Friday, February 24, 2012

136: The Self-Empowered Woman: Juliette Gordon Low

Dear Followers,

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Girl Souts, which makes this a perfect time to introduce you to the woman who founded The Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. in 1912. Juliette Gordon Low was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1860. and even though she never had children and was almost completely deaf, she had a profound effect on the lives of girls everywhere.

Her father was a Captain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, and during the Spanish-American War he was a Brigadier General in the United States Army. After the Confederate Forces surrendered to General William T. Sherman in December, 1864, Juliette (called Daisy by her family) moved to Chicago with her mother and two sisters (1: No Paternal Safety Net).

She received an excellant education, including boarding schools in Virginia and New Jersey as well as a French Finishing School in New York City. When she was 25, she had a bad ear infection and underwent an experimental treatment of silver nitrate injections. Unfortunately, this caused her to lose most of her hearing in that ear.

The next year, 1886, she married William Mackey Low, the son of a wealthy cotton merchant with businesses in both Savannah and England. On her wedding day, a grain of rice thrown by guests became stuck in her good ear. When it was removed, the ear drum was punctured, became infected, and she became essentially deaf in what had been her "good" ear. For the rest of her life she used hearing horns and hearing aids, but still struggled to hear (12: Hard Times).

She and her husband bought a mansion (Wellesbourne House) in the West Midlands, but the maggiage was not a happy one. He drank to excess and took a mistress (Mrs. Anna Bateman, who was a married acquaintance of theirs), and publically took his mistress to social events and parties. Eventually, he expected an already humiliated Daisy to live in a separate wing of their home while he and his paramour lived in the rest of the house (5: Life is not a Popularity Contest). Her husband died before their divorce papers were signed, but she learned that he had willed the mansion and his fortune to his mistress. She went to court and won her fair share of the estate (15: Forget About Prince Charming).

In 1911, she met the founder of the scouting movement Sir Robert (later Lord) Baden-Powell at a luncheon, and became deeply enthusiastic about his work with young people. He had persuaded his sister to start a "Girl Guides" movement in England, and he motivated Daisy to organize a troop in Scotland and two in London. He became her mentor, and she decided to bring the Girl Guides movement to America (4: Supportive Someone).

On her next visit to America, in 1912, she organized her friends and relatives in Savannah to recruit girls for the first troop of American Girl Guides. Their first meeting took place on March 12, 1912, and consisted of 18 girls. By the next year, the group's name had been changes to Girl Scouts. Daisy served as president until 1920, when she was granted the title of "Founder." All of her attention was focused on turning the Girl Scouts into a worldwide movement, and she wrote that it could be "the magic thread which links the girls of the world together" (7: Magnificent Obsession).

In 1923, Juliette Gordon low developed breast cancer, but kept it a secret so that she could continue her work for the Girl Scouts. She died four years later and (wearing her Girl Scout uniform) was buried in Savannah. Her home there (the Juliette Gordon Low Girl Scout National Center - known in the scouting world as "The Birthplace") is one of the most visited house museums in Georgia. And the First Girl Scout Headquarters in the former Carriage House of the home she inherited from her husband's estate.

The postage stamp pictured above was issued by President Truman in 1948, and she was only the eighth woman at that time to be honored with a stamp. In 1979, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.

Looking forward to your comments...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

135: The Self -Empowered Woman: Clara Driscoll

Dear Followers,

About eight years ago, researchers who were working on a book about Louis Comfort Tiffany made a startling discovery. While they were at the Queen's Historical Society they found a cache of letters written by Clara Driscoll to her mother and sister, which outlined her work as a glass cutter and designer of the much-valued classic Tiffany lamps. Their 2007 book tells the story of young Clara Driscoll and the 35 "Tiffany Girls" who were largely responsible (but mostly unacknowledged) for the award-winning lamps. Not surprisingly, it was assumed that Tiffany himself - with the help of his male design staff - created the complicated designs.

Clara Driscoll (born Clara Pierce Wolcott on April 2, 1861, in Tallmadge, Ohio) lost her father when she was only twelve years old (1: No Paternal Safety Net). Unlike most girls of her era, she and her three younger sisters were all encouraged to seek higher education. From an early age, Clara had an obvious artistic talent and attended art school at Cleveland's Western Reserve School of Design for Women (2: An Early Sense of Direction). Eager to leave Ohio, she - like lots of women of that era who were intrigued by the industrial arts movement - moved to New York (14: Selective Disassociation).

