Now simply known as Campfire today, this outdoor educational organization began as the Campfire Girls more than 100 years ago in Maine.
Traditionally excluded from groups like the Boy Scouts, young women were rarely encouraged to explore the outdoors in the early 20th century. Seeking to change this, Luther and Charlotte Gulick were inspired by early girls’ camps in Vermont and began bringing young girls to their Sebago Lake camp in 1910.
Called Camp WoHeLo (standing for Work, Health, Love), girls took part in outdoor activities designed to build social networks and teach valued skills. Much like the Boy Scouts, the Campfire Girls could earn badges and rise through the ranks, from Wood Gatherer, to Fire Maker and finally to Torch Bearer.
Many outdoor organizations at the turn of the century participated in patriarchal gender-specific activities while also playing into indigenous stereotypes, however, much has changed since the early days. The Campfire organization became co-ed in 1975 and added sexual orientation to its inclusionary policy in 1993.
Starting from a small camp in Maine, generations of young girls were inspired to explore and build confidence found in the great outdoors.
(Vintage Photo Credit: Collections of Maine Historical Society, courtesy of VintageMaineImages.com, item No. 6620, 12883)