Search This Blog

Monday, August 19, 2019

Lawyers in Petticoats: The Early History of American Women in the Legal Profession

by Cate Simon

Whether because of Doctor Quinn: Medicine Woman or the historical physician Mary Edwards Walker, the notion that there were women who practiced medicine in the 19th century is not surprising to 21st century audiences.  But when I find myself telling people about my novel Courting Anna, and I explain that the heroine is a lawyer in the late 19th century, I always hasten to explain: no, it’s not anachronistic.

Anna Harrison
I first started wondering about women in the law in Victorian times when I read Wilkie Collins’ 1875 novel, The Law and the Lady, in graduate school.  The heroine, Valeria Macallan, seeks to overturn the verdict which condemns the man she loves to a half-life, shadowed by suspicion.  Valeria is mocked as a “lawyer in petticoats” by the men from whom she seeks assistance, although in the end, she prevails.  Collins’s novel set me to wondering what the reality was for women in the legal profession at the time the novel was written.  As it turns out, there were no women lawyers in Great Britain, where the book is set.  In various states and territories throughout the United States, however, the answer was different.

In 1869, Arabella Mansfield was admitted to the bar in Iowa.  By 1878, Clara Shortridge Foltz had been admitted to practice in California.  Perhaps my favorite of these early women lawyers is Belva Lockwood, who collected several state bar admissions, beginning in 1872.  She was directly responsible for an 1879 Federal law, signed by President Rutherford B. Hayes, which permitted qualified women attorneys to practice law in any Federal court in the United States.  In 1880, Lockwood was the first woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, and she went on to run for President several times, despite not having the vote.  The Equity Club, a nationwide corresponding society made up of women lawyers, had 100 members in 1880 and 200 in 1890!

The fabulous Belva Lockwood and a rather disappointed-looking Myra Bradwell

Not every jurisdiction was equally accepting, of course.  Bradwell v. Illinois, heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1872, concerned one Mrs. Myra Bradwell. The state of Illinois refused her admittance to the bar on the ground of sex; the Supreme Court refused to overturn the ruling on a narrow interpretation of law. The concurrence by Justice Bradley, however, sets forth the doctrine of separate spheres, a staple of nineteenth-century thinking about gender:

The civil law, as well as nature herself, has always recognized a wide difference in the
respective spheres and destinies of man and woman. Man is, or should be, woman’s protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life. . . . The harmony, not to say identity, of interests and views which belong, or should belong, to the family institution is repugnant to the idea of a woman adopting a distinct and independent career from that of her husband. The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.

This is much the same reasoning that Valeria Macallan comes up against in The Law and the Lady.  With regard to Myra Bradwell, one might note that, lawyer or not, she had, and continued to have, a major impact on the legal profession.  She was the editor and publisher of the Chicago Legal News, the foremost legal publication of the entire Midwestern United States.  And with regard to Justice Bradley’s reasoning, one might note that her sponsor for admission to the bar was none other than Mr. Bradwell, who clearly had no difficulty with his wife’s professional ambitions.  Shortly afterwards, Illinois law was amended to allow women to practice law there.

So while it would have been unusual for Anna to be practicing law at the time when Courting Anna is set, it would certainly not have been impossible.  When she first meets her love interest, Jeremiah Brown, she’s been called to the local sheriff’s office on a case of false imprisonment.  He and his partner are a bit surprised at who shows up.  “You were expecting a lawyer named Harrison, weren’t you?  Well, that’s me, Anna Harrison.”  Overcoming their surprise, the men accept her representation, and soon come to respect her – and in Jeremiah’s case, to feel something more.

Except . . . I envisioned the story as taking place in the 1880s, and chose Montana because some relatives live there, which makes me feel connected.  Unfortunately, although Cynthia Eloise Cleveland was admitted in Dakota Territory in 1881, and Ada Bittenbender in Nebraska that same year, the first historical woman lawyer in Montana was Ella J. Knowles Haskell . . . in 1889.

