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Living Loud: Juliette Gordon Low - Founder of the Girl Scouts and Philanthropist

Living Loud: Juliette Gordon Low - Founder of the Girl Scouts and Philanthropist

Deaf Culture   |  Thursday, March 10, 2016

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

This article is part of our "Living Loud" series, which highlights famous people who are deaf or hard of hearing and their impact in the world.

Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts and “envisioned an organization that would prepare girls to meet their world with courage, confidence, and character.” Started in 1912 when women in the United States couldn’t yet vote, Gordon Low grew the first troop of 18 girls into a global movement of nearly 3 million Girl Scouts in 92 countries and with more than 59 million alumae.2

Painting of Juliette Gordon Low by Edward Hughes
Oil painting of Juliette Gordon Low completed in 1887 by Edward Hughes. This painting is on display in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Edward Hughes [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Background

Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born on October 31, 1860 in Savannah, Georgia and nicknamed “Daisy.”4 She was from a wealthy family and was well educated, attending some of the best boarding schools.6 4

She was born hearing, but started to lose her hearing when she was seventeen10 and had severe hearing loss by her mid-twenties. She was accident-prone as a child and had many injuries and illnesses, including a case of brain fever, frequent ear infections, earaches, and recurring bouts of malaria.7 In January 1885, when she was 24 years old, she got a terrible ear infection in her right ear.5 Antibiotics had not been discovered yet and Daisy persuaded the doctor to try silver nitrate, a new cure she had heard about. The doctor used silver nitrate in her ear, which caused more damage, and she lost part of her hearing in that ear.8

An Incredible Coincidence

On her wedding day on December 21, 1886 (she picked the same day that her parents got married for good luck), a grain of rice thrown in celebration landed in Gordon Low’s left ear and got stuck. She ignored the issue until the pain became so great she had to leave her honeymoon to seek treatment. When a doctor worked to remove it, he punctured her ear drum and it became infected. The infection damaged nerves, which made her permanently deaf in that ear.8 4

A Survivor Who Doesn’t Hear “No”

Married life wasn’t the happily ever after she had hoped for. Her husband drank heavily and cheated on her. She planned on getting a divorce, but her husband died from a seizure in 1905 before it was finalized. They had been married for 19 years, however, in his will, he left most of his money to his mistress.6 4 Gordon Low contested the will, “When my husband died, I found that he had willed his entire estate to another woman. No one was going to get away with that! Against the advice of my friends, I decided to contest the will and eventually I won a $500,000 settlement.”12 In addition to an annual income, she received their Savannah Lafayette Ward estate, which included the Andrew Low House and where she would later house the first Girl Scouts headquarters (in the carriage house).6 4 5

Deaf in one ear and with only partial hearing in the other, Gordon Low would use her deafness to her advantage by refusing to hear “No.” She knew she needed help to start the Girl Scouts. "The first woman I approached tried to tell me she wasn't interested. I pretended that my deafness prevented me from hearing her refusals… I never heard a word of argument from her again!”12

A Life-Changing Meeting

In 1911, Gordon Low met Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the British Boy Scouts.6 4 She wanted girls to have the same opportunity to develop self-reliance and resourcefulness, so she created a similar organization for girls. At the age of 51, she brought together 18 girls to form the first registered American Girl Guides troop in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia on March 12, 1912.4

Juliette Gordon Low putting a badge on a girl scout.
Juliette Gordon Low putting a badge on a girl scout. (Photo Credit: Author Unknown [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

The name of the organization was changed and the Girl Scouts of the USA became a reality in 1913. The organization was incorporated in 1915 and Gordon Low served as president from its inception until 1920 when she was granted the title of founder and stepped down so that she could focus on promoting the Girl Scouts program on an international scale.4 11

Gordon Low envisioned the Girl Scouts to be inclusive for all girls - open to girls of any race, background, financial situation, and ability.9 She encouraged the girls to be independent, make their own choices, and develop their own talents and skills. Instead of telling Girl Scouts members what to do, she would ask, "What do the girls WANT to do?"9 12

Girl Scouts can earn badges in the areas of art, athletics, citizenship, cooking, first aid, nature and, the Girl Scout way.3 However, Gordon Low explained “This badge is not a reward for something you have done once or for an examination you have passed. Badges are not medals to wear on your sleeve to show what a smart girl you are. A badge is a symbol that you have done the thing it stands for often enough, thoroughly enough, and well enough to BE PREPARED to give service in it. You wear the badge to let people know that you are prepared and willing to be called on because you are a Girl Scout. And Girl Scouting is not just knowing.....but doing.....not just doing, but being.”6

