The Home Demonstration Club (HDC) helped further women’s talents, gain confidence, and allowed them to be active in local communities. The Arkansas State Council of Home Demonstration Clubs met annually but in 1933 they began the tradition of holding a camp that coincided with the annual meeting. Connie Bonslagel was the state home demonstration agent from 1917 until her passing in 1950. One of her most creative accomplishments during her time in Arkansas was the Home Demonstration Council Camp. The influence of the camps brought new life to the women in Arkansas. The Home Demonstration Council Camp was a chance for the HDC members to gather at a state level to learn new skills, enjoy activities away from home obligations, and enjoy helpful lectures. Today, the memories of those clubs are preserved in scrapbooks at the Arkansas State Archives.
Women Arriving at Camp Pike (1933) by Arkansas State ArchivesArkansas State Archives
Women Arriving at Camp Pike
The Home Demonstration Council Camp was a chance for these women to not only learn from one another but also rest. These women were not expected to cook, clean or worry about any other their usually duties. The publicity created to promote the camp pitched it as a rest camp. This was partly why the camp attracted so much attention.
Registering for Camp (1937) by Arkansas State ArchivesArkansas State Archives
Registering for Camp
The registration fee the first year was either $1.50 or 50 cans of food upon arrival. Women who opted to bring food from this list only paid the registration fee of .50. This meant that if someone decided not to bring food the camp cost $2.00.
Camp Pike had plenty of items that were utilized by the campers. Tents, mess halls, meeting hall, and swimming pool were just a few. The camp experiences did require campers to bring the necessities. The women were responsible for items such as bedding, toiletries, silverware, cups, and plates. These women experienced life as a true camper. Although the women had almost complete control over what happened at the camp there were certain things that had to be discussed and decided before the camp happened. Major Harris admitted that the job of making 1,200 women comfortable was a tough one, but for the most part he tried to stay out of their way. However, there were certain matters where Harris had to be involved. In a letter, he asked for an estimated number of women that attended the camp. General E. L. Compere informed Bonslagel that the equipment located at the camp was there to utilize if they so wished.
Sleeping in Tents (1936) by Arkansas State ArchivesArkansas State Archives
Sleeping in Tents
Getting to know new people was a big part of what this camp so important. The camp provided tents for the women to use. Tents provided for the women to use. Inside the tent, one found a cot for resting, but women were to bring their bedding for comfort. These tents slept six to eight women per tent. Going along with the camp experience women were assigned to a tent usually with the hope that these ladies met someone new. There were also daily tent inspections to make sure that they were being kept clean. Lists were available in each tent so that the campers were informed of what was needed in order for the camp to stay in good condition.
It was no easy task to make sure all these campers were appropriately fed which made the food preparations a vital part of planning this event. Seeing as though funds were limited the camp committee had to get creative with this part. Finding cooks, food donations, campers paying for camp with canned foods was all be a part of making camp a success.
Dinning in the Mess Hall (1933) by Arkansas State ArchivesArkansas State Archives
Dinning in the Mess Hall
There were a lot of steps in making sure the task of food preparation went smoothly. Feeding 1200 plus women at camp each year was not an easy task and took a lot of development. One of the incentives used to get women interested in a Home Demonstration Council Camp was the fact that they did not have to cook during the camp. There were thirteen army cooks and thirteen assistants employed for the benefit of camp. In 1933, the first year of camp, the plan was to set up tents and buy groceries according to the number of women expected at the camp.
Typical dinner and supper at camp included meat, two vegetables, bread, and a dessert. For breakfast, one usually expected eggs, bacon, and toast. During the final year of camp, there was starting to be a renewed conversation of nutrition. Miss. Gertrude E. Conant, an extension nutritionist, began planning the meals for camp and stated that it was a matter of vitamins and minerals.
Plenty of Activities to Keep Campers Busy (1933) by Arkansas State ArchivesArkansas State Archives
Plenty of Activities to Keep Campers Busy
During the week of camp, there were a lot of activities to keep campers entertained. Swim time, games contests, speakers, classes and in later years even archery was a part of the daily learning experiences. The idea was to make sure these ladies felt like they had a vacation all the while learning skills that they took home to their families to help improve daily lives.
Governor Futrell Joins Campers as a Speaker (1933) by Arkansas State ArchivesArkansas State Archives
Governor Futrell Joins Campers as a Speaker
Governor Futrell paid tribute to women’s role in world events by stating:
“The entire world is ongoing vast changes throughout every system which controls governmental, economic and personal lives. It is a time of ‘survival of the fittest.’ Only those who prove their worth can henceforth find a real place in the sun. The same is true of not only all people, but of any and all programs. Farm and rural women are to be commended for the steadfastness in which they have held homes and aided in the great farming system together in the past, and the spirit which promises much to the future. An organization, such as home demonstration clubs, have already shown their importance in this country. It is to be hoped that they not only maintain their strength but develop more of it. That being the case, they will prove their fitness and importance.”
He was governor of Arkansas during the Great Depression and knew firsthand what these women did and continued to do for their state. He showed his support to these women by agreeing to speak at camp.
Campers Enjoy Archery (1938) by Arkansas State ArchivesArkansas State Archives
Campers Enjoy Archery
The second year of the camp (1934) Archery was added as one of the activities. Archery lessons were offered at camp along with a competition. Connie Bonslagel was very interested in offering this activity because she thought that it was a useful skill for women to learn. She was very hopeful that there would be a lot of interest in this activity stating, “I think it would particularly suitable as a farm family and community sport.”
Governor Futrell Speaks at a Home Demonstration Club (1935) by Arkansas State ArchivesArkansas State Archives
As a sign of appreciation to their hosts the Home Demonstration Clubs planted a tree each year.
Exhibit of Home Demonstration Club projects (1933) by Arkansas State ArchivesArkansas State Archives
These exhibits were meant to showcase products that brought in cash for farm homes. Women sent in samples such as rugs, and blankets that they potentially would sale on their own. This would teach farm women how to profit off their own skills.
Prizes (1933) by Arkansas State ArchivesArkansas State Archives
There were several contests that women enjoyed at camp. Connie Bonslagel worked to make sure they could provide prizes to the winners of each contest. A sewing machine was one of many prizes.
Cotton Dress Contest (1935) by Arkansas State ArchivesArkansas State Archives
Cotton Dress Contest
Cotton dresses were worn as a “uniform” at camp because of the light and comfortable fabric. Most of the cotton dresses were made at home, so to give campers the opportunity to show off the sewing skills they held contests for cotton dresses. Over the years this contest had several different categories such as House dress and slip, Church ensemble, Afternoon ensemble, Child’s self-help garment of new materials, Child’s self-help garment of thrift materials. The House dress was to be sent with dress and slip, but no hose and shoes. The Church ensemble was to be submitted with no accessories or undergarments. And all pieces of clothing were to be sent ahead of time with a tag saying what contest it was for.
To see more of the scrapbooks, see Katie Barron
https://homedemonstrationcouncilcamp826886450.wordpress.com/ or visit the Arkansas State Archives.