The items in this online exhibition evoke the stories of American women through the ages.
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Camp Fire Girls dress, 1973

Photo by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute

Photo by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute


Materials documenting girlhood—diaries; scrapbooks; magazines; and camp, school, and organizational records—are one of the strengths of the Library’s collections. Camp Fire Girls (founded in 1912, co-ed since 1975, and called simply Camp Fire since 2012) played an important role in the lives of many girls, including Amy Benson, librarian/archivist for digital initiatives:

“The gown on display represents the culmination of my eight years of participation in the Camp Fire organization. I was six years old in 1971, when my family moved to Newton, Massachusetts, from California. Joining a Camp Fire troop helped me find a place in my new hometown. My troop’s activities included making tactile books for young children at the Perkins School for the Blind, annual camping trips, and eating at a fancy restaurant, where we learned which forks to use when. The beads and badges on the gown signify successful completion of these and countless other activities that focused on service to the community, self-improvement, learning about science and nature, and gaining self-confidence. Many Camp Fire activities and symbols were inspired by the organization’s interpretation of Native American culture. One of our earliest activities was to choose an “Indian” name and symbol for ourselves. What is now viewed as cultural appropriation, was, for me, alluring engagement with another culture that we respected and strove to emulate.”

Amy F. Benson Camp Fire Girls Collection

Catalog record:


Learn more:

Learn about the Schlesinger Library exhibit Summer Camp for Girls: Building Friendships and Campfires.

Heather Min