I throw myself on the mercy of the court.

Buy Courting Anna on eBook or Paperback:  

Connect with Cate:
Website & Blog:
Newsletter:  Coming Soon

Thursday, August 15, 2019

New Release - The Snow Bride (The Knight and the Witch Book 1) by Lindsay Townsend

England, winter, 1131

Elfrida, spirited, caring and beautiful, is also alone. She is the witch of the woods and no man dares to ask for her hand in marriage until a beast comes stalking brides and steals away her sister. Desperate, the lovely Elfrida offers herself as a sacrifice, as bridal bait, and she is seized by a man with fearful scars. Is he the beast?

In the depths of a frozen midwinter, in the heart of the woodland, Sir Magnus, battle-hardened knight of the Crusades, searches ceaselessly for three missing brides, pitting his wits and weapons against a nameless stalker of the snowy forest. Disfigured and hideously scarred, Magnus has finished with love, he thinks, until he rescues a fourth 'bride', the beautiful, red-haired Elfrida, whose innocent touch ignites in him a fierce passion that satisfies his deepest yearnings and darkest desires.


England, winter, 1131

Magnus forced his aching legs to move and dismounted stiffly from his horse. The still, freezing cold made his teeth ache, and as he tethered his mount, he wondered yet again what he was doing here. It was less than a month to Christmas, and he could have been with Peter and Alice at Castle Pleasant, preparing for feasting and singing and watching his godchildren.
And then a deep, abiding ache, bedding down in the great hall alone. He would never force a woman to lie with him—he had seen too much of that in the crusades.
He limped forward through the pristine snow. Peter had his Alice now, a clever, black-haired wench who feared nothing and no one, including him. Had his friend and fellow crusader not known her first, he might have had a chance with Alice. She saw through the outer armor and shell of a man to what lay beneath.
But she loves her crusader knight, Peter of the Mount, and I have no chance or right there.
As the palfrey snorted and jangled its harness behind him, he knelt in a white heap of pitted frost and reached out with his good arm to brush snow off the small, cracked statue of a saint. This was an old, wayside shrine on a track to nowhere of note, and the wooden figure huddled in its stone niche was old, its paint peeling. This battered saint would understand him, one ugly brute to another.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Loneliness as Story Theme by Kaye Spencer #PrairieRosePubs #blogabookscene #westernromance

We all have stories that resonate with us. They may be oral stories handed down through the generations in our family. They may be books we frequently re-read. They may be movies we've watched so many times we can recite the dialogue. What these stories have in common are five basic story elements that the speaker, author, or director have crafted so well that we never tire of the story. In fact, those stories touch us deeply, and we need them.

Theme is the glue that holds the story together. Theme is the message the author intends, consciously or subconsciously, to communicate to the reader. A story’s theme is generally a universal truth. It’s not uncommon for an author to write all their stories around one or two themes. As readers, we turn to stories with themes that “speak” to us. Think about those few special books that stay with you.  What is at the heart of the story that makes it so memorable? Identifying that ‘something’ can be elusive. We can’t quite get our hands on it, but we know it at an instinctive, visceral level, and we return for more.

I know my theme.


Not being lonesome, not being alone, not being lonely, but the utter hopeless agonizing heartache of loneliness. Loneliness shows up in every story I write. I can’t keep it out.

But where did this loneliness come from?

Perhaps it was my only-child upbringing until I was 13, or that I was a loner all through school (still am) with few friends. Experiencing a difficult mother/teenage daughter relationship may also have influenced my loneliness. Could my tendency toward loneliness stem from the traumatic brain injury I suffered at 18 and the resulting *holes* it left in my life from the loss of many of my childhood memories? Or did an early, and ultimately unsuccessful marriage, and then raising three children on my own have something to do with it? Other factors could have been my battle with clinical depression (eventually won that war) throughout my twenties and into my thirties only to have panic/anxiety attacks muscle past the depression.

