Jean Replinger was catalyst for women exploring BWCA

  • Article by: KARIN ELTON , Marshall Independent
  • Updated: November 13, 2012 - 12:52 PM

Teacher from Marshall, Minn., led first all-girl group for Outward Bound in 1965.

MARSHALL, MINN. - Back in 1965, a lifelong love of the outdoors inspired Jean Sanford Replinger of Marshall to join Outward Bound and open up the organization to girls.

She did it, she said, "because I was a girl. I knew that in our lifetime, as women, we would have a lot of emotional challenges, and the Outward Bound experience would instill confidence."

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Replinger taught at Antioch College in Ohio.

On a trip to Europe, she met someone who introduced her to Outward Bound, a wilderness adventure program. Having been a camper in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area since 1959, she became a trip leader in 1964 for a group of boys, and then asked to lead girls as well. The board asked her why girls would want to have a wilderness experience. Did they want to be like men? A male colleague urged them to let her try.

Two groups or "brigades" of 12 girls met Replinger, then Sanford, in 1965 in Duluth to board the bus for the Boundary Waters. Three women also accompanied the girls.

Forty-seven years later, one of those girls who went with Replinger to the Boundary Waters wanted to have a reunion because she was making a documentary about the experience.

"They found 12," Replinger said. "They are hard to find because they change their names after marriage."

After a reunion in the Twin Cities in September, they went Up North, women who were now in their 60s. Replinger couldn't go with them, but she did attend Outward Bound's 50th anniversary celebration in October in New York City.

Replinger has a scrapbook filled with photos from that first Outward Bound course for girls. The participants have since written how the program affected their lives.

"For most, it changed their lives forever," she said.

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