Thoughts about Laura
In 1973, when I first went to High Trails, women's rights were still a matter of debate on the public stage. But they were never in question at High Trails, and Laura was the one who made that fact abundantly clear every day. The name on the big gate was Sanborn Western Camps, but High Trails-well, that was all Laura.
Laura's leadership as a strong, fully capable woman--with a bunch of other equally strong and talented women by her side--showed this adolescent girl from Kansas a side of feminism that was much deeper than all the rhetoric of that time: Strong, decisive and confident, Laura truly taught us by being…Laura.
She was feminine (hair coiffed, lipstick on, and a clean white shirt despite dust and dishrooms) and domestic (who could forget her popcorn balls, her gardens, those exquisite twice-baked potatoes) but she was also quite clearly in charge. She made the rules. Writing them out in her trademark black felt pen script—Please wipe the sink! Remove your shoes!
When she announced these rules at staff meetings in that low, deliberate voice that left no room for discussion, the guilty always shifted in our seats. If you can't see the wildflowers, you are driving too fast. No riding in the back of pick ups. And what camper can forget the days when she walked the ridges at night, down jacket zipped up to her chin and massive flashlight in hand? The thought of that flashlight shining on us was a compelling reason to stay in our beds—or at least (please, God!) not get caught. Was this the same woman who was casually sweeping the front porch of the lodge in the morning? The same voice that read to us each week about peace and service?
Laura didn’t limit herself or allow herself to be limited by stereotypes or expectations. And as a result, neither did we High Trails girls. Of course we could climb mountains for a week and then come back and serve to the left and pass to the right. With Laura as our leader, High Trails girls could see a living, breathing example that we could do—we could be—anything. We could work for peace, write a book (or two) raise a family, and host a party of three dozen teenagers. We could be wives of powerful charismatic men without losing a bit of our own power and while maintaining our own charisma. We could follow our interests, whether they were astronomy, painting, or politics. Ultimately, Laura was always true to herself, and taught us how to be the same. She had pitch-perfect camp director fashion style, but also knew how (and when) it was time for a party, complete with old-fashioneds or perhaps a box of fine wine. In her life, she offered us a template of wonderful possibilities on which to model our own.
And of course, Laura transcended generations, a friend to those who came to camp first when she was a young mother, and to those of us who returned as young mothers. She will be missed by us all, but I know left this world knowing, without a doubt, that she had actually lived the quote that still hangs at my desk, in her hand writing.
"Never doubt that a small group of committed humans can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has."--Margaret Mead