Maybe there are no reasons.

Maybe it’s a combination of all my experiences.

Maybe it’s just how I’m hardwired.

However, in case you’ve grabbed a tissue—not to worry. I had a great childhood, and I’ve lived a satisfying, adventure-filled life. In fact, looking back through the years, there are few things I’d change, and I have even fewer regrets. I’m not lonely, so don’t play sad violin music just yet. ;-)

For your loneliness-listening angst, here is Marty Robbins singing Mr. Shorty, which is, at its theme core, a story about the hopeless isolation of loneliness. The verse beginning at 52 seconds is the part that gets to me.

Since the August theme for blog-a-book-scene is Alone Again, Naturally, here is a lonely excerpt from my recently published story in the Hot Western Nights anthology—Give My Love to Rose.


How many times had he heard the last words of love for a beloved wife and children, or a wish to see a mother one last time? Some cried. Others cleared the burden on their consciences. Most only had enough time to name next of kin. When you heard a person’s last words, shared their last breath, shouldered their confessions, you took on the duty of seeing their dying wishes taken care of.

This man, Lon Griffin, was no different. He’d clung to a thin thread of life, slipping between delirium and lucidity all through the night. His will to live gave out in the dark just before the dawn.

Any other time, Clint would have dug a grave right there, said the proper words, and then rode on to tell the family or sent a telegram, whichever was the faster way to convey the news. This time, though, Lon’s widow waited at the house a good many miles on farther north, she was probably wondering right now when she’d see her husband again. She never would, not alive, anyway, and Lon begged him to take him home to be buried in the family cemetery.

Haunted heartbreak clouded Clint’s eyes. That Lon left behind a family brought back his own loss. Nothing he possessed, not his guns, his badge, his physical strength, or his love had been enough to prevent the accident of nature that had killed his happiness in the blink of an eye.

Clint went about the pragmatic tasks of breaking camp and loading up his pack horse. He saddled his horse and Lon’s mule and then wrapped Lon’s body in a blanket and secured him over his mule’s back. Angling toward the river in the general direction Lon had explained would take them to his house, Clint thought of Rose and the image he created in his mind from listening to Lon’s delirious talk all through the night. He’d spoken of her with reverence that he’d done something right in his life to deserve such a woman.

Clint understood that. It was a lucky man who found a woman to be his life-mate. He’d been that lucky man once, and he didn’t have it in him to go down that emotional road again. Every now and again, though, a wish to belong somewhere and to someone stirred at the fringes of his heart as it stirred now. Maybe it was because it was the dawn of Christmas Eve. Maybe it was from sitting beside a dying man all night. Whatever the reason, the weight of his aloneness rode with him.

 Available on

As a writer, do you have a recurring theme that shows up in your stories? What is the force behind your theme?

As a reader, are you drawn to stories with certain themes? What about these stories speak to you so you keep coming back for more?

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

Stay in touch with Kaye

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Harvey Girls

By Kristy McCaffrey

Fred Harvey, an ambitious English immigrant, didn’t initially hire women as waitresses. He only did so after the male waiters he employed at the Harvey House in Raton, New Mexico, engaged in a drunken midnight brawl and were unable to report for work the following day. Harvey was furious and fired them all, including the manager. Tom Gable, the new manager, suggested hiring women, because they were less likely “to get likkered up and go on tears.”

But it wasn’t so simple. At the time, female waitresses were nothing more than “saloon girls,” better known to deliver "something extra" along with food to their customers. Harvey needed to replace that image with a more wholesome appearance. His critics also cautioned that Harvey would never entice women to come west and work for him, leaving civilization behind for the wild frontier. Turned out the critics were wrong. In the 1870’s thousands of women applied, likely due to a shortage of men in the East, and women from lower-income families viewed this as an opportunity to improve their lives.

