Written By: Ben Cosgrove

How often is a preteen celebrated as a genuine pioneer? In 1912, in Savannah, Ga., an 11-year-old girl named Daisy Gordon earned that lofty, evocative appellation when she became the first-ever Girl Scout in the United States.

Daisy’s aunt, Juliette Gordon Low—also known as “Daisy” to family and friends—was the founder of the Girl Scouts of America. Juliette was inspired to start the organization during a trip to the United Kingdom in early 1912. When she returned to Savannah in March of that year, she resolved to create a new type of sorority for girls modeled on the Boy Scout movement she’d witnessed and so admired in England. On March 12, 1912, at a “Girl Scout” party at Juliette’s Savannah home, her niece Daisy was the first to sign the new organization’s membership register. The rest, as they say, is history.

Here, more than a century after the founding of the Girl Scouts of America, LIFE.com pays tribute to the GSA with a gallery of pictures featuring none other than “the first Girl Scout,” Daisy Gordon herself.

In its November 22, 1948 issue, LIFE ran a feature titled, like this gallery, “The First Girl Scout.” The subtitle of the article, meanwhile, was even more enticing—”She shows off a new uniform and some old tricks”—and indicated what was to come: namely, pictures of Daisy Gordon Lawrence (47 years old and married when the article appeared) wearing new Girl Scout duds while also showing contemporary Girl Scouts how to tie knots, start a fire with a “firebow” and work semaphore flags.

“Girl Scouts,” LIFE wrote, “have proved an important force in the nation’s youth. Today they can get proficiency badges in anything from journalism to international affairs. When Daisy was a Scout, the program was more violent. Her guidebook taught how to stop runaway horses (‘run as fast as the horse and throw your full weight on the reins’), how to shoot guns, and fly airplanes (‘it is best not to go out in a hurricane.’) ‘Rubber,’ it warned, ’causes paralysis.’ To make First Class Scout a girl had to ‘show a list of 12 satisfactory good turns’ or ‘swim 50 yards in her clothes.’ Daisy stayed Second Class.'”

Daisy remained active in the GSA for years; in 1958 she co-authored a book on her aunt, titled Lady of Savannah: The Life of Juliette Low. Daisy Gordon Lawrence died in Seattle in 1982.

Liz Ronk edited this gallery for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

The First American Girl Scout Daisy Gordon Lawrence in 1948

Daisy Gordon Lawrence with a young scout in 1948.

Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The First American Girl Scout Daisy Gordon Lawrence in 1948

The first uniform officially approved was severe, military and khaki-colored. The new uniform for leaders (right), designed by Mainbocher, was green but still severe.

Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The First American Girl Scout Daisy Gordon Lawrence in 1948

Daisy Gordon Lawrence addressed a crowd in Savannah, Georgia, during a celebration honoring her aunt, Juliette Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of America.

Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The First American Girl Scout Daisy Gordon Lawrence in 1948

Signaling, Mrs. Lawrence waved semaphore flags. She could remember most letters up to M, and also W (above). She had three children; all were boy scouts.

Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The First American Girl Scout Daisy Gordon Lawrence in 1948

Daisy Gordon Lawrence with young scouts in 1948.

Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The First American Girl Scout Daisy Gordon Lawrence in 1948

Lighting a fire with a firebow, Lawrence demonstrated the friction method used in her day. The tinder failed to light. In 1948 the Girl Scouts were using matches.

Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The First American Girl Scout Daisy Gordon Lawrence in 1948

Tying a knot, she made a clove hitch on a tree. In 1948 scouts did less knotting and woodcraft, concentrating more on homemaking and hospital work.

Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The First American Girl Scout Daisy Gordon Lawrence in 1948

Daisy Gordon Lawrence with young scouts in 1948.

Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The First American Girl Scout Daisy Gordon Lawrence in 1948

Daisy Gordon Lawrence schooled young Scouts on first aid in 1948.

Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The First American Girl Scout Daisy Gordon Lawrence in 1948

The Girl Scout Office and Juilette Low Museum in Savannah, Georgia.

Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The First American Girl Scout Daisy Gordon Lawrence in 1948

Daisy Gordon Lawrence in 1948.

Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The First American Girl Scout Daisy Gordon Lawrence in 1948

Daisy Gordon Lawrence walked with young scouts near the Girl Scout office and Juilette Low Museum in Savannah, Georgia.

Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The First American Girl Scout Daisy Gordon Lawrence in 1948

Daisy Gordon Lawrence with a young scout in 1948.

Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

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