girls outside in popular sportswear

Dinner on the Beach, Natural History Society Camp, c 1918 (Photo: New Brunswick Museum)
“In 1881 women were allowed to join the newly formed Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick. Saint John women interested in natural history, history and science enthusiastically embraced the group, and by 1892 they had taken control of the auxiliary, electing members, establishing objectives and offering programs. Their motto, Progress is the law of life,” underscored their “commitment of self improvement, technological advancement and social uplift,” which they felt was best gained through education. The Society offered lectures, museum tours, field trips and teas. The Saint John-based group was so successful that by 1905 women outnumbered the men of the Natural History Society two to one. As time passed they expanded their programs, focusing on education directed at women and children.*
 
“Among the most popular activities were summer science camps and clubs for children and youth. In the photo shown above, science camp participants are enjoying a meal on the beach. Most of the young women are wearing middies and bloomers—popular sportswear of the period. That the participants appear to be female shows that even 100 years ago, girls and women embraced science education when given an opportunity.”
 
* Collecting and museum work offered opportunities for scientifically minded women to engage in high-profile cultural and intellectual activities in their communities, thereby offsetting as well as challenging their lack of political rights.
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