Harvey Girls

Harvey’s advertisement sought “young women eighteen to forty years of age, of good character, attractive and intelligent” to come work in the West. He was very strict on the requirements. A Harvey Girl had to have finished at least the eighth grade, speak clearly, have good manners, and be neat in appearance. When a woman signed a contract (anywhere from six months to a year), she agreed to learn the Harvey system, follow instructions to the letter, obey employee rules, accept whatever location she was assigned, and abstain from marriage for the duration of her initial contract. If she broke the marriage contract, she forfeited her pay and railroad pass home. Working six days a week, Harvey Girls would become synonymous with superior service.

Wages were $17.50 per month with room and board included. The girls usually lived upstairs in the facility they worked or in a nearby dormitory, chaperoned by Housemothers. They were given a strict curfew and only allowed to visit with men in the parlor. Since many Harvey Girls were the adventurous sort, stories abounded of mischief which usually involved sneaking around.

Harvey Girls were essentially the country’s first group of women who made a decent wage independent from a man, of considerable merit since women didn’t have equal rights at the time. Over the course of 90 years over 100,000 women worked as Harvey Girls.

Connect with Kristy

Monday, August 12, 2019

Of Cotton Gins & Colts

Did you know that, without Eli Whitney, extraordinary mechanical engineer and inventor of the cotton gin, there would be no Colt “Walker” revolvers. In fact, there’d probably be no Colt firearms at all.

From a young age, Whitney showed an amazing aptitude for all things mechanical. That’s how he paid for his Yale education--by fixing machines. After graduation, he planned to teach in order to pay for law school. Instead, he ended up working for the widow of Revolutionary War general Nathanael Green, fixing things on her Georgia plantation and creating a mechanized way to remove the seeds from cotton--the cotton gin for which he is so famous.

Because of widespread pirating of his design and the costly court battles to protect his patent, Whitney never profited from his invention. Discouraged, Whitney turned his amazing mind to the manufacture of firearms, specifically muskets. Up until Whitney, muskets were hand-crafted, made one at a time, each weapon totally unique. That meant if something broke in a gun, the replacement parts had to be handmade to fit that gun. Whitney invented the method by which gun parts were so precisely made that they were interchangeable–and could be mass-produced.

In a demonstration to prove the interchangeability of the gun parts he manufactured, Whitney is said to have put the parts needed to build ten muskets into a pile. When government officials were successful, Whitney, and arms manufacturing, would never be the same. Whitney is credited with pioneering the assembly production line.

In 1841, Whitney Arms Company was placed under the control of Eli Whitney, Jr. Arms making was a competitive business in the United States in the 1840s and success required both technological efficiency and strong entrepreneurial instincts. With the rapid westward movement of the population in the 1830s, the market for firearms grew, a demand which couldn’t be supplied by gun-smiths—craftsmen--who operated on a small scale. In addition, the rise of the urban middle classes in the great eastern cities meant a market was developing for sporting arms, guns used for target-shooting and hunting.

In the 1830s, Samuel Colt had tried his hand at manufacturing, producing around 3000 of his new revolver-style handgun before creditors shut down the Patent Arms Company. Though he lost his factory, Colt still controlled his patents and, in 1846, succeeded in selling a contract for 1,000 revolvers to Captain Samuel H. Walker of the Texas Rangers. Having only six months to deliver on the contract and no factory in which to build them, Colt turned to Eli Whitney, Jr. On July 7, 1843, Colt and Whitney concluded a contract for the production of the Whitneyville Colt—a weapon that would revolutionize the handgun and become famous as the Colt “Walker.”

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Book review: Patrice's Shame by Agnes Alexander

46831535. sy475


Beautiful Patrice Dickerson is all too happy to leave Philadelphia to claim half of a ranch in Wyoming—an unexpected windfall from an aunt she never knew. But the catch is, the other half has been left to a man that Patrice has never met. Patrice can think of nothing but the new start this gift means for her—to outrun the shame that has threatened her all her life. Her mother, a well-known prostitute, has lately been pressing Patrice to join her in “the business” with threats of letting everyone know Patrice is her daughter—and Patrice lives in fear that her society friends will discover who she really is.

