Every year on May 22, The United States observes National Maritime Day, a holiday created in 1933 to recognize the maritime industry. It was May 22, 1819 that the American steamship, Savannah, set sail from Savannah, Georgia on the first ever transoceanic voyage under steam power. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Division, “The United States has always been and will always be a great maritime nation. From our origins as 13 British colonies, through every period of peace and conflict since, the Merchant Marine has been a pillar in this country’s foundation of prosperity and security. They power the world’s largest economy and strengthen our ties with trading partners around the world, all while supporting our military forces by shipping troops and supplies wherever they need to go.”
So what exactly is the Merchant Marine? The Merchant Marine is the fleet of ships which carries imports and exports during peacetime and becomes a naval auxiliary during wartime to deliver troops and war material. People who are in the Merchant Marine are referred to as mariners, seamen, seafarers, or sailors, but never Marines. People who are in the Merchant Marine are not military! They are civilians, just like us, and they were crucial to victory in World War II.
The Mariner Girl Scout program was officially launched in 1934, just one year after National Maritime Day was created in the United States. It was created for Senior Girl Scouts who were interested in nautical activities and whose troops had access to a body of water large enough to permit a comprehensive program of Mariner activities. By 1938, only one year before the launch of WWII in Europe when Germany invaded Poland, the Mariner Scout program had swept quickly throughout the country reaching a total registration of 3,484.
Although the Mariner Scout program was officially discontinued in 1963, today it has been re-instituted in a much smaller form.
Fun fact: Juliette Gordon Low was born and raised in Savannah, Ga., the same place from which the steamship Savannah set sail for the first ever transoceanic voyage. As a child, Juliette Low was sometimes affectionately called “the little ship under full sail” by her family!
Any Girl Scout will tell you that at least once in her life, she would like to visit the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace or that the visit to the Birthplace was one of the highlights of her Girl Scout career. Located in Savannah, Georgia, the house on East Oglethorpe Avenue is where Juliette “Daisy” Gordon was born on October 31, 1860.
Girl Scouts of the USA purchased the Gordon home, also known as the Wayne-Gordon House, in 1953 from Mrs. George Arthur Gordon. Restoration of the house has been almost continual since then. In 2007 a study was conducted by an engineering firm to help plan for the structural restoration and updating the facade of the house. Work began in January 2009 and will be complete by the end of 2011 with the restorations of the garden.
The Birthplace has teamed up with the National Trust for Historic Preservation with the “This Place Matters” campaign to honor your favorite places and make a call to protect, enhance and enjoy the places that matter to all of us. Every troop who visits the Birthplace takes a picture of the troop together, holding a sign that says “This Place Matters,” because all Girl Scouts do care about the Birthplace.
You can also help the house by joining the Circle of Friends, by making a donation to the Preservation and Travelship Endowments, or through a planned gift. The annual membership contributions to the Circle of Friends continue to grow the critical preservation endowment that will fund future maintenance and preservation projects for our irreplaceable National Historic Landmark site.
Today is the 99th Birthday of Girl Scouting! Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low assembled 18 girls from Savannah, Georgia, on March 12, 1912, for a local Girl Scout meeting. She believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually. With the goal of bringing girls out of isolated home environments and into community service and the open air, Girl Scouts hiked, played basketball, went on camping trips, learned how to tell time by the stars, and studied first aid.
Share with us how have you been celebrating!