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First Feminist Mormon Girls Camp pitches tents & tenets

Published August 9, 2013 2:26 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Nearly 200 people — women, a few men, kids and babies — gathered last week for singing, s'mores and skits at a campground near Mapleton, but this was no ordinary LDS outdoors adventure.

It was the first ever Feminist Mormon Girls Camp, modeled loosely on the annual church-sponsored event for LDS young women everywhere.

Campers wore Eliza R. Snow T-shirts and feminist bonnets. They bore their "testimonies" of Mormon matriarchs, discussed the strengths of the LDS feminist community and offered traditional and nontraditional prayers.

The girls and young women could earn their camp "certification" by first memorizing quotes like this one — "Virtue can only flourish among equals" — from well-known feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. They had to make up a fairy tale that didn't include the heroine getting rescued or married in the end. They then could choose to discuss with a friend an issue of either gender violence, reproductive rights, rape culture or child care that they felt "passionate about."

On top of general feminism, the girls also could score points by identifying three prominent Mormon feminists, naming three ways the Utah-based faith could change to be more inclusive of women, reading Carol Lynn Pearson's "Walk in the Pink Moccasins," and discussing their opinions on modesty with a fellow camper.

The whole Feminist Girls Camp was a "pilot program," said JaneAnne Peterson, one of the camp's organizers."It was primarily about cross-generational community building, togetherness and new friendships."

Participants came from Feminist Mormon Housewives, Sistas in Zion, Ordain Women, Let Women Pray, Young Mormon Feminists, and other groups, Peterson said. They were at various places on the Mormon belief/participation spectrum but everyone was welcome.

"There are so few places where you can be an authentic person," said camper Laurie Burk, who relished the experience, "and Mormon."

Amanda Nokleby said she "felt a source of strength in all these women."

The two-day camp was more than fun, she said. "It fed my soul so much."

Peggy Fletcher Stack