A century and counting: How girls camp has (and hasn’t) changed since 1912

Girls camp photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom.

A Young Women camp group meets during their annual camping trip. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

The first Young Women camp was held during the summer of 1912 when the Liberty Stake in Salt Lake City took the girls in the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association (the forerunner to today’s Young Women organization) to the mountains beyond Murray for a weeklong camping excursion.

Today, young women all around the world participate in a wide variety of young women camp experiences. A worldwide church means that no two camps are exactly alike, but official Church guidelines provide some uniformity.

Here are some ways that Young Women camp has changed (and stayed the same) throughout its century-long history.

Length of camp

In 1912, the young women camped for one week.

Today, Church guidelines say that camp is generally held for three to six days.

Preparing food

In 1912, the young women practiced preparing simple, nutritious meals in preparation for the cooking they would do at camp.

Today, several Young Women camp certification items require young women to cook at least one or two meals while at camp.


In 1912, a large cabin accommodated 12 cots (which had straw mattresses) and included shelves for the girls’ personal belongings.

Today, young women sleep in a wide variety of accommodations. Official guidelines only say, “The type of camping ranges from primitive and tent camping to camping in developed facilities with cabins or other structures. With careful planning, the goals of Young Women camp and camp certification can be accomplished in whatever setting and amount of time are available.”

Financing camp

In 1912, each ward in the Liberty Stake prepared entertainment to advertise and raise money for the camp. After several events, the stake had raised the $365.27 it needed to build the camp — that equates to about $8,800 in 2016 money.

Today, ward and stake leaders are encouraged to use money from the ward budget to pay for camp. If funds are insufficient, “leaders may ask participants to pay for part or all of it. If funds from participants are not sufficient, the bishop may authorize one group fundraising activity each year that complies with (official Church) guidelines.”

Instruments at camp

At the first girls camp, a piano was transported to camp and placed in the sleeping room.

Today, the Young Women Camp Manual includes music for the guitar, ukulele, autoharp, electronic keyboard and piano.

Purposes of camp

After the first girls camp in 1912, one young woman wrote, “Thus passed by the week in August, and the girls they journeyed homeward, in the twilight sad and happy, sad to leave the camp and swimming, glad to be at home with loved ones, filled with joy and blissful memories, looking forward to the next year.”

Today, “Young Women Camp: A Guide for Priesthood and Young Women Leaders” states that “Camp is an opportunity for young women to practice patterns of gospel living away from worldly influences and the challenges they may face in their daily lives. Everything … at camp should help young women come unto Christ by confirming their identity as daughters of God, recognizing and cultivating the Spirit, keeping baptismal covenants, and preparing for their future roles.

Information regarding the first Young Women camp comes from lds.org.


Breanna Olaveson worked in the magazine industry before taking her writing from full-time to nap time with the birth of her first daughter. Her work has appeared in the Ensign, Liahona and New Era magazines, as well as Utah Valley Magazine, Utah Valley BusinessQ, Utah Valley Bride and the Provo Daily Herald. She lives in Utah county with her husband and three children. She blogs at www.breannaolaveson.com.

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