Empowering Girls Isn’t A New IdeaPosted by on March 27, 2018

In a few short weeks we will begin Fernwood Cove’s twentieth summer.  We continue to plan for this summer and the many summers to come.  However as we look towards the future it’s important that we stay connected with the past.  Fernwood Cove is Maine’s first half-season girls camp.  It is hard to believe that something we are so connected to and familiar with was a new idea just twenty short years ago.  In comparison to other camps in Maine and New England, Fernwood Cove is still young.  However our traditions and values are steeped in almost one hundred years of camping.  While many things have changed, it’s clear that empowering girls has been a key focus no matter the era, camp session length, or location.

We are lucky to remain connected to those values that empower girls.   More importantly, we continue to be connected to the individuals who helped instill the values in the Fernwood Cove community.  In this blog we take a bit of a detour from our typical route and feature an interview with one of Fernwood Cove’s first directors, Gaby King Morse.  Hopefully you’ll see as we did that empowering girls isn’t a new idea.  It’s something that has been around since the earliest days of camping.

Generations of Empowering Girls

Gaby is the great-grand daughter of Dr. Julius Bluhm, founder of Camp Fernwood.  Gaby spent her summers in Maine at Camp Fernwood.  She grew up seeing her grandmother, Macky King, and parents, Claire & Mike King, lead camp each summer.  Gaby naturally moved into the administrative side of camp as a young adult where she worked alongside the Camp Fernwood owners and directors.  Gaby became one of the founding directors of Fernwood Cove, helping establish the historic Fernwood values her family had fostered for multiple generations into the new camp community.  She credits her mother Claire and grandmother Macky with modeling many of the leadership traits that she used as a girls camp director, and still uses today.

Almost 100 years ago your great grandfather founded Camp Fernwood.  Twenty years ago, Fernwood Cove was founded on many of the same values that he envisioned.  His desire to create a learning community for girls outside of girls is something that still holds significant value today.  As someone who has grown up surrounded by and lived the summer camp life, how do you feel the traditions and values instilled by your grandfather have impacted the lives of generations of girls?

Here’s something interesting, in terms of tradition I don’t know where my great grandfather ended and Macky began.  But I will tell you that I went to Macky’s 75th Wellsley reunion and it was very clear where many of the traditions of Fernwood began.  Julius had a daughter and that’s why he created a girls camp.  He was an educator who incorporated a lot of Ethical Culture philosophies into camp.

I think so many of use are trying to get back to what makes a strong community and what that means.  In that way camp is always going to be so relevant, and maybe so much more today.

Twenty Years ago Fernwood Cove was embarking on it’s first summer.  What was that like?  What were the challenges?

It was super exciting.  I’ve always felt it’s the only place where you can create an environment and the people will go with you.  We really had the programming in place.  It was more about the culture.  And it was about combining the thoughts and feelings of all of the directors, traditions of summer camp, and the modern culture of society.

First we created the story of Moxie.  And then we made up songs- we had to determine what songs needed to be created.  Ultimately, we created the lore of Fernwood Cove.  Now twenty years later this has evolved, but it is so important to have in place from the beginning.  It’s something that is overlooked in the creation of many institutions today.  And it makes it so hard to sustain.

Bringing the music was so hard in that first summer.  Song is so powerful- the messages are so critical for girls to hear.  Some of those initial songs remain.  New songs have been created.  And now as a camp parent it’s amazing for our daughter to share camp with her father and I through song.  It brings camp to us.  As adults we can get so serious.  And camp reminds you to cultivate the “goofy” in life.

Empowering Girls For The Future

I can only imagine the many stories you heard from Macky or Claire about their camp experiences.  What camp (or life) lessons did you learn from your mother and grandmother that you utilized as a director, or utilize now?

So much was about the values you should have as a person.  Mom wasn’t necessarily great at management, but she understood child development.  She was the one who shifted the focus to developing counselors in their role as bunk counselors.  She was really invested the idea that we are raising these girls together.  In my first summer I would seek advice on working with parents from her daily.   She coached us all and helped us learn from each other to be better bunk counselors.

Now she helps me be the mom that I need to be for my daughter.  They are so similar and having her there to help me be a great mom for my daughter is amazing.  Her understanding of youth development is a huge part of that.  She’s still coaching me today.

You are now a Fernwood Cove mom, and your daughter is the 5th generation of camping in your family.    How do you camp empowering girls today?

I knew very early on that camp needed to be a part of our kid’s lives.  For both of them.  It’s one of the few places where every person can find something completely in your comfort zone and shine.  That doesn’t happen at school.  At camp you the luxury of not worrying about the academics, and just worrying about everything else.  I believe that’s more important.

My mom shared her insight of being a parent of three kids, only one of which was able to attend overnight summer camp.  She said “you’ve made really different choices in your life.  My sense is that you’ve had a comfort of making bolder choices from the get go.”  So I knew they had to attend camp.

Today’s society is in need of strong, grounded women leaders.  Being able to think about others and the greater community is such an important skill to have.

So many of the campers that we serve are going to hold positions of power in our society in the future.  My mom taught me the importance it is that those girls develop really strong values and ethics in how they see the world.  I see the women I went to Fernwood with doing unbelievable things everywhere, just everywhere.  And I think we’re going to see a lot more of this because camp teaches you that the world is much bigger than yourself.  It allows you to unplug and plug in.  Camp does such important things for kids, and you can only hope that every kid gets to experience it.