Runoia Suffragettes

Whether it’s the fact that it is Halloween, or the fact that the midterms loom before us (fraught with fear and with some, determination and stamina), it seems appropriate to talk about voting and scary times in our nation’s history, including women suffragettes and their organization and strong voices that changed the US constitution and gave women the right to vote in the United States.

US citizens, who were men, regardless of their race, were allowed to vote in 1870 after the 15thamendment to the US constitution. We are thankful for the people who helped make that happen nearly 150 years ago.

Women’s suffrage in the United States came about through a lot of effort of a lot of people with women leading the charge for their right to vote. The 19thamendment to the US constitution was passed by Congress in 1920 and women were finally able to vote. That’s less than 100 years ago in our history. (So, wow!)

What is unbelievable to me is that the two women who founded Camp Runoia in 1907 did not have the right to vote. And that for the first 13 years of summer camp at Runoia on Great Pond, the directors and counselors at camp, who were of voting age, were not able to have a voice in who represented them… and yet they charged on.

They built a camp, they moved a camp (from Loon Cove to our present location in 1914), they designed and built buildings, marketed the experience, rode horses the 12 miles to Augusta to get supplies, hired local drivers and builders, grew food in gardens, built wells and pumped water, took campers on trips around the state from the rock bound coast to the lakes and mountains, ran drill teams, read the classics, wrote and sang songs, ran track and played basketball and canoed all over the state of Maine. They swam in the lake in long wool bathing suits and slept under canoes on wool blankets when on trips. They bought a car and made a summer camp bringing girls from all over the Northeast to live with other girls and women at a camp on a lake in Maine to have a profound outdoor camp experience. How daring!

To their credit, they built a camp before they could even vote to influence the laws that ruled them while they were building a camp. If I were to dress up this Halloween, I would dress as a Runoia Suffragette.

This picture is from the 1920 and Constance Dowd (the very first camper enrolled at Runoia) blowing the bugle outside the Dining Hall. Radical! Thanks to Matti Bradley who contributed the photo from her mother (Joan “Baynie” Williams)  camp memorabilia.

First Camper, Constance Dowd, as a Counselor


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