Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Joy Camps - Image Gallery Essay

Wisconsin's Camp Craft Camp for Girls, 1930-1955

Joy Camps - Image Gallery Essay | Wisconsin Historical Society
Girls with camp fire. The lake and far shoreline are in the distance.

Campers Cooking Over Open Fire

Hazelhurst, Wisconsin. Joy Camp campers tend a camp fire during a camp craft outing. View the original source document: WHI 108672

This gallery shares more than 100 images from a northern Wisconsin summer camp for girls that operated between 1930 and 1955. These materials, taken from an official camp photo album and scrapbooks created by camper Sue Ann Hackett, document daily camp activity. This included swimming, canoeing, horseback riding, and more rigorous training for overnight camping trips known as "camp craft". Two boxes of related memorabilia, and director Barbara Ellen Joy's book, "Camp Craft: A Manual for Leaders Responsible for Organization of Camp Craft in the Summer Camp", are also available (see links at the bottom of this page).

A Girls' Summer Camp in Northern Wisconsin

EnlargeA camp counselor and young camper look at each other and smile in a rowboat in the water.

Rowboat with Camp Counselor and Camper

Hazelhurst, Wisconsin. A young camper learns to row in a rowboat on Seventeen Lake. View the original source document: WHI 109216

Joy Camps was located on the southwestern edge of Seventeen Lake (called Lake Raymond at the time) in Oneida County, near Hazelhurst, Wisconsin. Barbara Ellen Joy was the camp's founder and one of its two directors; the other was aptly named Marjorie Camp. Barbara Ellen Joy bought the site in 1929 in an area that formerly supported logging. The camp opened for its first season in the summer of 1930, with 40 campers and 15 counselors.

Joy Camps employed a "camp craft" curriculum based on Progressive outdoor education ideals of the time. In addition to traditional summer fare like swimming, boating, and horseback riding, it included fairly rigorous preparation for day and overnight trips in the forest. Girls trained for this by learning how to use knives, hatchets, and axes, and how to pitch tents, build and cook over campfires, erect crude shelters, etc.

EnlargeView across water toward three campers in a canoe who are silhouetted against a sunset over a lake.

Sunset at Joy Camps

Hazelhurst, Wisconsin. Campers canoeing on Seventeen Lake at sunset. View the original source document: WHI 109224

These camp craft activities gave Joy Camps its distinction. Barbara Ellen Joy, known as "Miss Joy" at the camp, lectured and wrote extensively. Her camp craft book, published in 1955, outlined the principles behind her program: girls were expected to master skills which equipped them for "direct contact with nature and with things of and on the earth."

The camp was attended mostly by girls between ages 7 and 17 from affluent families in Illinois and Wisconsin. Joy Camps did no formal advertising—families whose daughters attended the camp served as references for other interested parents. Many campers and their siblings also returned year after year.

Barbara Ellen Joy operated Joy Camps for 25 years. In 1955 she sold it to a couple from Michigan who were also active in youth camping. At the time of the sale, the camp boasted 12 buildings, could accommodate 63 campers, and had a staff of 20 counselors. Between 1930 and 1955, it had mentored more than 1,000 campers and 400 counselors from around the nation.

Records of Joy Camps

EnlargeGroup of campers riding horseback on a trail in a wooded area.

Campers and Camp Counselor Riding on Horseback

Hazelhurst, Wisconsin. A group of campers riding on horseback on a trail at the Joy Camps. View the original source document: WHI 107937

The images in this gallery have been drawn from three photo albums, all donated in 2009 by Sue Ann Hackett, a camper at Joy Camps from 1949 to 1951. One is an official camp photo album that contains over 100 black and white photos depicting campers participating in typical camp craft activities. Most of these photos were taken in the late 1930s and the 1940s. Many of the photos are accompanied by captions expressing Barbara Ellen Joy's enthusiasm and passion for her mission.

Sue Ann Hackett created the other two albums. In these she kept photos of best friends, cabin mates, her favorite camp counselors, and costumes she wore for pageants and parties. She also included some objects made in camp, such as the birch bark prize she won for best costume. A selection of pages with photos and objects from these albums has been scanned for this gallery. The entire contents of both albums can be viewed in the Turning Points in Wisconsin History digital collection. Also available there are other camp memorabilia, including a handmade scrapbook and letters she wrote home to her family in Illinois.

Barbara Ellen Joy

EnlargePortrait of co-directors of Joy Camps.

Joy Camps Directors

Hazelhurst, Wisconsin. Barbara Ellen Joy (on the left) and Marjorie Camp (on the right) were the co-directors of Joy Camps. View the original source document: WHI 109068

Barbara Ellen Joy was from Bar Harbor, Maine. She attended Simmons College in Boston, graduating in 1920, and completed a Master's Degree in education at Columbia University. There she encountered John Dewey and his Progressive education philosophy. She also worked at youth camps in the Adirondacks that were staffed by educators associated with Columbia's famed Camp Leadership Course and later taught in that program herself.

Before founding Joy Camps, Barbara Ellen Joy worked at several girls' camps on the east coast and in the Midwest and also served in leadership roles for numerous national youth camping organizations. Just before buying the land on Seventeen Lake, she served as co-director of Camp Mudjeekee, the Log Cabin Camp for Girls, in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. She was highly regarded in the youth camping field, and among other notable roles over the years, served as vice president and president of the American Camping Association.

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