Camp Onaway History

Onaway! Awake, beloved!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


192019501950Camp Onaway was established in 1911 by Mrs. Henry (Mabel Woodbridge) Hollister, whose family members remain connected to the camp to this day. Mrs. Hollister found the name Onaway in Longfellow’s epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha, which captured the desire of the early 20th century to return to nature. The idea of creating an environment in which girls would be wide awake, to nature and to a strong sense of the spiritual, appealed to her.

Onaway’s story is that of an institution that played an interesting role in the history of women in the 20th century.

Mabel Hollister wanted to prepare women to vote, to stand up for their beliefs and know their strengths. She shepherded camp through World War I and the depression and her successors, Frances M. Frost and Margaret F. Stiles, brought camp through World War II and the change from relative security of the 1950’s to the rebellious searching of the 1960’s, when Camp Onaway was incorporated as a non-profit educational trust with dedicated Onaway parents and alumnae serving on the first Board of Trustees.

Onaway turned 100 years old in 2011 and a grand Centennial Celebration with nearly 500 alumnae, family, and friends marked this extraordinary occasion!

The Camp Onaway History was published, entitled Let Her Strong and Ageless Be: Camp Onaway’s First 100 Years, which was researched and written by camp historian, alumna and trustee, Helen Stokes Greven and edited by alumna and trustee, Susan Jackson. It is the story of a camp that never lost sight of its purpose and always remained true to its highest ideals.