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Daisy and the Girl Scouts
The Story of Juliette Gordon Low
By Fern G. Brown, Marie DeJohn
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 1996 Fern G. Brown
All rights reserved.
Daisy, the Young Rebel
Her real name was Juliette Gordon Low, but every-one called her Daisy. When she was a young woman, fun-loving Daisy spent much of her time giving parties or being entertained. Her interest in anything never lasted long, and she flitted from one project to another. Although her friends found her charming, others thought she was odd and undependable.
Imagine everyone's surprise when, at age fifty-two, Daisy Low founded the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.! Who would have thought that scatter-brained Daisy, who had health problems and could barely hear, would begin with two small troops and build an international organization? Yet she did. With enthusiasm, hard work, and much of her own money, Daisy proved she could do whatever she made up her mind to do.
Born on October 31, 1860, in Savannah, Georgia, Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was the second child of Eleanor Lytle Kinzie Gordon and William Washington Gordon II. Almost everyone in the Gordon family had a nickname. So when an uncle said, "I'll bet she'll be a daisy," Juliette was nicknamed Daisy.
About six months after Daisy was born, the Civil War began in the United States. The war was a struggle between the Northern states and the Southern states. Each region had different customs and different ways of thinking. Many people in the North wanted to abolish slavery, but most Southerners believed people should be able to own slaves. Some states felt state governments should be more powerful than the federal government. Other states disagreed. Then Abraham Lincoln was elected president, and the North gained control of the government. Several Southern states decided to leave the Union and form their own confederation of states. Mr. Lincoln didn't want the Southern states to leave the Union. In December 1860, South Carolina seceded, or broke away, from the rest of the United States. On April 12, 1861, fighting broke out in Charleston, South Carolina, between the Confederates or "Rebels" from the Southern states and the Union army or "Yankees" from the North.
Daisy's paternal grandfather, the first William Washington Gordon, had been a Southerner. With a group of men he had built the Central of Georgia Railroad, and he had been mayor of Savannah several times. His son, Daisy's father, who was also named William Washington, was a partner in a cotton business and owned slaves. He became an officer in the Confederate army.
Daisy's mother was a Yankee. She had grown up in Chicago, which was in the North. Daisy's great-grandfather, John Kinzie, had been an Indian agent. He represented the U.S. government in dealing with Native Americans. John Kinzie married Eleanor Lytle McKillip, a widow with a daughter. In 1779, when she was nine years old, little Eleanor had been captured by a group of Seneca, who were part of the Iroquois Nation. She lived with them as Chief Cornplanter's daughter for four years. She dressed as a Native American and learned their language and customs. The Seneca treated her like a princess, and because she moved so fast, they named her "Little-Ship-Under-Full-Sail." Eleanor grew to love her Seneca family.
Eleanor's parents never stopped trying to get their daughter back. They asked Col. Guy Johnson, a British Indian agent, to help them. He went to Cornplanter's village and persuaded the chief to bring Eleanor to the next Council Fire so her parents could see her.
Eleanor was then thirteen. She had promised Chief Cornplanter that she would never leave the Seneca without his permission. But when she saw her mother, Eleanor ran into her outstretched arms. Seeing Eleanor with her mother made Chief Cornplanter decide that she belonged with her family, so he left her with them and went home. All her life Eleanor thought of Chief Cornplanter with great affection.
John and Eleanor Kinzie lived in a house near the Chicago River, the first built in the area that later became Chicago. Their son, John Harris Kinzie, born in 1803, also became a respected trader and friend of the Native Americans. Although there had been no school for John to attend, he spoke thirteen Native American dialects. He married Juliette Magill, a highly educated young woman from New York. She knew Latin and French, read Spanish and Italian, and later learned German.
