From The Lean-To: The Camp Fire Girls

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The Camp Fire Girls was informally started in 1910 as the sister organization to the Boy Scouts of America. Luther Halsey Gulick and his wife Charlotte established Camp WoHeLo (“WOrk, HEalth, and LOve”), a camp for girls, on Lake Sebago, near South Casco, Maine. There were seventeen maidens at the camp in the summer of 1910.

On March 22, 1911 Dr. Gulick organized a meeting “To consider ways and means of doing for the girls what the Boy Scout movement is designed to do for the boys”. A month later, on April 10, 1911 James E. West, executive secretary of the Boy Scouts, issued a press release from Boy Scouts headquarters announcing that with the success of the Boy Scout movement a group of preeminent New York men and women were organizing a group to provide outdoor acitivites for girls, similar to those in the Boy Scout movement. Camp Fire Girls of America was incorporated in Washington, D.C, as a national agency on March 17, 1912.

Sadly, the name Camp Fire Girls was thrown out the window in the mid-70s when the organization, now called Camp Fire USA, became co-ed. Way to stick to your guns there…

But the real reason that the Camp Fire Girls are of note here, in the days of internet findings and ways to get distracted from the work we need to get done, is the books. Yes, the Camp Fire girls books. Between 1912 and 1918, Irene Benson published six books with Camp Fire in them, and in 1913 Margaret Vandercook (names that are completely meaningless, but Wikipedia does exist), started a series of Camp Fire Girls books which portrayed many activities, rituals, and ceremonies of Camp Fire, including their summer camps.

The books are amazing, with illustrations, photos and sections with titles like “RULES OF THE CAMPFIRE.” For anyone interested in an old, somewhat creepy lure of the woods, cruise Ebay and get your hands on a few. They're well worth it. Or, if you're good at the internet, you can look around here, here, here and here.

–Jeff Thrope is the founder and editor of Cold Splinters. For more ways to pretend you're sleeping under the stars instead of reading the Internet, visit and

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