A lifelong love of the outdoors inspired Jean Sanford Replinger of Marshall to join Outward Bound and open up the organization to girls back in 1965.
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, having studied pre-med, health and physical education and counseling, Replinger taught at Antioch College in Ohio. During her summers off she would travel on ships to and from Europe giving educational lectures each way. During a week off in Europe, she met someone who introduced her to Outward Bound, a wilderness adventure program. Having been a camper at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area since 1959, she had wanted to take youths to the BWCA to experience "risk in a safe environment, but I couldn't do it myself," she said. "I would be liable (for any accidents)."
Photo by Karin Elton
Jean Replinger smiled recently at her home in Marshall while looking over a scrapbook of her 1965 trip to the Boundary Waters. She advocated to the Outward Bound organization to accept girls into the program.
She was one of the leaders in 1964 for a group of boys and then asked the board if she could lead girls as well. At first it said no. The board asked her why would girls want to have a wilderness experience? Do they want to be like men? A male colleague said to them to "let her try." The board said it would give her a trial period to test the program.
Two groups or "brigades" of 12 girls met Replinger, then Sanford, in 1965 in Duluth to board the bus for the Minnesota Outward Bound course to take place in the Boundary Waters, which she had helped to set up. 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 Sept. 13, they went up north, women who were now in their 60s. Replinger wasn't able to go with them, but she did attend Outward Bound's 50th anniversary celebration of the program in October in New York City.
The women and Replinger were invited to be honored guests. Their entire expenses for the overnight trip was paid for by donors.
The women sat in two tables at the front of the banquet quarters, the Church of St. John.
"We were acknowledged one by one," Replinger said. "They made us feel so special. It was so nice."
Replinger has a scrapbook filled with photos from the 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.
Maxine Davis, who is in the process of procuring funding to complete her documentary about the experience, wrote that she learned that "getting dirty is OK; being uncomfortable is OK. When I'm afraid of things in life, I figure if I could double-portage (carry a 20-pound pack and help carry a canoe) a mile in the rain with mosquitoes biting my face, I could do almost anything."
The mental toughness she acquired through the program helped her deal with a bout of cancer, she said.
The Outward Bound program later became co-educational, Replinger said, although she thinks it works better as a separate program.
Replinger is no longer associated with Outward Bound, having quit after her marriage to Randall Replinger, an engineering designer who shared her love of cross country skiing, canoeing, bicycling, birding, photography and music. The two moved to Marshall in 1969 and worked at Southwest State University.
Replinger was in administration, working on getting the college accredited. She also helped start the international student program and the handicap-accessibility program before working as a professor of health and physical education. The last six years she was in faculty development before retiring in 1996.
Her love of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area lives on as she is an officer of the Oberholtzer Foundation and recently edited the journal of explorer and conservationist Ernest Oberholtzer.
"He and Sigurd Olson helped save the BWCA," she said.
Oberholtzer and his Ojibwe companion, Billy Magee, traveled by canoe from Manitoba to Hudson Bay in 1912.
Replinger was among those who "helped preserve the Oberholtzer Island as a historic site," she said.
"He had a handwritten journal that he always wanted to publish," she said.
The book can be found on amazon.com, at Barnes and Noble and through the website eober.org.