Jennifer Helgren's Special Interests
My research interest lies in understanding how girlhood experiences affected the totality of women’s lives and how girlhood operates as a category of citizenship.
I am currently revising my dissertation, “Inventing American Girlhood: Gender and Citizenship in the 20th-Century Camp Fire Girls,” for publication.
Camp Fire, one of America’s most significant 20th-century youth organizations, promoted a model of girlhood that tempered expanding opportunities for girls in education and outdoor recreation with traditional domesticity.
Comparing the organization’s publications with girls’ scrapbooks and mementos, I examine girls’ ambivalent reactions to this model of American girlhood.
I explore a variety of themes, including American perceptions of girls’ civic roles; Camp Fire’s use of American Indian imagery; its attempt to create a national girls’ culture by reaching girls across lines of class, race, ethnicity, disability, and religion; the use of girls to promote domestic morale during WWI and WWII; and the extension of girls’ duties to a global arena during the Cold War (American girls were encouraged to see American womanhood as a model for the world).
I am also currently editing a collection of essays on girlhood and international issues.
The project seeks to promote cross-national perspectives and methodologies in the history of gender and youth and will include my own essay, “Homemaker Can Include the World: Internationalism and the Post World War II Camp Fire Girls.”