Girl Power in Savannah: The Girl Scouts Legacy

There was a reason I headed to Savannah in March. Not just because the honey is fabulous, the ice cream tasty and the innkeepers hospitable—though those are all good enough excuses for me—but rather because it was a milestone of sorts: the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts. Naturally, I felt the need to celebrate while eating a whole box of Tagalongs in the car on my ride down (further evidence I should not be allowed to travel solo) and then a couple sleeves of the newest flavor, the Savannah Smiles, once I arrived in the Hostess City. All in a day’s work, my friends.

I was a Girl Scout growing up, as I’m sure many of you female readers were, though I flunked out after Brownies (or rather, I was too busy playing basketball, soccer, tennis and track—and OK, doing show choir—year round to take on anymore extracurriculars). So I’m pretty sure I missed the class on the founding of the organization. Luckily, as an adult, you can learn all of those fun facts you ignored as a child when you visit Savannah on your own.

Juliette Gordon Low was the granddaughter of William Washington Gordon I, a railroad pioneer, and she was the second of six children. She was born in Savannah on Halloween in 1860, and her family called her “Daisy.” She was both athletic and spunky, a real go-getter, as evidenced by her impact on millions of others in her later years (and postmortem, too).

Daisy wanted to do something with her life that had a purpose, and after meeting the founder of the Boy Scouts in 1911, that mission was made clear: She would target the country’s youth. In 1912, she made the famous call to her cousin Nina Papa announcing, “come right over! I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah and all America and all the world—and we’re going to start it tonight!” A legacy was born. Today, nearly four million young girls across the world are part of the organization.

Of course, Juliette isn’t the only popular girl about town. One of Savannah’s most famed former residents is the author Flannery O’Connor, who started her life as Mary in 1925. She dropped her name because, as she put it, “who was going to read the writings of an Irish washwoman?” Her family lived in this very house—“the house I grew up in” she always called it, which was built in 1856 and sits in a National Historic Landmark District—from her birth until 1938, and for the past 23 years, it has operated as a museum. Flannery was incredibly precocious from a young age, claiming that “the Catholic church or my family does not dictate when I attend mass,” and leaving the house at 13 years old nearly devastated her. “It’s just as poignant to be torn away from a person as it is a house,” she wrote.

Today, the Childhood Home, as it’s called for short, functions as Savannah’s literary center. Here, you can see where the wordsmith grew up and conceived her first stories, as well as hear tales about her romantic exploits with a Danish professor from the resident historian. Stop by 207 E. Charlton St. any day (except for Thursday) between 1 and 4pm to poke around her house. There are also occasional lectures and readings throughout the year.

And to further add fuel to the female fire, Savannah’s new mayor, Edna Jackson, is a woman. Not only is she a lady—and the first female black mayor the city has ever had—but she’s wildly popular and after meeting her at an evening reception, I immediately learned why. Edna is extremely personable, funny, smart and genuine, plus she has a policy of never turning down anyone who calls her for a coffee date. I hope she’s prepared to drink a whole lot of caffeine during her time in office!

Going to Savannah? The lovely Teresa, owner of the Azalea Inn & Gardens, has generously offered $50 off to all readers who mention Camels & Chocolate when booking over the phone or online. I mean, really, what more are you waiting for?

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COMMENTS
  • April 30, 2012

    Love the GS, was one until middle school I think, as a Type-A I was all about the badges – these days I live for cookie time so that I can get those Thin Mints. I have yet to visit Savannah it looks lovely! One thing it for sure I love Southern hospitality and the charm of southern women (and men!)

    • April 30, 2012
      Kristin

      Second only to Thin Mint cookies are any of the homemade ice creams at parlors that use them. YUM. Also, dangerous.

  • April 30, 2012
    Melissa

    The Founder’s home is right at the top of my want-to-visit list! Great photos.

    • April 30, 2012
      Kristin

      I actually thought of you and Trina while I was there! You guys would love it.

  • April 30, 2012

    Lots of good stories in here. Don’t know a lot about the Girl Scouts’ origins. However, I have a lot of friends who believe the values they learned as GS have helped them to succeed in many aspects of life.

    • May 1, 2012
      Kristin

      It’s an incredible organization. Several of the people I worked with on the Semester at Sea ship last fall visited with Girl Scout chapters around the world during our voyage, which really made me sad I hadn’t stuck it out!

  • April 30, 2012

    What amazing women!

