Jean Replinger a Women's Outward Bound Pioneer

Published Monday, March 19, 2018
Jean Replinger has loved the outdoors since an early age
Jean Replinger has loved the outdoors since an early age

 

Retired SMSU Health/PE Professor Jean Replinger was a key leader of the first Outward Bound experience for girls in the nation.

Women Outward Bound, a film exploring that first all-female Outward Bound experience, will be featured by Twin Cities Public Television. Replinger is part of that film.

Women Outward Bound profiles the first group of young women to participate in an Outward Bound survival school course, and chronicles their experiences in the wild. It will be shown on Twin Cities Public Television Tuesday, March 20 at 7 p.m.; Wednesday, March 21 at 1 a.m.; and Sunday, March 25 at 5 p.m.

Replinger, a Health/PE professor at SMSU from 1969-96, was one of the originators of that program in Minnesota. At the time, it was the first Outward Bound program for girls in the nation.

 “The men’s program started in Minnesota in 1964. A year later, they added women — they had their own program. It became co-ed some years later,” said Replinger in a recent interview.

In 1965, Replinger was teaching at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. “I had taken Antioch students to the Boundary Water in 1959. I loved the area. I brought them in all the seasons, that’s why I knew it was such a great place,” she said.

Replinger first learned of Outward Bound as a young woman when, by accident one day, she stumbled upon a rock climber. “He was an Outward Bound instructor in England,” she said. “I said, ‘This is for me.’”

At the time she was— during the summer months — leading bike trips overseas and worked on cruise ships. She went over to check out more fully the Outward Bound program in Europe. She went back to Antioch and told her boss, “we need to have this in the Boundary Waters. So in 1964 I went up there with him and he agreed, it was time for a women’s program. The national board wasn’t interested in it then.”

The documentary was first shown several years ago but has since been updated. “They made it better with what they have now,” she said. “It’s very, very well done.”

Women Outward Bound is a film by Maxine W. Davis, one of the inaugural class of Outward Bound women. “She was one of my students, she was from the Cities,” said Replinger. “After a while, I got to thinking, ‘I wonder what those women have been doing?’ We tried to find as many as we could, which wasn’t easy because so many had changed their names (through marriage). I had kept in touch with most, so they were invited to the Twin Cities for a reunion about five years ago”

It was at that reunion that the director of Outward Bound Minnesota invited the group to New York City, for a celebration of Outward Bound National.

One of the women in that first group of 24 was Elizabeth Kilanowski, now living in Bellingham, Minn. She credits the program with changing her life, and remembers fondly the influence of Replinger.

“It amazes me to think that back in the 1960s, women and girls were not allowed to do the same things as boys and men. Having a ‘girls’ Outward Bound course was a radical idea and I thank Jean Replinger, our program director at the time, over and over in my heart for pushing to initiate the women’s courses. She was courageous.”

Replinger grew up in Wisconsin and lost her father when she was 3. “That sort of gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted outside, and I loved it.”

She came to SMSU in 1969 “and I knew there were tons of things that could be done outdoors with the students here. Any movement that takes people outdoors, teaches them what they can do and puts them in touch with nature, I’m in favor of. I’m really proud of what it’s become.”