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 in Savannah. 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.
Did you know that Girl Scouts came from Savannah?