Wohelo!

The word Wohelo stands for Work, Health, and Love. Per the Camp Fire USA website, when Camp Fire was founded in 1910, “Wohelo was coined as the organization’s watchword.”

Three years after Camp Fire was founded, in Vermont, it had made its way to Hartford. Louise Blair was a member of the Suckiag Camp Fire club. In a small notebook she recorded the law of the Camp Fire:

Seek Beauty
Give Service
Pursue Knowledge
Be Trustworthy
Hold on to Health
Glorify Work
Be Happy

These seven principles are represented among the pages of another notebook kept by Blair. Meeting agendas began with the Wohelo call.

Louise Blair Camp Fire records, 1913-1915, Ms 79896. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

The group pursued knowledge indoors and out, learning sign language, going on nature hikes, and similar activities. There was a heavy Native American influence, evidenced by the name of the group (Suckiag). Each girl was also given a Native American name. At periodic ceremonial meetings, the girls were rewarded for their efforts with beads, used to decorate their uniforms.

Louise Blair Camp Fire records, 1913-1915, Ms 79896. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

The beads were orange for home crafts, red for heath crafts, brown for camp crafts, green for hand crafts, blue for nature lore, yellow for business, and red, white, and blue for patriotism. Some activities were required, such as tying a square knot and opening windows (presumably for the health benefits).

The optional activities included walking 40 miles in 10 days, preparing eggs in four different ways, keeping notes on raising two families of birds, knowing ten city institutions, and making shirtwaists. Each girl’s accomplishments were noted, along with the corresponding bead she would receive.

Louise Blair Camp Fire records, 1913-1915, Ms 79896. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Blair typed up a report of the group’s activities in 1915.  Among other events, the report mentions a joint meeting with a Camp Fire group from South Manchester. We do not know what other towns had groups at the time.

When the author of this post participated in Camp Fire in Glastonbury in the late 1980s, it was still exciting to earn beads and patches. Our activities had changed somewhat, though. While we still took nature hikes and completed craft projects, I can’t imagine any of us knew what a shirtwaist was.

Camp Fire was present in Connecticut until the 1990s. Examples of Camp Fire uniforms may be found among the museum collections. Come visit and research!

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