The Girl Scouts started selling cookies around 1917 to not only serve as a fundraiser for troops, but to learn real-life lessons about how money is earned.9

The Girl Scout mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.2 In line with this mission, a famous quote from Gordon Low is, “Right is right, even if no one else does it.”12

Death

Daisy remained an activist for the Girl Scouts until her death. She discovered she had breast cancer in 1923, but kept it a secret. She died from the final stages of cancer at the age of 66 on January 17, 1927.7 4 She was buried in her girl scout uniform in Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.1 5 4

Juliette Gordon Low 1948 U.S. Postage StampJuliette Gordon Low leaves her "stamp" and a long legacy after her death. In 1948 a three-cent U.S. Postage Stamp was released to commemorate her as the founder of Girl Scouts. (Photo Credit: United States Postal Service [Public Domain])

She left a long legacy in her wake. The Girl Scouts organization continues to thrive with millions of Girl Scouts throughout the world and girls who begin scouting from kindergarten to first grade are called “Daisies,” just like Gordon Low was nicknamed. She continues to be remembered over 150 years after she was born with scholarships, camps, and schools named in her honor, in addition to many notable honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, being inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, having a stamp commemorating her, and much more.1

As Gordon Low said herself, “The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers."12

Resources

  1. Juliette Gordon Low. Girl Scouts of the United States of America. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from http://www.girlscouts.org/en/about-girl-scouts/our-history/juliette-gordon-low.html
  2. Our History: The Vision of Juliette Gordon Low. Girl Scouts of the United States of America. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from http://www.girlscouts.org/en/about-girl-scouts/our-history.html
  3. Traditions. Girl Scouts of the United States of America. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from http://www.girlscouts.org/en/about-girl-scouts/traditions.html
  4. Juliette Gordon Low. (2014, August 19). New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Juliette_Gordon_Low
  5. Sims, Anastatia. (2004, June 14). Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927). New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/juliette-gordon-low-1860-1927
  6. Biography.com Editors. Juliette Gordon Low Biography. A&E Television Networks: The Biography.com website. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from http://www.biography.com/people/juliette-gordon-low-20766743#final-years-and-legacy
  7. Cordery, Stacy A. (2012). The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts: Juliette Gordon Low. USA: Penguin Publishing Group. ISBN 9780143122890.
  8. Brown, Fern G (2014). Daisy and the Girl Scouts: The Story of Juliette Gordon Low. Open Road Media. ISBN 1497635896, 9781497635890.
  9. Henry Kleiber, Shannon. (2012, March 9). Juliette Gordon Low, who had no children of her own, started Girl Scouts in 1912. The Washington Post. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/kidpost/juliette-gordon-low-who-had-no-children-of-her-own-started-girl-scouts-in-1912/2012/02/28/gIQA5CBO1R_story.html
  10. Juliette Low. Gallaudet University. Adapted from: Goodstein, A. & Walworth, M. (1979). Interesting Deaf Americans. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from https://www.gallaudet.edu/tip/english-center/reading-(esl)/practice-exercises/juliette-low.html
  11. Juliette Gordon Low (Last modified: 2016, February 29). Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juliette_Gordon_Low
  12. Juliette Low Quotes. Scouting Web: Online Resources for Scouting Volunteers. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from http://www.scoutingweb.com/scoutingweb/subpages/juliettelowquotes.htm

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

6 Tips for How Interpreters Can Stay Healthy

6 Tips for How Interpreters Can Stay Healthy

Interpreter Tips   |  Friday, February 26, 2016

By Brenda Cartwright

This article is by Brenda Cartwright. Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, and well known presenter. Brenda is the "Dear Abby" for the interpreting world - author of the Dear Reality column in the VIEWS publication from Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and the book Encounters With Reality: 1001 Interpreter Scenarios. She will be contributing blog articles for Signing Savvy on interpreting, Deaf culture, and answering a series of "Dear BC" interpreter questions.

We as interpreters are notorious for not taking care of our bodies. We see lots of Repetitive Motion Injury among colleagues. We spend a lot of time in our cars. We may develop unhealthy habits (eating fast food or a lack of exercise). In a profession where the primary focus is other people, we need to keep ourselves healthy.

Here are 6 tips for how Interpreters can stay healthy:

1. Make Priorities

  • Learn to say no to things.
  • Take time out of your schedule for yourself.
  • Use a calendar, such as Google Calendar, to plan ahead.

2. Stay Rested

  • Regular sleep. Set a bedtime.
  • Take catnaps.
  • Take time to clear your head (ex: meditate for 15 minutes).

3. Eat Smarter

  • Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Pack your lunch.
  • Keep healthy snacks in your car or bag.
  • Carry a water bottle.
  • Take a multi-vitamin daily.