Juliette Magill Kinzie loved adventure, and she was delighted when her husband was appointed sub-Indian agent at Fort Winnebago, at Portage, Wisconsin. In September 1830, they set out from Detroit for a wilderness life in Portage. The next March, after a grueling trip, they visited Chicago, where Mrs. Kinzie met her husband's relatives. She wrote down their accounts of early Chicago and the story of her mother-in-law's girlhood adventure as "Little-Ship-Under-Full-Sail." Later, Mrs. Kinzie made all her sketches and notes into a book, which included stories of her life as the wife of an Indian agent. It was called Wau-bun, which means "little dawn" in Potawatomi, and it was a great success. Later, Juliette Magill Kinzie wrote other books. Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon–Daisy–was named for this intelligent and interesting grandmother.
Soon John Harris Kinzie resigned his position at Fort Winnebago and moved back to his boyhood home, where Chicago is now. He was made a full Indian agent. When his wife joined him in 1834, about fifty white people lived in the little town. A daughter was born to John and Juliette in 1835, and she was baptized in Chicago's first church. She was named Eleanor Lytle Kinzie for her grandmother. Eleanor, or Nellie, was Daisy's mother.
By 1837, the John Harris Kinzies were happily settled in their new brick home at the corner of Cass and Michigan Streets. The village of Chicago was incorporated, and John Harris Kinzie was made the first president. As one of the founding families of Chicago, the Kinzies knew many important people. When Nellie was a child she was taken to the White House to meet President Zachary Taylor.
Nellie Kinzie was somewhat spoiled, but she was also charming, a fast thinker, and full of fun. She grew to be a lovely young woman who was extremely outgoing. Nellie met a schoolmate's brother, William Gordon, at Yale University where he was a student. When they met, he was dazzled by Nellie's funny stories and her lively personality. But to Nellie, William seemed shy and bashful. Then one morning, Nellie slid down a bannister in the Yale library, bumped into William Gordon at the foot, and flattened his hat. That day Nellie discovered he was not as shy as she had thought, and he fell fast in love with her. By the time William graduated from Yale, she, too, was in love.
William and Nellie were married on December 21, 1857. The newlyweds went to Savannah to live in the "Gordon House," on the corner of Bull and Oglethorpe, with William's widowed mother.
So although Nellie Kinzie Gordon and her family were from the North, she now lived in the South. The war put her in a delicate position. Her husband was a Confederate officer, but her brothers were in the Union army. Her beloved uncle, David Hunter, was the Union general responsible for bombing Fort Pulaski outside the city of Savannah. He was also a staunch abolitionist.
When Daisy was very young, food was scarce, and there was no money to buy new clothes. All the food and money that could be spared went to the Confederate soldiers. Little Daisy barely saw her father, but she was proud of him. When he came home, he'd stay a few days and then go back to the war. Daisy thought of the Yankees as the enemy. She wanted the fighting to stop before her papa was killed.
As the war went on, the South began to lose. In July 1864, because of the advancing Union army, so many aunts, cousins, friends — refugees from war-torn northern Georgia and Virginia — had left their homes and crowded into Grandmother Gordon's house that Daisy's mother moved her three daughters into a four-room cottage just outside of Savannah. In late fall, however, the Union army was so close that they had to move back to the big house to be under the protection of the city of Savannah.
By December 21, 1864, the Union army had marched from Atlanta to Savannah, and the mayor had met the Union forces outside the city to surrender. Daisy was then a lively four-year-old. She was small, with large, dark eyes and long, light brown hair. Her sister Eleanor, nicknamed Nelly, was six, and baby Alice was a year and a half. The little girls were thin and pale, and they had broken out in boils because they didn't have enough good food.
Soon after the surrender, Daisy and Nelly were playing in the parlor when they heard the sound of tramping boots. They climbed on chairs and peeked through the shutters. General Sherman's army! They watched, wide-eyed, as real live Yankees in blue uniforms marched past. The men were singing "When This Cruel War Is Over," a favorite song of both the North and South. Nelly and Daisy were highly indignant to hear the enemy sing a song their mother loved, and Daisy angrily refused to look at the Union army anymore.
