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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 768: T-403: Vt-208: MP-71

Records of Camp Onaway, 1908-2021 (inclusive), 1960-2010 (bulk)


Correspondence, brochures, photographs, financial records, audio and videotapes, and motion pictures of Camp Onaway, one of the first girls' camps in the United States. Also includes the organization's web site.


  • Creation: 1908-2021
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960-2010


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. The bulk of the collection is open to research.

The following folders require written permission the written permission of the President of the Onaway Camp Trust: #1CB-3CB, 5CB, 8.15, 11.9-11.14,12.1,12.3-12.4, 12.6 12.8-12.9, 13.1, 13.3, 13.7-13.9, 13.11, 14.2-14.3, 14.5, 14.7-14.11, 15.3, 15.8, 15.10-15.11, 16.8-16.10, 17.1, 17.6-17.7, 17.15, 17.16, 17.21, 18.4, 18.5, 19.1, 21.2, 21.17-21.18, 22.4-22.5, 27.10, 28.2, 28.3, 30.1m. Should Camp Onaway and Onaway Camp Trust cease to exist, previously restricted material older than 50 years will be deemed open and restricted material created within the past 50 years shall be deemed closed.

The following folders are closed for 75 years from date of creation: #8.15-8.17, 11.7-11.8, 12.2, 15.1-15.2, 15.4-15.7, 15.12, 17.11, 18.14-18.15, 19.13, 21.9, and 21.15-21.16. All closed items may be accessed and copied by the President of Onaway Camp Trust or a Trustee so authorized in writing by the President of Onaway Camp Trust.

#32F+B.1v is closed; use digital copy or #33F+B.1v.

An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by Camp Onaway is held by Onaway Camp Trust for as long as Camp Onaway and Onaway Camp Trust exist. Should Camp Onaway and Onaway Camp Trust cease to exist, copyright will be transferred to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures, except that permission to copy material in #1CB-3CB, 5CB, 8.15, 11.9-11.14,12.1,12.3-12.4, 12.6 12.8-12.9, 13.1, 13.3, 13.7-13.9, 13.11, 14.2-14.3, 14.5, 14.7-14.11, 15.3, 15.8, 15.10-15.11, 16.8-16.10, 17.1, 17.6-17.7, 17.15, 17.16, 17.21, 18.4, 18.5, 19.1, 21.2, 21.17-21.18, 27.10, 28.2, and 28.3. must be requested from the President of the Onaway Camp Trust.


17.78 linear feet ((20 file boxes, 2 half file boxes, 1 carton, 7 card file boxes, 1 folio box, 3 folio+ boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 2 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 9 photograph folders, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 7 audiotapes, 2 videotapes, 4 motion pictures.)
.89 Megabytes (4 files)

The collection includes directors' files documenting the management of the camp; brochures; songbooks; photographs; campers' letters home and reminiscences of camp; financial records; a scrapbook; writings by campers; a history of the camp; audio and videotapes and motion pictures; and a time capsule. The camp's web site is being captured periodically as part of Schlesinger Library's web archiving program. Electronic records were received on three 3.5" disks. Disks were imaged using FTK Imager and Duke Data Accessioner and four text documents were converted to PDF/A format. Camp newsletters have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library's Published Materials Division. Most folder titles were created by the processor; those created by Camp Onaway appear in quotation marks.

Series I, Camp administration, 1908-2021 (#1CB-7CB, 8.1-22.5, 30.1m, 29F+B.1m-29F+B.4m, 34.1-34.7, E.1-E.5), documents the operation of Camp Onaway. The series includes camp brochures ranging from the late 1920s to 2012, which reveal the evolution of the camp's programs and scope; financial records; and index cards with information about former campers and staff, organized both by state and by year. The series also contains camp directors' files, including Sunday sermons by Jane Kent, Margaret Stiles, and Lisa Stokes Taylor, articles and manuscripts by Margaret Stiles; and correspondence about the operation of camp (including personnel issues). In addition, the series includes a draft of Helen Stokes Greven's history of Camp Onaway, Let Her Strong and Ageless Be, and the recollections of Rusty MaCarthy, a former camp nurse; Henry Hollister (Mabel Hollister's son); and other campers and staff regarding their experiences at camp. See #T-403.1 - T-403.7 for audiocassettes of staff's reminiscences and #28.1 for campers' and counselors' recollections of Mabel Hollister's era. The series also includes financial records; songbooks; material on camp management and on camp programs, such as riding and dance; a time capsule marking the camp's 100th anniversary; material originally received in electronic format; and the camp's web site. Camp historian Helen Stokes Greven and camp director Lisa Stokes Taylor both attended the camp in the 1950s; see Series II for related letters. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, Campers', aides', and counselors' letters and writings, 1918-2012 (#22.6-28.4, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1, 32FB.1v, 33F+B.1v-34F+B.1v), contains material documenting campers,' counselors,' and aides' experiences at Camp Onaway. The series includes an album of campers' thank you messages to director Caroline Southall; "birchbark boxes" (collections of campers' poems and writings placed into a special box at camp, many of which were read out loud as part of the camp's Sunday evening activities); logs of camp activities, with entries by different campers; and campers' letters home, including letters by future camp historian Helen Stokes Greven and her sister, future camp director Lisa Stokes Taylor. Of particular note are the letters aide Becky Rawson sent home, including a note by Rawson explaining that the letters essentially constituted a diary of her time at camp and that she sent them to her home addressed to herself (#27.3). These letters were numbered sequentially by Rawson. The series also includes a scrapbook (digitized by the Schlesinger Library) compiled by campers in 1935, including specimens of ferns and other plants, pieces of snake skin and hornet's nest, and drawings. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, Photographs, 1911-1969 (#PD.1f+-PD.17), includes a photograph of the camp's first director, Mabel Hollister, with campers; images (both loose and in albums) of camp grounds and cabins and of campers engaging in activities such as riding, swimming, dancing, dramatics, and land sports; and group shots of campers. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online. The series is arranged chronologically.

