Women of Summer

Sep 10, 2013

Summer may feel over, but it doesn’t officially end until Sept. 21—so here’s one more great example of a collective summer destination. Hey, it’s never too early to start thinking about next year.

Wiawaka Holiday House is a women’s retreat located on nearly 60 acres of land on Lake George, NY, in the Adirondack Mountains. It offers outdoor workshops from photography to paddling; seminars on topics like Creating your Best Life; and events like the upcoming 2nd Annual Women’s Liberation Festival: Uncovering your Inner Goddess.

Its mission is to provide "enrichment and revitalization for women at a historical lakefront setting." Men are allowed…but only during the month of July.

Founded in 1903 by Mary Fuller, the daughter of a prominent industrialist from Troy, NY, Wiawaka started as a camp for female textile workers.

At the turn of the century, Troy was known as the “city of women” because its booming textile industry meant it was home to a large, mostly immigrant, female population of mill workers.

The young Ms. Fuller was active in the local Young Women’s Association, and she felt this community needed an affordable retreat. She convinced friends who had recently purchased a resort property to give it to her for this purpose.

That first summer, 176 guests came, at a cost of $3.50 per week. Now Wiawaka hosts about 1,000 visitors a summer.

These days the price tag is a bit higher than $3.50, but the retreat operates as a non-profit corporation committed to providing affordable vacations to all women. Scholarships are available through the Fuller Respite Program.

In order to build community and keep rates affordable, guests share common spaces and are expected to maintain their own rooms. But even with all this communal space, there are plenty of secluded, quiet areas for reflection. (No TVs or phones in the rooms, by the way.)

Credit: Images are from the Wiawaka Holiday House website unless otherwise specified.

Wiawaka was founded in 1903 to provide an escape for the female textile workers of Troy, NY. It’s considered the oldest summer retreat destination for women.

The 60-acre property sits on the southern tip of Lake George, in Upstate NY. Credit: YPS2013

The camp’s historic Wakonda Lodge, built in 1905.

The lodged closed for repairs in 2002, and reopened this year after a massive restoration project.

The boathouse offers various kayaks, canoes and paddleboats.

Early visitors enjoying the lake.

Men are welcome to visit during the month of July.

Wiawaka took its name from from the Abenaki word meaning “The Great Spirit of Woman."

This is the last installment of our summer series, "Let's Co-Vacation: Together we can own the summer again," where we highlighted collective summer destinations. Previous profiles included the Knickerbocker Field Club in Flatbush, Brooklyn; Unity House, in the Poconos, owned by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union; Three Arrows Cooperative Society in Putnam Valley, NY; Prince George’s Swimming Pool in Mt. Rainier, MD; Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat, in the Willamette National Forest, OR; and Co-Cycle, a co-operative cross-country bike ride.

Wiawaka Holiday House is just one of the hundreds of New Mutualist organizations you'll find on our Quiet Revolutionary map! Are there any New Mutualist organizations in your area that belond on our map? Be sure to submit your idea!

Sara Horowitz

As the founder of Freelancers Union, Sara has been a voice for freelancers for over two decades.