Florence Duncan Weld

Weld, Florence

Time Period

1910-1940

Subject Categories

Education, Everyday Life

Notable Facts

Beloved former director of Camp Hochelaga in South Hero

Personal Information

Date of Birth

1883

Date of Death

1965

Primary Residence

South Hero

Religion

Protestant

Ethnicity

Caucasian

Historical Significance

Florence Duncan Weld, born Florence Emma Duncan in 1883, grew up in East Jaffrey, New Hampshire. In 1906, she graduated from Middlebury College, where she had been the college chapel organist. In the summer she played the piano at the Breadloaf Inn, owned by Joseph Battell and now part of the Breadloaf campus of Middlebury College. After college, she taught in local schools. In 1909, she married Garfield Weld, whom she met in college, and they had three children: Hazel, Nancy, and Robert. Garfield Weld taught mathematics at the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, and the family moved to Connecticut. Garfield Weld and his brother owned and ran a summer tutoring camp for boys on Lake Clear in the Adirondacks. During the summers, the entire Weld family lived at the camp. At home in Watertown, Weld played the church organ, raised English setters, and was a fine horsewoman.

In 1933, Garfield Weld committed suicide, after having been treated for depression for some time. Later that year, Mrs. Weld's son Robert drowned in a boating accident while on a vacation in Western Canada. After this traumatic year, Mrs. Weld, in order to make a living, took on a job as house director at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts.

In 1939, Florence Weld became the fifth director of Camp Hochelaga, in South Hero, Vermont. She served as director until 1962. During this time, she continued to work as a house director at Smith College, and later at Lyman Hall at the University of Vermont. Many of her first counselors were young women she had met when she was "house mother." She also traveled extensively with close friends. She passed away during a trip to Florida in 1965, at the age of 82.

Florence Weld's impact as the longest-serving director of Camp Hochelaga is still felt by those at the camp today. Camp Hochelaga was founded in 1919 by the newly formed Vermont chapter of the YWCA. The camp's first home was in Burlington at what is now Oakledge Park, on land then owned by Samuel and Lila Vanderbilt Webb. In 1926, the camp moved to South Hero, where it still operates as the last remaining all-girls YWCA residential camp in the United States. Like many other American summer camps in the early twentieth century, Camp Hochelaga was named for a former Native American village with which it had no tangible connection. Today, the camp remains committed to its key missions of young women's empowerment, affordability, and self-development through a range of liberal arts activities.

Florence Weld, who took on the leadership of the camp in 1939 after a challenging year, is credited with strengthening the camp, both by coping with food shortages during World War II, and by building a strong staff of counselors, in part due to her willingness to give them full responsibility over their respective roles in five activity areas -- waterfront, drama, arts and crafts, land sports, and outdoor education. Campers from her long tenure as camp director remember Mrs. Weld as both very firm and very kind, reflecting on her ability to manage the camp effectively, as well as her ability to discipline and inspire campers while allowing them the freedom to explore their identities as young women. Camp Hochelaga continues to honor Florence Weld today. In 2001, after the camp's 75-year-old lodge and dining hall burnt to the ground in May 2000, the camp opened a new and updated Weld lodge as a central dining hall and gathering place.

In 2009, she was recognized as part of Vermont's Champlain Quadricentennial celebration.

Occupations

  • Camp director
  • College house director
  • organist

Education

  • BA

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Larissa Vigue, Happy Campers, Business People-Vermont, June 2000. 1996-2006 Mill Publishing Inc.
  • Anne Curtis Odom, 1998 Hochelaga Alumni newsletter. Collected in A Scrapbook Memoir.