Skip to main content

Camp Fire Girls collection

Identifier: RHC-180

Content Description

Collection of handbooks, magazines, printed ephemera, uniforms, scrapbooks and diaries, organizational reports, and artifacts relating to the Camp Fire Girls youth scouting organization, spanning from around 1912 to the mid 1960s.


  • circa 1912-1966


Access to Materials

Collection is open for research use. Materials may be accessed by request at Special Collections and University Archives in Seidman House. Materials do not circulate.

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is the physical property of Grand Valley State University, but all literary rights are retained by the original creators of materials, their estates, heirs, or third parties. It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure appropriate permissions for publication beyond the bounds of fair use.

Historical Note

The Camp Fire Girls of America (later Camp Fire Boys and Girls, Camp Fire USA, and Camp Fire) was the first nonsectarian, multicultural youth scouting organization for girls in the United States. The organization was founded by Mrs. Charles Farnsworth, preceptress of the Horace Mann School near Thetford, Vermont, along with Luther Gulick, M.D., and his wife, Charlotte Vedder Gulick. In 1907, the Gulicks had established Camp WoHeLo, a camp for girls, on Lake Sebago, near South Casco, Maine. Collaborating with Mrs. Farnsworth, the Gulicks formally organized the Camp Fire Girls in 1912, styling it in large part after the Boy Scouts of America.

Camp Fire Girls was organized into local "Camp Fires," which ranged in size from six to twenty girls of about the same age and maturity. Local Camp Fires were lead by an adult "Guardian." Membership in the Camp Fire Girls was avaiable to any girl 12 years of age and older. Younger girls were eligible to participate in the "Blue Birds" auxiliary organization. Participants in the Camp Fire Girls were elligible to attain three ranks, (1) Wood Gatherer, (2) Fire-Maker, and (3) Torch-Bearer. Each rank had its own associated requirments, emblems and badges. The symbolism and iconography embraced by the organization appropriated American Indian culture, and is most notable in its uniforms and ceremonial dresses, leatherwork vests and badges, and beaded headbands and necklaces.

In its earliest days, the Camp Fire Girls stated purpose was to "perpetuate the spiritual ideals of the home under the new conditions of a social community..." by showing that "the common things of daily life are the chief means of beauty, romance and adventure; to aid in the forming of habits making for health and vigor, the out-of-door habit and the out-of-door spirit; to devise ways of measuring and creating standards of a woman's work; to give girls the opportunity to learn how to 'keep step,' to learn team work through doing it; to help girls and women to serve the community, the larger home, in the same ways that they have always served the individual home; to give status and social recognition to the knowledge of the mother and thus restore the intimate relationship of mothers and daughters to each other; to develop a sympathetic understanding of economic relationship with which women come in contact."

In 1975, the Camp Fire Girls changed its membership policy to include boys, and changed its name to Camp Fire Boys and Girls. The organization continued to evolve in the late 20th century and continues to operate as Camp Fire today.


8.75 Linear feet (8 boxes)

Language of Materials



Collection is organized into five series: 1) Handbooks, 2) Magazines, 3) Subject Files, 4) Uniforms and Artifacts, and 5) Diaries and Scrapbooks.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Ecclectibles, January 2020.


Guide to the Camp Fire Girls Collection, RHC-180
Annie Benefiel
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Valley State University Special Collections and University Archives Repository

Seidman House
1 Campus Drive
Allendale MI 49401 United States