had to rebuild his cotton mercantile business which struggled for quite some time. But Willie was determined to regain the pre-war prosperity his family had enjoyed. With diligent work, he experienced financial success, and the Gordon family could again live a very comfortable life.
A family of well educated women
Nellie came from a family of well educated women, and she expected the same for her daughters. Early on, Daisy was learning to read and write in the home of a local teacher. At the age of twelve, she was sent to a boarding school in New Jersey. A year later, she attended the Virginia Female Institute, and afterwards, Edgehill School, also in Virginia. She studied such subjects as mathematics, English grammar, spelling, French, piano, and drawing. Daisy was quite artistic, so she enjoyed drawing the most. Her studies concluded at a finishing school in New York City where she learned how to dance, curtsy, and sit properly, the important skills of the day for members of polite society. In this era, it was understood that an elite Southern girl was being educated to take her place in society and to be a good wife, not to espouse a profession.
To read the full post, visit ourwakshire.org.uk, and stay tuned for the second part about Juliette Gordon Low’s marriage and move to Wellesbourne House.
The following is a personal message from Nancy Wright, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana…
As I watched the events unfold in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, I could hardly believe my eyes. Words are inadequate in describing the violence, racism and hatred that was broadcasted throughout the world. My condolences go out to those who were injured and the families of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates.
Throughout the weekend, I kept thinking to myself, how do I explain what happened to our girls, who are a shining example of kindness and compassion? How do we make sense of senseless tragedy?
And then it hit me—-it is during times like these that we must join together so that our actions and voices are louder than those who carry hate in their hearts. In fact, being a positive example of leadership is something Girl Scouts have been doing since our founding in 1912.
Take, for example, the interfaith event where Muslim and Christian Girl Scouts joined together for fun, fellowship and friendship. Gatherings like this truly embody the Girl Scout Law: “I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.”
Or more recently, there are the young girls who have been placing “kindness rocks” around our camps and communities. The rocks, which include brief motivational messages, are intended to inspire others to complete random acts of kindness.
As Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens once noted, “we should all be more like Girl Scouts.”
Our girls get it. Indeed, they are teaching the world to be kinder, more compassionate and more understanding through their words and actions.
Because as Nelson Mandela said: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
What is one action you’ll take to spread love and kindness this week? How will you take the lead like a Girl Scout? Let us know in the comments.