4. Stay Active

  • Sign up for an exercise class or a race.
  • Go for a walk. Or better yet take your dog for a walk.
  • Join a gym.
  • Do stretching exercises before you interpret.

5. Be Social

  • Keep in touch with friends.
  • Meet a friend for coffee (or a smoothie) every week.
  • Spend time with family.

6. Be Mindful

  • Read for pleasure.
  • Listen to music.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Volunteer somewhere, anywhere.

We regularly help others as part of our job, but in order to be truly effective we need to take care of ourselves. Adopting these strategies will help you be healthier, happier, and more balanced.

What are your tricks for staying healthy? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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About the Author

Brenda CartwrightBrenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, well known presenter, and author of several best selling sign language and interpreting textbooks from the RID Press. For the last 30 years Brenda has been the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

More about BC  |  Articles by BC

When and How to Start Using Sign Language With Your Hearing Baby

When and How to Start Using Sign Language With Your Hearing Baby

Learning Tips   |  Thursday, February 4, 2016

By Jillian Winn

When to start signing with your hearing baby?

Experts recommend to start talking to your child at birth – even newborns benefit from hearing speech and talking to your child is an important part of how they learn language and to speak. You can talk to them, describe what you are doing as you’re doing it, describe what’s going on around you, tell stories, sing songs, and read books.

Because we would talk to our son when he was born, it just seemed natural to also start signing right away as well.  Plus, research has shown signing activates the area of the brain that makes learning a new word easier,1 2 so why not! It’s never too early (or late) to start signing with children. Babies as young as 4 months old can start using signs (signing them) if they have been introduced to the signs for at least a month.3 The wait for the first sign is usually the longest, but often there will be an increase of signs used.4 Don’t be discouraged if your child is older, it is never too late to start learning sign language and there are benefits to learning sign language at any age.

How many signs should we start with?

There isn’t an ideal number of signs to start with.  Many children grow up in bilingual households and are able to learn multiple languages.  How many signs you start using with your baby really depends on what works for you and your family.

  • If you are a fluent or native signer, use sign language all of the time.
  • If you are not a fluent signer, but have a deaf infant, try to learn ASL yourself and use it as much as you can.
  • If you are excited about learning sign language, learn as much as you can and incorporate as much as you can into your daily language.
  • If you’re new to sign language and want to start signing with your hearing baby, the key is to do what you’re comfortable with and don’t get overwhelmed.  Start with a few signs and go from there.  Add more signs as it makes sense to do so, just keep with it!  Being able to communicate with your baby using sign before they can talk is rewarding for both you and your child.

We are hearing parents of hearing children. When we started signing with our first son, we wouldn’t sign everything we said, just the words that were most common to his world. For example, when saying, “Do you want milk?” We would just sign MILK (with the appropriate facial expression for asking a question).  Eventually we would add more signs, such as MILK + WANT.

Repetition is also an important part to learning new things, so we tried to be consistent in the signs that we used and picked signs that would occur naturally during a typical day. Now, with our second son, in addition to signing signs, I like to fingerspell words to him, like his name, his brother’s name, etc. (I like to have the excuse to practice my fingerspelling!). The “right” way to introduce signs to your baby is whatever works for you and your family, just keep at it and keep adding more signs!

What signs should we start with?

There has been an increasing trend for hearing parents to teach their hearing babies sign language, because of that, there are a number of baby signing resources available and varying opinions on how to do it and how to get started.

The most common recommendations of signs to start with are:

But I wouldn’t recommend starting with the most “common” baby signs or sticking to any get-started list. After all, you’re not creating lesson plans and teaching class, you’re just living life and incorporating signing into your everyday activities. The best strategy is to pick signs that make the most sense in the context of your baby’s life.  For example, if your baby doesn’t use a PACIFIER or have a TEDDY BEAR, then there is no reason to have those included in the signs you start with.

You will also want to think about timing – when you start signing with your baby and what they do on a regular basis should have a big influence on the signs you start with.  For example, if you start signing right away with your baby, the first signs you choose may be MILK, SLEEP, and POTTY because all they do is eat, sleep and go to the bathroom.  You wouldn’t want COOKIE to be one of the first signs at that age because you don’t give a newborn a cookie and it wouldn’t be a regular part of their world yet.

Read our other articles on suggestions of what to sign at different baby ages.  These include examples of what I signed with my son and are meant to be a rough guide, but make sure that you only use suggestions as a guide and pick signs that make the most sense in the context of your baby’s world.

You can easily use Signing Savvy to create your own custom word list of signs for each stage or age of your baby’s life. Sharing the word lists you have created is a great way to get other people, like grandparents and babysitters, in the loop on what signs your baby is learning or knows.