Series IV, Audiovisual, 1930-2001, undated (#T-403.1 - T-403.7, Vt-208.1 - Vt-208.2, MP-71.1 - MP-71.4) includes a promotional videotape; film footage of activities at the camp; audiotapes of staff's reminiscences about camp, including camp nurse Rusty MaCarthy's remembrances of her friendship with Margaret Stiles ( #T-403.4) and Mabel Hollister's son Henry's recollections of the camp (#T-401.1 - T-403.2). The series also contains a video transfer of movies camper Harriet Barney Lidgerwood made at camp in 1938 and 1939 (#Vt-208.2); the video includes Lidgerwood's 1998 narration. The series is arranged with audiotapes appearing first, followed by motion pictures, and then by videotapes.


Camp Onaway was founded in 1911 by Mabel (Woodbridge) Hollister, a kindergarten teacher, and is located on Newfound Lake in Hebron, New Hampshire. The camp is situated on the site of Camp Redcroft, founded in 1900 by Elizabeth Holt and considered the first camp for girls in the United States. Holt also founded a boys' camp, Camp Mowglis, and after the 1908 season decided to focus her attention on that camp. Hollister sought to create an environment in which girls would be attuned to nature and also develop a strong spiritual sense; she wanted to help girls to know their strengths and become able to stand up for their beliefs, and be prepared to vote when the opportunity came. Aimed at providing opportunities for self-discovery and self-expression for girls, Camp Onaway initially offered "aesthetic" dancing, crafts, hiking, swimming, tennis, and other sports; the program expanded to include swimming, canoeing, sailing and crew, woodworking, sewing, ceramics, and drama during the seven-week camp season. The campers were housed in cabins according to age group, with just two campers per cabin. The camp also provided a training program for former campers interested in becoming camp counselors, and an outdoor leadership program (Onaway Wilderness Leadership Experience, or OWLE), to help former campers develop leadership potential. Camp Onaway's first season, in 1912, had twelve campers; for the 2011-2012 season, the camp had ninety campers, ranging from nine to fifteen years old, eight aides, and twenty four counselors.

Hollister served as director from 1911 to 1937; her successors included Frances M. Frost (1937-1943), Margaret F. Stiles (1944-1966), Eleanor Buell Stanwood (1967-1969), William St. John (1970-1972), Jane Kent (1973-1977), Lisa Stokes Taylor (1978-1983), Caroline Southall (1984-2003), and Anne Connolly (2004-present). In the 1960s Camp Onaway was incorporated as a non-profit educational trust with Onaway parents and alumnae serving on the first Board of Trustees. Helen Stokes Greven, the camp's historian, wrote a history of the camp: Let Her Strong and Ageless Be: Camp Onaway's First 100 Years.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Camp administration 1908-2021 (#1CB-7CB, 8.1-22.5, 30.1m, 29F+B.1m-29F+B.4m, 34.1-34.7, E.1-E.5)
  2. Series II. Campers', aides', and counselors' letters and writings 1918-2012 (#22.6-28.4, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1, 31FB.1v, 32F+B.1v-33F+B.1v)
  3. Series III. Photographs, 1911-1969 (#PD.1f+-PD.17)
  4. Series IV. Audiovisual, 1930-2001, undated (# T-403.1 - T-403.7, Vt-208.1 - Vt-208.2, MP-71.1 - MP-71.4)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2007-M57, 2011-M177, 2011-M193, 2011-M198, 2012-M21, 2013-M123, 2022-M183

The records of Camp Onaway were given to the Schlesinger Library by the board of directors of Camp Onaway, Helen Stokes Greven, Nancy Maresca Piper, Jane Johnson Kent, and Meredith Funston between April 2007 and November 2022.


Donors: Camp Onaway

Accession number: 2007-M57

Processed by: Susan Earle

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library Printed Materials Division:

  1. The Alumnae Circle, 1988-2005
  2. The Nutshell, 1949
  3. Camp Onaway News, 1986-1988
  4. Onaway Rite Away, 1962, 1968-1969
  5. The Onaway Times, 2002

Processing Information

Processed: December 2013

By: Susan Earle, with the assistance of Emily Underwood.

Updated: October 2017

By: Susan Earle

Updated: November 2022

By: Johanna Carll

Camp Onaway (Hebron, N.H.). Records of Camp Onaway, 1908-2012 (inclusive), 1960-2010 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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