FOR OVER one hundred years, the Girl Scouts have empowered girls across the United States—and it all started right here in Savannah with Juliette Gordon Low.
The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace has kept Low’s spirit alive through their innovative programming at the historic home, and their newest tour is no different.
Smart Cookies Tasting Tour takes visitors ages 14 and up on an interactive, after-hours tour through the home, where they learn about women from history who used food as a catalyst for change and taste the food these women made.
Connect sat down with Kat White, Joni Smith, and Lisa Junkin Lopez from the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace to learn more about this tour.
How did this tour come about?
Kat White: In the past we'd had programming for older Girl Scouts where they came for a Victorian supper onsite. We retired that program but felt the need to have something still for older girls. The Victorian supper program was more about eating Southern-style food and talking about Victorian etiquette. We wanted to give them a little about the history but make it more relevant to today, maybe finding lessons from the history that are applicable to today, which I'm not sure Victorian etiquette is [laughs].
So we developed a food-based tour where they get to come and have food in the house. We focus more on the achievements of women who worked through traditional means of food and cooking to change the world.
Another big impetus for this tour is, what’s the first thing most people think of when they think of Girl Scouts? The cookies. We have a love-hate relationship with that [laughs].
Joni Smith: We’re proud of them, but it’s so much more!
Kat: Those cookies are funding empowering girls to grow up to be women of courage, confidence and character. Then we thought, “Okay, so what if we embrace the thing we have this conflicted relationship with, and we look at other stories of women and food and where it’s women in their traditional roles as cooks and caregivers, but they’re using that food to change the world and make it a better place?”
Who are some of the women you feature in the tour?
Kat: The first one is getting a lot more attention lately. Georgia Gilmore—it wouldn't be your fault if you hadn't heard of her. In the Civil Rights movement, we can name Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ralph Abernathy—a lot of men we can name—and Rosa Parks.
Lisa Junkin Lopez: Rosa Parks is usually the only woman they can name.
Kat: [Gilmore] wasn’t out front making speeches or being the poster woman like Rosa Parks was for the Montgomery bus boycott. She was a cook and got fired from her job at a lunch counter in Montgomery, Alabama, when she spoke out in support of Rosa Parks. But, she used the tools and resources she had to support that movement. She opened her home up as a sort of restaurant to civil rights workers, including Martin Luther King, Jr., who would sit in her house over delicious home-cooked meals and a home free of wire taps to strategize.
She also started something called the Club from Nowhere, where she and other women baked pies and cakes and set up booths in beauty salons or street corners to sell their baked goods and raise funds for the Montgomery bus boycott movement. This wouldn’t have been a weird thing for anyone to see on the streets in Montgomery. Customers would buy those pies and cakes and not know they were funding resources for workers who were boycotting the buses.
Lisa: You’re going to learn the story of Juliette Gordon Low and the founding of Girl Scouts as well as some food history. Food is a main character in each of our stories, right? So we found a way to connect her story to all these different foods in her history. That’s our arc of narrative. Connections are made in parts of that story to these other women who you might not assume you’d learn about here at the Juliette Gordon Low house. Juliette, we feel, inspired generations of girls and women. It’s been really fun for us to think about how to link her to other woman change-makers.
Kat: We do share the core stories of Juliette Gordon Low and how she became the woman who founded Girl Scouts through food, but we also share this Girl Scout tradition of telling stories of inspiring women who weren’t necessarily Girl Scouts—early handbooks called them trailmakers. In 2018, those women could be astronauts or Nobel prize winners or Olympic athletes.
But we don’t want to forget the women in the past who maybe didn’t have those opportunities who still had the same courage and determination and used those things in their everyday lives to make the world a better place.
Joni: They were doing it in the sphere that was accepted for them. They were doing it in this domestic sphere that was accepted. It’s a good example of doing what you can with what you have, where you are. Any woman or any girl can make a difference or empower others.
Kat: I’m not a rocket scientist, I don’t have a Nobel prize or a PhD., but what do I have in my everyday life? I can use that to make a difference.
What kind of food is offered on the tour?
Joni: We have a really nice variety, and maybe some surprises that are more interesting than delicious. You do get to try a sweet potato pie, and you get to try a recipe that's inspired by Juliette Gordon Low's family's experience with Native American people of the Midwest .
Kat: The majority of the food is catered by a woman-owned business and Girl Scout alum, Thrive Catering.
Joni: I think this tour can be a really fun part of date night—come take this cool tour as an appetizer before dinner. The Girl Scouts are our VIPs, but this tour appeals to a broader audience than just our girls.
Kat: That’s something I’d like locals to know about the house. We tell Girl Scout history, but you can come and enjoy that history no matter who you are. There are over 60 million Girl Scout alums in the United States, so that means your life has been changed by a Girl Scout, so this is your history, too.