Resources

  1. Kelly, S., McDevitt, T., and Esch, M. (2009). Brief training with co-speech gesture lends a hand to word learning in a foreign language. Language and Cognitive Processes, 24(2), 313-334.
  2. Xu, J., Gannon, P., Emmorey, K., Smith, J., & Braun, A. (2009). Symbolic gestures and spoken language are processed by a common neural system. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(49), 20664-20669.
  3. Thorne, B. (2011, August 20). More day care centers, parents using sign language to communicate with babies. MLive. Retrieved 10/29/2014 from http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2011/08/more_day_care_centers_parents.html
  4. Berg, L. (2012). The Baby Signing Bible. New York: Penguin Group.

 

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Ways Interpreters Can Stay Passionate

Ways Interpreters Can Stay Passionate

Interpreter Tips   |  Tuesday, December 15, 2015

By Brenda Cartwright

This article is by Brenda Cartwright. Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, and well known presenter. Brenda is the "Dear Abby" for the interpreting world - author of the Dear Reality column in the VIEWS publication from Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and the book Encounters With Reality: 1001 Interpreter Scenarios. She will be contributing blog articles for Signing Savvy on interpreting, Deaf culture, and answering a series of "Dear BC" interpreter questions.

You will meet interpreters who are burnt out and no longer care about doing their best. Perhaps they are satisfied with their entry level certification. Or they only go to workshops to get their required CEUs.

Here are some suggestions to keep that spark that drew you into the Interpreter profession in the first place:

  • Plan to go to a workshop with interpreter friends.
  • Mentor an eager Interpreter Training Program student.
  • Go to deaf social events.
  • Seek opportunities to team interpret.
  • Network with other interpreters.
  • Do pro bono interpreting work.
  • Sign up with an agency to try new areas of interpreting.
  • Seek out more deaf friends.
  • Stay in touch with interpreter friends outside of just interpreting work.
  • Look at workshops outside of your local geographic area.
  • Share your experiences with others (ie. write a blog).

There are lots of ways to challenge yourself and keep your interpreting skills sharp. These tips will help you stay passionate and engaged in the community.

How do you stay passionate and engaged as an interpreter? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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About the Author

Brenda CartwrightBrenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, well known presenter, and author of several best selling sign language and interpreting textbooks from the RID Press. For the last 30 years Brenda has been the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

More about BC  |  Articles by BC

America’s Next Top Model Winner “Just Happens To Be Deaf”

Deaf Culture   |  Tuesday, December 8, 2015

By Jillian Winn

There are multiple reasons why 26-year-old Nyle DiMarco’s crown as the winner of American’s Next Top Model (ANTM) is significant (besides his good looks!) - he is the last winner of ANTM because this was the last season, he is only the second male winner out of 22 cycles, and he is Deaf.

Initially Nyle thought being Deaf would be an advantage in the modeling competition because American Sign Language (ASL) uses movement and facial expressions to convey meaning, which could help him to naturally be more expressive with his body when modeling. However, Nyle called the competition “tough fun” and said it took resilience to make it through the season and succeed. He said he felt isolated, experienced “language deprivation” during his two months competing on ANTM, and that the biggest challenge was not being able to use ASL, his native language. It was hard for him to communicate with the other models in the house and to keep up on what was going on. He said fellow model Lacey was almost the only person in the house that learned ASL (there were 14 contestants).

He especially felt at a disadvantage during a night shoot when they were camping. The shoot was in the woods in the complete dark and while the other models could hear cues, Nyle was unable to hear or see cues. Although it was a tough challenge for him, he survived elimination and went on to win the ANTM title.

Nyles is proud his ANTM journey is proof deaf people can do anything. One of his deaf friends was upset at the beginning of an episode where the contestants had to make a music video, “What the hell! That's not fair. The show is setting Nyle as a deaf contestant to fail!” But as the episode played out, he corrected himself, “Whoa! Nyle killed the music video! He proved them wrong!" Nyle’s reaction was: “Yeah! Deaf people can sing!”

Nyle hopes his exposure on ANTM will educate people on deafness, “Being deaf is not a disability, but a culture.” He explained that deaf people don’t need to be fixed. “We do have a culture. We have a beautiful language. We are achieving so much and society keeps missing these achievements and keeps thinking we still need to be fixed. This needs to stop and they need to shift their energy to something else.” He hopes the world will see his ANTM win and take notice - “deaf people are talented and capable of anything.”

As Tyra Banks said at the end of the show, “Nyle won America's Next Top Model and he just happens to be deaf.”

Resources

 

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