Gavin Barlow has suddenly found himself the owner of half of the Hopewell Ranch—a spread that adjoins the Barlow family land. When the new joint owner from back East arrives, Gavin plans to ask him to sell out. A ranch the size of the Hopewell spread would expand the Barlow holdings significantly. Surely, an Eastern dandy will be eager to sell…

But when Patrice arrives in Wyoming, Gavin is unprepared for her haughty demeanor. He never expected his “partner” to be a woman—and a rude one, at that! His hopes to buy her out are dashed in the face of her self-importance—a fa├žade to hide her secrets.

An accident steals Patrice’s memory. Who is she, and why is she in Wyoming? Her sweet personality is totally opposite the Patrice that Gavin has come to know and be wary of—but which “Patrice” is the real one? As their relationship blossoms into true love, each of them hopes for a life together on the ranch they’ve inherited, but is it possible?

Patrice’s mother follows her to Wyoming with an evil plan of her own, threatening to expose Patrice’s background to Gavin. Can they still find true love in spite of PATRICE’S SHAME?

My Review:

One I started Patrice and Gavin's story, I had a hard time putting it down!  I enjoyed every moment at the Hopewell Ranch, getting to know the Barlow brothers and dig deeper into Patrice's story.

Patrice struggles with her identity and culture shock as secrets that can destroy a reputation start circulating and send her running across the country.  Digging deeper past her nasty attitude, you can see the young woman trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs and how to keep herself (and her secrets) safe.  Unfortunately, bad choices lead to more until drastic events finally help set her on the right course.

Gavin definitely has his hands full when Patrice shows up, and confusion and conflict abound.  He is drawn to her, but yet, her attitude puts him off.  He questions what's real and what isn't.  But Gavin is also a stand-up, honorable man, and realizes that there's something in Patrice he needs to dig deeper to help her discover.

After the initial rough and tumble get-to-really-know-ya time, the drama starts coming from outside forces, giving Gavin and Patrice a chance to fight the new battles side-by-side and build a good foundation.

I loved the family atmosphere and life on the ranch.  It definitely became a safe haven for Gavin and Patrice, and provided a terrific afternoon escape for myself.

Purchase Links:


Wednesday, August 7, 2019


Juliet Gordon Low

One of my greatest childhood pleasures was participating in the Girl Scouts of America. It wasn’t just the fun of earning badges that brought me so much happiness; it was the joy of being with other girls and learning things together and sharing our successes.

Becoming part of a Girl Scout troop was more than campfires and roasted marshmallows. We learned how to be good citizens, helpful to others, and self-reliant. Like the Boy Scouts our motto was BE PREPARED. Every meeting we cited the Girl Scout Promise: On my honor I will try to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people at all times; to obey the Girl Scout laws.
There were ten laws for Girl Scouts:
1. A Girl Scout’s honor is to be trusted.
2. A Girl Scout is loyal.
3. A Girl Scout’s duty is to be useful and to help others.
4. A Girl Scout is a friend to all and a sister to every other Girl Scout.
5. A Girl Scout is courteous.
6. A Girl Scout is a friend to animals.
7. A Girl Scout obeys orders.
8. A Girl Scout is cheerful.
9. A Girl Scout is thrifty.
10. A Girl Scout is clean in thought, word, and deed.
The Girl Scout Handbook was our guide to learning responsibility and leadership that would stay with us for the rest of our lives. I still have that handbook. It’s kind of worn out with packing tape holding the binding together, but it still holds good memories and accomplishments as I made my way from Tenderfoot to Curved Bar.

My old Girl Scout handbook and my badges (except I lost the 6 in Troop 246)

Juliette Gordon Low (October 31, 1860-January 17, 1927) is the founder of the Girl Scouts of America inspired by the work of Lord Baden-Powell who founded the Boy Scouts in England. She joined the Girl Guide movement while in England and formed the Girl Guides of Great Britain in 1911.

