To provide a supportive environment where all women can have fun and challenge themselves in a community of women who love the outdoors while respecting the Earth.
Women Outdoors, Inc. is a national, nonprofit, all-volunteer organization founded in 1980 to:
Women Outdoors is a network where women can meet other women who share their outdoor interests and values. We provide a place for women who, through the outdoors, build bridges among members of diverse outdoor skills, ages, lifestyles and cultures.
Our 250+ members are spread across the United States with the largest number in the Northeast, where Women Outdoors was founded.
Women Outdoors is a national network of diverse women who are engaged in the enjoyment of outdoor activities. We seek to promote leadership development through member participation in biannual workshops; environmental stewardship by creating and participating in earth stewardship programs; and personal growth by offering multiple skills-based regional workshops.
The seeds for Women Outdoors were planted during a cold January weekend in 1980 at the Northeast Regional Gathering of Women in the Wilderness at Otter Lake, New Hampshire. Over 80 women from New Jersey to Maine came together for three days of workshops, skill sessions and sharing. At the end of the weekend, ten women, some affiliated with the Association for Experiential Education, wanted to grow the circle of friendship they had just formed.
They talked of starting an organization to promote the development of leadership and outdoor skills in a supportive environment with other women, as well as to promote environmental ethics and stewardship. Following much discussion, including the possibility of becoming the “new” Women in the Wilderness, they decided to start from scratch and build a brand new organization.
By June 1980, these 10 women, our “founding mothers,” had selected the name Women Outdoors, written a constitution and by-laws, filed articles of incorporation with the State of Massachusetts, and published the first issue of Women Outdoors Magazine. The founding mothers also became the first board of directors of Women Outdoors. Three years later, Women Outdoors received its nonprofit, 501 (c) (3) status from the Internal Revenue Service.
From its inception, Women Outdoors has sponsored an annual Gathering for all members. In the early years, the Gathering was held during the winter at Sargent Camp (now the Sargent Center) in southern New Hampshire. Beginning in the mid-1980s, the Gathering was moved to early summer and the location changed to Heronwood, near Lake George in the southern Adirondacks.
In 1988, the Gathering location changed again, this time to the Alton Jones Campus of the University of Rhode Island. In 1989, Women Outdoors moved the Gathering back to the Sargent Center. The Gathering is now held over Memorial Day weekend.
Women Outdoors strives to create an atmosphere of trust, safety and respect for all women regardless of age, class, color, ethnicity, marital status, physical ability, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or size. We encourage each participant in Women Outdoors to honor confidentiality and avoid making assumptions about others.
While we are a national organization, our regional chapters are the spokes of the diverse wheel that is Women Outdoors. They expand our network and help hold it together.
Women Outdoors currently has chapters in Connecticut, Western Massachusetts, Eastern Massachusetts, the Mid-Atlantic, New Hampshire/Vermont, the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, and Rhode Island/Southeastern MA.
Each chapter is headed by a regional contact who is the organizer, facilitator and initiator of activities and events at the local level. Regional chapters organize at least one event a quarter, although many regions sponsor one or more events every month. While each regional group has its own individual personality, the common thread of shared values and interests forms the bonds of our network.
In addition to the regional chapters, we have individual members in 23 different states. While these members do not have a local chapter of Women Outdoors to join, they share the same passion for the outdoors and love of adventure as all our members. Many of our “free agents” attend the Women Outdoors national Gathering every year where they meet other free agents and members of other chapters. More than once, attending the Gathering has inspired an independent member to start a regional chapter of Women Outdoors in her home state.
Members of Women Outdoors share a natural bond through their love of the outdoors. Members can enjoy contacting other Women Outdoors enthusiasts when visiting different parts of the country to share adventures and develop new friendships.
See Our Regions page for information about a chapter of Women Outdoors near you or how to start a chapter in your area.
Women Outdoors, Inc. is managed by an all-volunteer board of directors responsible for the supervision and direction of the organization. The number of directors ranges from a minimum of seven to a maximum of 17. Women Outdoors currently has 8 directors.
The officers are president, secretary and treasurer with the other members serving as directors-at-large. Each director serves a three year term and may serve for three consecutive terms. Elections are held at the annual meeting in May at the Gathering. The board of directors meets five times a year including an annual retreat in the fall.
Every year, Women Outdoors hosts a national conference – the Gathering – for all members. The Gathering offers three days of friendship, fun and fine dining.
Most of the activities are volunteer-led such as half day or full day hikes, biking on country back roads and kayaking on the lake. Workshops vary from year to year but often include offerings such as bicycle repair, knot tying, orienteering, chi gong and yoga among others. Evening events feature games, a keynote speaker, and a talent show. Environmental stewardship is emphasized throughout the weekend.
See The Gathering page for more information on this extraordinary weekend.
Women Outdoors believes that we are part of a larger network of organizations that treasure the outdoors. As part of that commitment to the larger community, Women Outdoors partners with the organizations Leave No Trace and the American Hiking Society. Women Outdoors is also a member of Hostelling International USA.
We are the women who learn, lead and have fun in the outdoors.