Women Making History: Camp Carysbrook, Empowering Women since 1923
On this International Women’s Day, we’d like to recognize the courageous women who pioneered Camp Carysbrook into existence and the brave women who have followed in their footsteps to fan the flames and be the light for girls and women around the world.
Katherine and Caperton Preston built the foundation for a safe place where women could thrive and grow at a time when most women were just beginning to find the confidence to follow their convictions. They recognized that finding your way and learning what you are made of in a rustic environment, without the distractions of the modern world, is an incredibly valuable education that builds the character, compassion, and confidence that is necessary to be successful. They knew that women had the potential not only to dance but also to horseback ride and to explore the world around them on wooded trails and by canoeing down the river. They created a legacy that would continue to fuel the hopes and dreams of women to realize their own unique potential off the grid and beyond the confines of any historical era. They cultivated a spirit of “noblesse oblige”, the sense that because of your privilege, your success and standing in this world, you have an obligation to give back. The countless campers they shaped into pioneering, strong women who continue to give back to our community is a testament to the Prestons.
And when Toni Baughman saw the flicker of that campfire in 1980, the history, tradition, and promise for young women to develop a sense of self-worth outside the fast pace of an ever-changing world, she rekindled the embers of the Prestons’ Carysbrook. Toni created an environment dedicated to authenticity and diversity in a world still uncertain of what that could look like. With the help of B.B. Strum, whose creativity and inspiration shined a light on Toni’s vision, Camp Carysbrook continued to be a beacon in a world becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. That legacy lives on as Carysbrook and communities around the world absorb the impact of the difference that these women’s contributions have made in the form of strong female leaders in a broad range of fields like education, environmentalism, business, medicine, sports, the arts, government, and growing the next generation of women and the men to support their success.
After Toni’s passing, the Baughman sisters, Rachel Gannaway, Laura Devereux, and Sarah Baughman, stood committed to never letting the flames die out. In a world that saw the internet, cellphones, and technology infiltrate every inch of society, disrupting our concept of all that we knew to be possible, they stayed dedicated to the vision of a safe place for girls to reboot in a natural environment and learn the skills needed to navigate the world around them.
And so the cycle continues with the passionate commitment of campers and staff who continue to carry out the mission and philosophy of Camp Carysbrook. These women spent their formative years at Carysbrook and they truly are the spark that keeps the fire going. Today and every day, we are deeply grateful for the Carysbrook founders and owners/operators, our alumnae, staff, campers and their families, all of whom recognize that there is something special about the 24149 and therefore choose to renew their commitment to outdoor adventure and the far-reaching power of a diverse community of women who believe in themselves and have the courage to forge a path for those who will come after them.
Today we celebrate the achievements of women around the world, and Erika and I are proud to continue to play a part in shaping the lives of women near and far who go on to change the world at Camp Carysbrook and beyond, in part because the community at Camp Carysbrook believed it was possible. So here’s to 95 more as we celebrate International Women’s Day!
by Colleen Hagan Egl