The following year in 1912 she returned to the United States and her home in Savannah, Georgia. In 1915 she established the United States Girl Guides which became known as the Girl Scouts. She became the first president and remained active until her death. Her birthday, October 31, is commemorated by the Girl Scouts as “Founder’s Day.”

Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born in Savannah, Georgia, the second of six children. Her nickname was Daisy. Her father, William Washington Gordon II, as a cotton broker with Tison & Gordon, later renamed W.W. Gordon & Company and her mother was Eleanor Lytle Kinzie, a writer whose family played a role in the founding of Chicago.

Her father joined the Confederate States Army six months after she was born to fight in the American Civil War in 1864 because of the close proximity of the Union Army to Savannah. Her mother moved with the children to Thunderbolt, GA. After the Union Army declared victory in Savannah, General William T. Sherman visited her family frequently since he was a friend of her uncle. Sherman arranged for Juliette’s family to be escorted to Chicago in 1865. Shortly after they arrived in Chicago, Juliette contracted “brain fever”, but recovered without severe complications. At the end of the war her father reunited with the family and they moved back to Savannah.

Juliette was accident prone as a child and suffered many injuries and illnesses including a head injury after falling out of bed, an injury to two of her fingers so severe, for a time, her parents considered having them amputated, frequent earaches, and recurring bouts of malaria.

She dedicated most of her time pursuing art and poetry, wrote and performed plays, and started a newspaper her cousins called “The Malbone Bouquet” which featured some of her early poetry. She and her cousins formed a club with the goal of helping others. “The Helpful Hands Club” members learned to sew and attempted to make clothes for the children of Italian immigrants. She was dubbed “Crazy Daisy” by her cousins and family due to her eccentricities. Her cousin, Caroline, described her by saying, “While you never knew what she would do next, she always did what she made up her mind to do.”

Juliette was raised with traditional Southern values which emphasized the importance of duty, obedience, loyalty, and respect. As was customary at the time, Juliette was off to boarding school at age 12 attending several schools through her teen years which included Miss Emmett’s school in New Jersey, The Virginia Female Institute, the Edgehill School, and Mesdemoiselles Charbonniers French finishing school in New York. She joined a secret group Theta Tau while at the Edgehill School in which members earned badges. (You can clearly see the beginnings of a Girl Scout in these accomplishments and social teachings of her youth.) After she finished boarding school she took painting lessons in New York and among her teachers was Robert Walter Weir, a prominent landscape artist.

When her sister, Alice, died in 1880, Juliette returned to Savannah and took over the household duties while her mother grieved. Meanwhile, she met William Mackay Low, the son of a family friend and they began secretly courting until William left Savannah to study at the University of Oxford. Three years later, Juliette traveled through Europe during their time of separation and learned some new skills which included shorthand, bareback riding, and hunting partridge. William Low proposed marriage in 1885 and they were married in Savannah on her parents’ wedding anniversary, December 21, 1886. Later, they leased property in London and Scotland, spent the social season in London and the hunting season in Scotland. Due to Juliette’s medical problems they spent most of their first two years apart. William’s long hunting trips, gambling, and inability to have children began to strain their marriage.

While William spent his time in drinking, gambling, and affairs, Juliette painted, learned word and metal working. She even designed and built iron gates for her home in Warwickshire. She hosted parties and events at her house and received visits from HRH Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales who was a friend of her husband’s and Rudyard Kipling whose wife was a friend of Juliette’s mother. Though her husband was against it, Juliette spent a great deal of time involved in charity which included regular visits to a woman with leprosy. She gave food and care to the people of the village and joined a local nursing association.