A few evenings later, the maid flung open the Gordons' parlor door and announced, "General Sherman!" The Yankee general had brought letters from Daisy's grandparents in Chicago!
Daisy had heard General Sherman called "the Devil," so she expected him to have horns and a tail. Imagine her surprise to find that the hated Yankee general looked like any other man. General Sherman took Daisy on his lap. With an arm around Nelly, he told the little girls funny stories, and before long he had them laughing. He gave them a treat — rock sugar candy, made with real sugar. Sugar was not available in wartime Savannah, so this was the first time Nelly and Daisy had ever tasted it.
Later that week, another Yankee, General Howard, called on Daisy's mother. General Howard had only one arm. Even as a young child, Daisy was curious and asked a lot of questions.
"How did you lose your arm?" she asked the general.
"It was shot off in battle," he said.
Daisy asked if the Yankees had shot it off.
"No," he replied, "the Rebels."
"Did they!" exclaimed Daisy proudly. "Well, I s'pose my papa did it. He has shot lots of Yankees!"
Although the general didn't seem to be offended, Mrs. Gordon hurried her daughter from the room.
After the surrender, the families of Confederate officers were required to leave Savannah. General Sherman arranged for safe passage across enemy lines for the Gordons. Daisy's mother had decided to take her children to her parents' home in Chicago where they would be safe. Grandmother Gordon left her house and went to Etowah Cliffs, in northern Georgia, to stay with relatives.
In January 1865, Mrs. Gordon and her three little girls took a steamer headed to New York. It was a long, hard voyage, but Daisy didn't get seasick. When they docked, they were met by Mrs. Gordon's brothers, Arthur and George, who had come to escort them. The train from New York to Chicago was dirty and slow. The family sat up in coaches all the way and were snowbound for twenty-four hours between Albany and Buffalo. When the weary travelers finally arrived in Chicago, they were cold, hungry, and dusted with cinders.
Daisy liked her Northern grandparents very much. Grandfather and Grandmother Kinzie thought their grandchildren were beautiful even though they were very thin and pale and had boils and dull hair. Grandmother stuffed the girls with foods they didn't have back home. The grownups laughed when little Daisy asked for "some of that nice little beefsteak with legs." She meant roast chicken, which she'd never seen before.
The Gordon girls had fun in Chicago, where they spent eight months. They saw their first snow there.
Grandfather John Harris Kinzie was still a government Indian agent. The Native Americans came to him with their problems, and they often stopped in Chicago to ask his advice before going to Washington to put their grievances before the president. It delighted Daisy to see the Native Americans sitting in silent conference with her grandfather in the garden.
During quiet times, Grandfather Kinzie told the children stories. Daisy's favorite was the true story about her great-grandmother, Eleanor Lytle McKillip, who, as a child, had been kidnapped and then adopted by the Seneca. Daisy knew that her great-grandmother had been named "Little-Ship-Under-Full-Sail" by Chief Cornplanter. Her mother had been called that name, too. So Daisy was proud when her family decided that it suited her. It was a good name for Daisy. Like a ship with sails spread and flags flying, she went through life proudly and fearlessly, in spite of strong winds and stormy seas.
In later years, Daisy told the story about her great-grandmother and the Seneca often — many times to Girl Scouts around a campfire. And throughout her life she smiled when people called her "Little-Ship."
Soon after the Gordons arrived in Chicago, Daisy became ill with a disease called "brain fever," perhaps as a result of years of poor nutrition and the exhausting journey from the South. For days no one knew if she would live or die. Finally the terrible fever broke, and she was out of danger. The doctor told the family that she was to have her own way until she was completely well.
Everyone brought Daisy gifts and fussed over her. She loved the attention. But several times when she was cranky, her grandmother told Daisy's mother she was afraid that Daisy would be spoiled for life. Her mother laughed and said that Daisy was the kind of person who would always have her own way.
