100 years of inclusion 

Exhibit honors Jewish Girl Scouting

Who knew the Girl Scouts of America were so crazy controversial?

In January, it was the commitment to uphold their policy of accepting transgender children.

A couple of weeks ago, an Indiana legislator went viral when he published a letter to fellow lawmakers calling GSA a “radicalized organization,” claiming its role models were all “feminists, lesbians and communists.”

Even the beloved Girl Scout cookies have been under attack for containing preservatives and palm oil.

But Girl Scout founder Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low would probably have taken it all in stride. When she offered the radical notion that young women should learn about business, science and self–reliance, she probably ruffled more than a few Southern feathers back in 1912.

By the time she gathered those first 18 girls to her home in downtown Savannah 100 years ago this week, sparky Daisy had already thumbed her nose at uptight social conventions and judgments.

Even more subversive was Daisy’s insistence that marginalized groups be included in the Girl Scouts when other organizations ostracized them:

Orphaned and disabled girls were actively recruited. Members of Savannah’s Jewish community, banned from other social clubs, were involved in Daisy’s effort from its inception. The first African–American Girl Scout troop was established in 1917; troops were officially integrated in 1956 after an active internal campaign. The Senior Girl Scout Handbook has had a Spanish edition since the ‘60s.

Clearly, the seditious concepts of diversity, inclusion and tolerance were core Girl Scout values from the very beginning.
This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts, now 3.7 million members strong. Thousands of girls in green sashes and dignitaries from all over the world are pouring into the city to celebrate the occasion.

In addition to festivities at the First Girl Scout Headquarters, The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace and various other locations, Congregation Mickve Israel on Monterey Square has created a unique exhibit to honor Low’s legacy and explore the Jewish Girl Scout connection.

“In the Beginning, We Were There” is a unique trove of memorabilia, early historical tidbits and evocative photos collected from Girl Scout headquarters and Mickve Israel members. Large panels feature shots of the first scout camping trip on Wassaw Island with original troop leaders Leonora Amram and Mildred Guckenheimer. Mannequins model vintage–era uniforms and first–issue badges. Also on display are receipts from the first commercially–produced Girl Scout cookies, baked right on Bull Street at Gottlieb’s Kosher Bakery.

“We had such an awesome time putting this together,” says Phoebe Kerness, the chair of the Mickve Israel Museum Girl Scout committee. “We went down to the headquarters to rummage through the scrapbooks, and on page after page, there were the Jewish girls.”

This Sunday, March 11, the synagogue will host an afternoon of activities in conjunction with the city’s other Girl Scout events. Visiting scouts will have the opportunity to take a guided tour of exhibit, earn an exclusive “Shalom Y’all” badge and perhaps even bake a batch of cookies using Isser Gottlieb’s original recipe. (The exhibit will be on display all year for locals who don’t care to brave the crowds.)

As for the recent hubbub surrounding the Girl Scouts, Daisy Low would have likely enjoyed that her push to empower young women and create a more tolerant society is still considered radical.

Here’s to another century of controversy.

In the Beginning, We Were There: A Jewish History of Girl Scouting

Where: Congregation Mickve Israel, Monterey Square

When: 1–4 p.m. Sunday, March 11 (exhibit up through December)

Info: 912/233-1547


Free taster tours at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace: Visit three rooms of Daisy’s childhood home and hear how this feisty girl became one of the most revered female icons in history. Tours will start every 12 minutes for groups of 20; follow the line on Oglethorpe Ave.

When: 10am–4pm, Saturday–Monday, March 10–12

Where: 10 E. Oglethorpe Ave.

Info: 912/233–4501 or juliettegordonlowbirthplace.org

Bridging to the Next Century with Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia: Over 3000 girls will march over the Talmadge Bridge Saturday morning for a special “bridging ceremony” to bring Scouting into its new century. The bridge and surrounding roads will be closed to traffic from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., so if you need to cross the river, plan accordingly. Though registration for the bridge walk is closed, anyone can join the Girl Scout festivities in Forsyth Park, where an additional ceremony will be performed at 10 a.m. A special sing–a–long with beloved songstress Melinda Carroll will be held afterward, and all participants are eligible for commemorative patch.

When: Saturday, March 10 7 a.m.–3 p.m.

Where: Talmadge Bridge, Forsyth Park

Info: gshg.org

Sunrise Ceremony: Scouts and alumnae are invited to celebrate “sisterhood across the world” with Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chávez, First Lady of Georgia Sandra Deal, descendants of Juliette Gordon Low and other distinguished  guests.

When: 7:30 -9 a.m., Monday, March 12

Where: Forsyth Park Band Shell

Info: gshg.org



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About The Author

Jessica Leigh Lebos

Jessica Leigh Lebos

Community Editor Jessica Leigh Lebos has been writing about interesting people, vexing issues and anything involving free food for more than 20 years. She introduces herself at cocktail parties as southern by marriage.

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