Juliette and William spent less and less time together. William drank heavily, gambled, and began an affair with Anna Bridges Bateman, a widow who had stayed as a guest at the Low’s home in Scotland. At first William had not wanted a separation or divorce, but later agreed to a permanent separation in 1901. She received an allotment of money from William which she wisely invested in the Low Home for herself in Savannah with the land surrounding it as well as buying the house next door to rent out for income, and invested in stocks and securities. When William died of a seizure following a long illness, he left his entire estate to his mistress. However, his two sisters contested the will and they awarded Juliette a generous sum of money since Juliette and William had never divorced. I thought this was a noble thing for them to do for Juliette.
Juliette traveled after the death of her husband and did charity work while she sought a project on which she could focus her skills and time. At a party in May 1911 she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell and was inspired by a program in which he had organized called Boy Scouts. At that time the Boy Scouts had 40,000 members in Europe and the United States. The program stressed the importance of military preparedness and fun which Juliette valued. The two became good friends and spent a great deal of time together over the following year.

In August 1911, Juliette became involved the Girl Guides headed by Agnes Baden-Powell, Sir Robert’s sister and she formed the Girl Guides patrol in Scotland near her home. She encouraged the girls in her patrol to become self-sufficient by learning how to spin wool and care for the livestock. She taught them knot tying, how to read a map, knitting, cooking, and first aid. Her military friends taught her girls how to drill, signal, and camp. After that, she taught two Girl Guide patrols in London where she spent the following winter.

Juliette Gordon Low and Lord Robert Baden-Powell 

Juliette and Sir Robert took a trip to America in 1912 to spread the scouting movement. Naturally, she wanted to start the movement in Savannah to teach girls practical skills and character development. She called her cousin Nina, a local educator and said, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all of the world, and we’re going to start it tonight.” In March of 1912 Juliette Gordon Low formed the first two American Girl Guide patrols with 18 girls.

With Juliette’s social connections and her ambitious recruiting efforts by way of friend and advertisements in the newspapers, she was able to quickly gather a following of leaders and new members and Sir Robert assisted her by contacting others who were interested in Girl Guides such as Louise Carnegie. She also released a Girl Guides manual titled “How Girls Can Help Their Country” which was based on “Scouting For Boys” by Sir Robert Baden-Powell and “How Girls Can Help To Build Up The Empire” by Agnes Baden-Powell.

Juliette established the first headquarters in a remodeled carriage house behind the home in Savannah she inherited from her husband with meeting rooms for local Girl Guide patrols and the outside lot was used for marhing and signal drills and sports like basketball. Edmund Strudwick Nash who rented the main house offered to pay rent on the carriage house as his contribution to the organization and his son, Ogden Nash, immortalized “Mrs Low’s House” in one of his poems.
Juliette traveled along the east coast to introduce Girl Guides to other communities and, upon returning home to Savannah, spoke with President Taft who was visiting the Gordon home hoping to recruit his daughter Helen as a patron of the Girl Guides, but she was not successful in that endeavor. I Juliette Gordon Low well enough to know she wasn’t about to knuckle under to a little competition. She decided to change the name from Girl Guides to Girl Scouts deciding that the word Scout would be reminiscent of the pioneer spirit in America. She had some push back from West who led the Boy Scouts of America because he felt Scout trivialized the Boy Scouts name. (Nice…right?) Sir Robert preferred the word Guide after the British Girl Guides, but he supported Juliette’s decision. Naturally, being Juliette, she forged ahead with the name Girl Scouts and made their national headquarters in Washington D.C.. The national headquarters was set up for the girls to purchase their badges and to buy her guide book titled “How Girls Can Help Their Country.”

She worked to recruit leaders and members in every state and spoke to groups at every opportunity. She designed the trefoil badge against West’s wishes since he thought the trefoil should belong only to the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts should have no right to use it. Juliette traveled back to London that summer where she met King George and Queen Mary of Teck and received the Girl Guide Thanks Badge from Princess Louise for promoting Guiding.
Juliette formed the Honorary Committee of Girl Scouts and elected her family and friends to the committee. Using her ample supply of connections she was able to convince Susan Ludlow Parish who was Eleanor Roosevelt’s godmother, Mina Miller Edison (the wife of Thomas Edison), and Bertha Woodward (The wife of the House of Representatives majority leader) to become patrons. Even with all these patrons, Juliette still funded most Girl Scout expenses herself.
When World War I broke out, Juliette rented Castle Menzies in Scotland and let a family of Belgian refugees to temporarily move in.