    • May 1, 2012
      Kristin

      Maybe our next girls’ weekend should, appropriately, take place in Savannah? Post-Thailand, of course =)

  • April 30, 2012

    Love that the mirror caught you taking a photo. I am definitely keeping this place in mind when I head down to Savannah.

  • May 1, 2012

    I made it all the way to Senior Scouts before peer pressure caused me to quit. Wish I still had my over achiever badge sash. And give me all the Thin Mints made.

    • May 1, 2012
      Kristin

      Yeah, it’s funny how being a Girl Scout has become “cool” again. Because there was definitely a point during my GS days when it wasn’t…then, suddenly, it was.

  • May 1, 2012

    I keep wanting to go to Savannah, but it’s not exactly in my backyard over here in Colorado. I didn’t know the founder of the GS or Flannery O’Connor were from there, so thanks for the tidbits, and the peak inside their old homes.

    • May 1, 2012
      Kristin

      True! I sort of feel the same way in that it’s not in my backyard (seven hours by car!) and yet if it were just a tad bit closer (say, four hours), I would probably go once a month! You should make a vacation out of it at some point and do Charleston, Savannah and maybe St. Simons. They’re all right there beside one another.

  • May 1, 2012
    Allison

    Loved this! Thank you for sharing. I spent a week in Savannah while a senior in Girl Scouts. I have numerous memories exploring this house and getting to know who Juliette was and how she impacted the city of Savannah.

    Allison

    • May 1, 2012
      Kristin

      I have to confess that I didn’t even know her name or who she was until I visited Savannah in March. I clearly was a Girl Scout flunkie! But she seems like the coolest woman, someone I easily could have been friends with.

  • May 1, 2012

    Awesome! Great post. Does the mayor have a favorite coffeehouse?

    • May 1, 2012
      Kristin

      Good question–I’ll have to ask her next time! You know, in my haste to eat all the ice cream and honey and drink all the tea in Savannah, I didn’t even make it to a coffeehouse!

  • May 1, 2012

    I was a girl scout for about as long as you were, so I don’t remember learning a lot about the founders. Sad, I know. I’m so amazed to learn about how many incredible women there have been and ARE. I seriously need to make a trip to Savannah. I have a secret desire to be adopted by southerners … but they have to take in my husband and kid too 😉

    • May 2, 2012
      Kristin

      Pick me, pick me! SVV, Ella and I will adopt you three =)

  • May 3, 2012

    I was only in the Girl Scouts super briefly as a kid, not really for long enough to do anything, but I always liked it since it was founded on my birthday, a fact I learned early from some random calendar I’d been gifted for Christmas.

  • May 3, 2012

    I was a Brownie long long time ago! How awesome. Thanks for the history lesson – I love knowing things like this. It is what gives cities their charm.

  • May 3, 2012

    I made it to Juniors! I had no idea about this history in Savannah.

    • May 9, 2012
      Kristin

      Wow! You’re pretty much a Girl Scout’n all-star =)

  • May 3, 2012
    Rachael

    I was never a girl scout (I was a hard core tom boy in elementary school and refused to wear a skirt once a week, go figure because I live in dresses now), but I was fortunate enough to attend Camp Juliette Low for 7 summers growing up. That place is my childhood, so magical.

    I’ve always wanted to go to Julie’s home, these pictures are great!

    • May 9, 2012
      Kristin

      I have never even heard of that camp! And would you believe I never actually had to wear a skirt to Scouts? We just always wore our sashes over our street clothes–and I don’t think my mom ever got around to sewing on my badges so mine was always blank 😉

  • May 5, 2012

    That childhood home actually looks kinda spooky — what with all those baby carriages and the apparition of that woman with a camera in the mirror. 🙂

    • May 9, 2012
      Kristin

      The baby carriages were, without a doubt, super SPOOKY. But they’ve got nothing on that creepy woman, I will agree!

  • May 7, 2012
    Abi

    It’s just such a shame that “spunky” means something else in the UK…

    • May 9, 2012
      Kristin

      HAHA. I sometimes forget I have an international audience =)

  • May 15, 2012

    Tagalongs. By FAR my favorite cookie.

  • May 18, 2012

    Fabulous pics my dear! I need to take my hubby to Savannah!!!

  • September 23, 2014

    Fantastic post. Thank you.

  • September 6, 2016

    After I originally left a comment I appear to have clickesd the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from noww on whenever
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    Lucile recently posted..LucileMy Profile

    • September 8, 2016

      Oh geez, that IS annoying (I’ve done it commenting on blogs in the past, too). Looking into it on the back end to see if I can delete you from follow-ups. So sorry, Lucile!

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