On April 9, 1865, the family was about to have supper when they heard cowbells. Grandfather Kinzie burst in, shouting, "The war is over! The war is over!" They all ran out and joined the neighbors, who were ringing bells, hugging, laughing, and crying.
Daisy and Nelly jumped up and down, "We've won! We've won!" they cried. Grandpa Kinzie put his arms around the little girls and said, gently, "No, my dears, you've lost."
Daisy, in tears, ran to the gate on Michigan Street. Crowds of happy people were pushing past and shouting, "Hurrah for Lincoln and the Union!" and "Yea, General Grant!"
Men tossed their hats into the air and sang "Battle Hymn of the Republic," a favorite Yankee hymn. Daisy was not to be outdone. She quickly climbed the fence and loudly sang out "Dixie," a popular song of the Confederacy. The song, written by an Ohioan, had always been a favorite of Mr. Lincoln. So, for a moment, the Yankee crowd was quiet. Then they broke into cheers for the young Rebel.
It was difficult for Daisy to understand what had happened. Papa had lost! The Confederacy was gone. "Gone where?" she asked, bewildered.
Soon after the war's end, Grandfather Kinzie died. It was a sad time for the family. Daisy missed her grandfather who had told so many wonderful stories about the Native Americans and called her "Little-Ship-Under-Full-Sail."
In August 1865, Daisy and her family went back to Savannah to live with Grandmother Gordon. Mr. Gordon's cotton business had been ruined, but luckily there was some money to start over.
Grandmother Gordon's house needed a good cleaning. It was dusty and muddy from soldiers' boots. All that was left in the kitchen were two cups and a few saucers, some serving dishes, a teakettle, and an iron "spider" frying pan. But the house had escaped major vandalism. The only things stolen were the china, glassware, and kitchen utensils. Everyone was relieved.
The girls raced all through the house and out into the garden. Daisy would miss Grandmother Kinzie, but she was overjoyed to be home.
After the war, life in the South was difficult. The pastures had been turned into battlefields, and many of the farm animals killed. The cotton and other crops had been burned to the ground, and without slaves, there were few farmworkers. Food was still scarce. Taxes were high, and there was no money to pay them.
Yet Daisy and her sisters didn't think about money. They spent their days playing with their cousins, the Andersons, who lived nearby. They often met under a huge pittosporum tree that grew right in the middle of Grandmother Gordon's garden. Its heavy branches spread low and wide, making a cool, green playhouse.
Daisy loved animals, and she was always adopting starving, dirty cats and dogs. She faithfully fed and cared for her strays.
All her life, Daisy's heart went out to suffering animals. One freezing night, she pinned the best guestroom coverlet around a shivering cow. Imagine her mother's anger when, the next morning, she found the coverlet trampled on the stable floor!
When Daisy was fifteen, a calf died, and the mother cow went charging wildly about the yard, not letting anyone near her calf. Daisy put her arms around the unhappy mother's neck and wept with her.
Even when she was grown-up, Daisy loved animals and was full of sympathy for them. She always said an animal can be your best friend in life. One time in Atlanta, not wanting to spend two dollars for a taxi, she hired a horse-drawn cab for a dollar to take her to her hotel. The horse looked thin and sickly. When Daisy left the cab, she gave the driver a five-dollar bill and told him, "Now give that bag of bones of yours a good meal."
The first school that Daisy and Nelly attended was at the home of Mlle. Lucille Blois on Chippewa Square, just a short walk from their house. Daisy learned to read from a book called Little Tales for Very Little Children. Every word in the book had three letters. Daisy liked to read about "Sam and his Dog." Mlle. Blois also taught Daisy manners, French, geography, history, spelling, and arithmetic.
Excerpted from Daisy and the Girl Scouts by Fern G. Brown, Marie DeJohn. Copyright © 1996 Fern G. Brown. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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