Forty years ago, 87 Butterflies and Cardinals were spotted in Culver’s Woodcraft Camp. That summer of 1977 marked the debut of girls at the camp.
The Culver Academy for Girls ( now Culver Girls Academy) had been launched just six years earlier, and the Summer School for Girls six years before that. Under the direction of Janet (Stannard) Kline, girls’ units – Butterflies and Cardinals – joined the Woodcraft boys in classes, though sports remained separate.
Girls were also not permitted to march in retreats and parades during that first summer, a policy which wouldn’t change until 1985, the year female campers also became eligible for staff positions on the battalion and regimental levels.
The summer of ’77 saw Cardinals and Butterflies enjoy their own Tippecanoe River trip and attend two “record hops” and two square dances with the Beaver and Cub Golds. Girls also became part of Woodcraft’s Council Fire performances in 1977.
Kline remembers receiving a phone call in 1976 from Illinois neighbors Paul ’49 and Ellen Gignilliat that Culver would be opening a girls section of the camp the following summer, and that she should apply for the director’s position.
“I had worked in the northern Wisconsin area in girls camps with maybe 125 girls,” she said, adding she was “taken aback” by the beauty of the campus on her first visit to Culver.
“When you start any new job, you have to pay close attention to the traditions you’re walking into,” she notes. With that in mind, she set out to respect the established traditions of the camp, while bringing in some new ones specific to the girls.
Among these were all-counselor talent shows, Tootsie Roll Relays, and the ever-popular “Mexican Christmas,” during which stockings were hung and a Mexican dinner enjoyed by the girls.
“The boys didn’t have that (sort of ‘fun’ activity) at all,” said Kline, “and they started watching us. I thought, ‘This isn’t fair,’ so we started a field day for them. I felt that helped bring the camps together.”
Another “fun” memory unique to the girls’ side of the camp took place during Kline’s first or second summer.
“We filled water balloons and got the girls up before reveille. Some of our counselors had horses and the girls rode through camp and kind of attacked the boys. All those little girls thought it was wonderful!”
The young women staffing the girls’ side of the Woodcraft camp were “just terrific,” Kline said. When she became the first female director of the entire Woodcraft Camp in 2000, one policy Kline worked to institute was adding military rank to the girls’ counselors’ titles, where previously they had been addressed only as “Miss” despite military rank assigned to male staffers.
One counselor, Kline added, started as a homesick camper who climbed into her bed in the camp every morning at five.
“She eventually went through Upper Camp and winter school and came back to be a counselor. Now she’s a doctor.”
The first Woodcraft Girls’ Director has countless similar stories from her eight summers in the position, during which the number of Cardinals and Butterflies grew from 87 to 225.
“Starting the girls’ camp was very challenging – it was not very easy, and it wasn’t always very popular,” Kline, who became part of the boarding school staff in 1982, said. “But it grew. And I loved it.”