Early 1900’s camping and hiking for women: the “dos & donts”

Dingman's Falls, Indian Ladder, 1907

Zillah Trewin, seated on the right (age 24), Dingman’s Falls, Indian Ladder, 1907

Grandma Zillah Trewin (b. 1883), seen in the photo above, was a city girl through and through, but like many city dwellers, both then and now, she loved to escape to the great outdoors, especially in the summer. In 1907, she took numerous photos with her little Brownie camera of her adventures in eastern Pennsylvania, in the verdant, waterfall-festooned landscape in and around Dingman’s Falls. Once married, the Great Smoky Mountains and New Hampshire‘s peaks became her summer playgrounds.

Photograph of Girl Scout Camp on Hungry Jack Lake Description. Record creator Department of Agriculture. Forest Service. Region 9 (Eastern Region). Current location National Archives and Records Administration (Wikimedia: public domain)

Photograph of Girl Scout Camp on Hungry Jack Lake. Current location National Archives and Records Administration (Wikimedia: public domain)

Did she ever “rough it”? I highly doubt it. I’m sure she never set foot in a pup tent, let alone slept out under the stars.

The late 1800s and early 1900s, however, saw lots of women wanting to get in on the action of what was, up until then, much more of a man’s activity—hiking out into the woods far away from civilization to truly get away from it all in a primitive camp setting. But one thing top of mind for women, something that was enough to hold them back from such rustic outdoor adventures, was “what to wear?”. Long skirts were highly impractical; short skirts verboten. So what was a girl to do? The answer was “knickers” (not the British variant, obviously)—loose-fitting short pants gathered just below the knee.

Camp Fire Girls of America at Sebago Lake in 1916; Source Library of Congress; Author: Bain (Wikimedia: public domain)

Camp Fire Girls of America at Sebago Lake in 1916; Source Library of Congress; Author: Bain (Wikimedia: public domain)

A visit to a couple of blogs that focus on all things vintage will give you a glimpse of what women were wearing for camping out and going hiking during the first part of the 20th century as they explored our nation’s scenic parks and other natural areas.

A woman’s first-hand account of her experiences making the switch from home-dweller to outdoor explorer can be found below, as can a lengthy article exploring the essentials a woman must consider when getting together a wardrobe suitable for camping. Both are worth a read if you have time.

For your convenience, I am including the relevant pages here. So I hope you will enjoy, and maybe even get a bit of a kick out of “A Woman’s Camping Outfit” by Sara Stokes Baxter (Outing magazine, Volume LIV, The Outing Publishing Company, 1909, pp. 634-638) and “A Woman on the Trail” by Rena N. Phillips (Outing magazine, Volume XLIV, The Outing Publishing Company, 1904, pp. 585-589)—both digitized by Google Books for Archives dot org. (Thank you, Google Books!)


Dingman's Falls, 1907

Dingman’s Falls, 1907

Categories: Hiking, Nature, Trewin | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Early 1900’s camping and hiking for women: the “dos & donts”

  1. I suppose it took a strong woman to survive the frontier as it was back then! Great history lesson here!

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