Camp Fire Girls

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CAMP FIRE GIRLS. The origin of the Camp Fire Girls belongs to a larger, complex history of scouting in America. Two early promoters of the scouting movement were Earnest Thompson Seton and Daniel Beard. Seton established an organization for boys called the Woodcraft Indians in 1902 and Daniel Beard began an organization for boys called the Sons of Daniel Boone in 1905. The themes of the two organizations varied, but both influenced the establishment of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. The sister organization to the Boy Scouts became the Camp Fire Girls, initially evolving from a lone New England camp run by Luther and Charlotte Gulick.

Dr. Luther Gulick was a well-known and respected youth reformer. His wife, Charlotte Gulick, was interested in child psychology and authored books and articles on hygiene. After consulting with Seton, Mrs. Gulick decided on using his Indian narrative as a camp theme. The name of the camp and motto was "Wo-He-Lo," an Indian-sounding word that was short for "Work, Health, and Love." Following the Woodcraft model, Mrs. Gulick focused on nature study and recreation. That first year they had seventeen young girls in camp singing songs and learning crafts. A year later William Chauncy Langdon, poet, social worker, and friend of the Gulicks, established another girls' camp in Thetford, Vermont, that followed the Woodcraft model. He was the first to coin the name "Camp Fire Girls."

In 1911 Luther Gulick convened a meeting at the Horace Mann Teachers College to entertain the ways and means of creating a national organization for girls along the lines of the Boy Scouts. Seton's wife, Grace, and Beard's sister, Lina, were both involved in the early organization and lobbied for a program that adopted Indian and pioneer themes. In 1912 the organization was incorporated as the Camp Fire Girls, and chapters soon sprang up in cities across the country. In the summer of 1914 between 7,000 and 8,000 girls were involved in the organization and a decade and a half later there were nearly 220,000 girls meeting in 9,000 local groups. The Camp Fire Girls remained an important part of the scouting movement throughout the twentieth century. The name was changed to the Camp Fire Boys and Girls in the 1970s when boys were invited to participate, and in 2001 the organization became known as Camp Fire U.S.A.


Deloria, Philip. Playing Indian. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998.

Eells, Eleanor. History of Organized Camping: The First 100 Years. Martinsville, Ind.: American Camping Association, 1986.

Schmitt, Peter J. Back to Nature: The Arcadian Myth in Urban America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1969.


See alsoGirl Scouts of the United States of America .

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Camp Fire Boys and Girls

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