She sailed back to the United States on February 13, 1915 on the RMS Lusitania to continue her work with the Girl Scouts. She now had 73 patrons and 2,400 registered members. She built a stronger central organization for the Girl Scouts by writing a new constitution that formed an executive committee and a National Council and held the first National Council meeting under the name, Girl Scouts, Inc. on June 10, 1915, and was elected the first president of the organization.

At the entrance of America into World War I in 1916 Juliette expanded the Girl Scouts through publications in newspapers, magazines, events, and film and relocated their headquarters from Washington D.C. to New York City. Juliette returned to England to fund raise for a home for relatives of wounded soldiers where she volunteered 3 nights a week. In November she returned to America to continue her work with the Girl Scouts.

To help with the program enacted by the United States Food Administration to teach women to conserve food, the Girl Scouts in Washington D.C. began growing and harvesting their own food and canned perishable foods. Herbert Hoover wrote a letter to Juliette to thank her for the contributions of the Girl Scouts and expressed the hope that Girl Scouts in other states would do the same. Of course, Juliette responded in typical Juliette fashion by organizing the Girl Scouts to help the Red Cross by making surgical dressings and knitted clothing for the soldiers. They also picked oakum, swept workrooms, created scrapbooks for wounded soldiers, and made smokeless trench candles for soldiers to heat their food. Note: Oakum picking is a tedious and laborious task of picking apart rope which in then used as a kind of caulking to seal off openings and usually sealed over with hot tar. I had to look this up since I had no clue. Just sayin’…

At the end of 1917 Juliette had convinced Lou Henry Hoover to become the National Vice President of the Girl Scouts and Edith Bolling Galt Wilson (President Wilson’s second wife) to become Honorary President of the Girl Scouts.

Juliette stepped down as the National President of the Girl Scouts in 1920 in order to devote her time to creating the International Council of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and attended the first international meeting in London representing the United States. She continued her work in many directions for the sake of Girl Scouts including a plan for a camping facility in Cloudland, Georgia to be used to train leaders and Girl Scouts together. The name Cloudlands was later changed to Camp Juliette Low.

In 1923 Juliette Low developed breast cancer which she kept a secret. After an operation to remove the malignant lumps, she developed the flu. She managed to cover after a year, but had 2 more operations to cure breast cancer, but was informed in 1925 that she had only 6 months to live. She went to London to receive cancer treatment from Dr. William Blair-Bell which consisted of an IV fluid containing lead. She developed lead poisoning, returned home to Savannah where she died on January 17, 1927 at age 66. An honor guard of Girl Scouts escorted her casket to her funeral at Christ Church the next day. 250 Girl Scouts left school early that day to attend her funeral and burial at Laurel Grove Cemetery. Juliette was buried in her Girl Scout uniform with a note in her pocket that read, ‘You are not only the first Girl Scout, but the best Girl Scout of them all.” Her tombstone read, “Now abideth faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.”

Juliette Gordon Low never had children, but she left a legacy of devotion to thousands of girls and for generations of girls to follow.
I originally only intended to write a 3 paragraph blog, but I found Juliette Low’s life so fascinating and filled with accomplishments and good works I just had to write more. Still, I left out a LOT!

I was a Girl Scout and loved it for years of my youth and earned the Curved Bar badge before I finished. When my mother took over as leader for my Girl Scout troop she and Pop planned a memorable trip for my troop to visit the Juliette Low home in Savannah. It was one of the most memorable times I ever had.

Were you in a scouting group growing up? What do you remember most about your experience? Did you have kids in Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts?

Diverse stories filled with heart