She enrolled at the Metropolitan Museum Art School, and was hired by Tiffany in 1888; four years later she was named director of the "Tiffany Studios' Women's Glass Cutting Department." These women chose the colors, size and type of glass pieces for the popular windows, mosaics and Tiffany lamps. Driscoll became the creative force - director, designer and crafter - of more than 30 iconic designs (like the Daffodil, Dragonfly, Peony, and Wisteria).

When she began working for Louis Comfort Tiffany, she was a 27 year old well educated single woman, but when she became engaged Driscoll had to leave Tiffany's because the company did not allow married women to be employees. After her husband died, she returned to the company and her Dragonfly lamp won first prize at the Paris Exposition of 1900 (8: Turning No Into Yes).

Back in 1902, Dsiscoll wrote home to her family that 15 of the Wisteria lamps that she had designed had been sold for $350 each. In today's dollars that price would be several thousand dollars. By 1905, 123 Wisteria lamps had been made, and Tiffany's took orders for them for years afterwards. In 1904, the New York Daily News included Driscoll as one of a handfull of remarkable women who made "$10,000 a year or more" (13: More Than Meets the Eye).

Her lamps became so popular, and demand was so great, that she had to give classes to the male employees on how to properly cut the glass pieces. It was another example of s female achieving an unusual level of authiority (5: Life is Not a Popularity Contest).

In 1909, she left the company for good, and after that the women's staff shrunk, and tastes changed with the advent of World War I. Had it not been for the discovery of her historically priceless letters, the talented Clara Driscoll might have never been recognized for her inmpressive body of work. In 2006, the New York Historical Society's exhibit in her honor "A New Light on Tiffany" introduced her designs to the public, and the following year "A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls" was published.

Looking forward to your comments...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

134: The Self-Empowered Woman Sheryl Sandberg

Dear Followers,

Today's profile is of a 42 year old, Harvard-educated executive who is expected to become - probably next month - one of the richest women in America. Sheryl Sandberg grew up in Florida, where she was "always at the top of her class" (10: The Critic Within). Her aerobic students (she taught when she was in high school) would probably be astounded that the teenage girl in Spandex grew up to become a $ 1.6 Billion Woman.

While at Harvard, she kept an extremely low profile and later admitted that she "really fooled" her male classmates during seminars because she "did not speak or raise her hand, but went on to join Phi Beta Kappa, and win the honor of being "Top Graduating Student in Economics" (13: More Than Meets the Eye). Perhaps the best bonus was winning the support of Larry Summers, who was her professor (and later her mentor) at both The World Bank and the U.S. Treasury Department (4: Supportive Someone).

She earned her MBA - with highest distinction - and landed high-profile jobs in New York. But when she accepted Mark Zuckerberg's offer to become Facebook's COO, it was the "alignment" of a great talent complete with social skills, ambition, and smarts (who enjoys tackling the problems that her boss wants to avoid), joined with one of the free-thinking founding fathers of social media.

Sandberg is admired for her ability to keep Facebook running smoothly, as well as her motivation to promote women whenever possible. According to The New York Times, it has become Ms. Sandberg's "cause" (7: Magnificent Obsession). She also serves on the boards of Disney, Starbucks and Women for Women International.

Sandberg's first marriage ended in divorce, and in 2004, she married David Goldberg (CEO of SurveyMonkey); they have two young children. She and her husband are building a large, modern home (rumored to be over 9,200 square feet), and sure to be one of the largest houses in Menlo Park (Silicon Valley). Whether other residents like the idea of a "trophy house" in their neighborhood is of little concern to Sandberg (5: Life is Not a Popularity Contest).

Sandberg's honors include:

  • 50 "Most Powerful Women in Business," Fortune magazine 2007 - to the present

  • 50 "Women to Watch," The Wall Street Journal

  • No 5 "World's 100 Most Powerful Women," Forbes

  • 25 "Most Influential People on the Web," Business Week

Her name is bound to be all over the media in the near future because many believe that she will rank "among the richest self-made women in America,"; wealthier than Meg Whitman ($1.3 billion), but not as rich as Oprah ($2.7 billion).

Looking forward to your comments...