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Arkansas Girls State is a summer program of education that has been sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, Department of Arkansas since 1942. As of 2014, it has provided training for more than 55,000 Arkansas girls in the fundamental aspects of citizenship and practical government. The purpose of Arkansas Girls State is to educate young women of high school age in the duties, privileges, and responsibilities of American citizenship and to provide an opportunity for them to participate in the actual functioning of their government.
The National American Legion Auxiliary, which had established a Boys State program in 1935, first sponsored Girls State in 1937–38, and as of 2014, fifty-one departments have such a program. More than 25,000 high school students participate annually. The “Girls State” is an invented “state” over which the participants must provide governmental leadership. The entire program is non-partisan in nature, with the political parties of Girls State (Nationalist and Federalist) corresponding to no current American parties. As delegates, the girls elect their own officials, organize their own legislature, and have official visits to their respective counterparts at the Arkansas State Capitol.
The first session of Arkansas Girls State was held at Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) in Conway (Faulkner County), with 104 girls in attendance. Florence Mitchell of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) was elected as the first governor of Girls State, and Margaret Letzig served as the director. The next two sessions were held at the Arkansas School for the Deaf in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The 1945 session of Arkansas Girls State was canceled because of World War II and its resultant transportation problems and severe rationing of needed goods. In 1946 and 1947, the sessions were again held at the Arkansas School for the Deaf.
Beginning in 1948, the Girls State sessions were held at Camp Joseph T. Robinson, where they remained until 1974. At Camp Robinson, the girls were housed in small huts and, later, barracks. Enrollment reached the 1,000 mark in 1968.
For three years starting in 1975, Arkansas Girls State was held again at the University of Central Arkansas. In 1977, Claudia Kuykendall, who had been the director of Arkansas Girls State since 1944, retired. Junanne Reynolds Brown became director in 1978, and Girls State moved to Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia (Clark County). Brown stepped down as director in 1989, and Ruth Teal was appointed director, serving for two years. Pam Talbert became director in 1992 and served for five years.
In 1991, Arkansas Girls State moved to Harding University in Searcy (White County), which remains its present location, as of 2014. Angela Uekman was appointed director in 1997 and served for ten years. Charlotte Wilson was appointed director in 2007.
Arkansas Girls State was recognized as having the most outstanding Girls State program in the nation in 1980, 1983, and 1984. Arkansas Girls State is the second-largest Girls State program in the nation.
For additional information:Arkansas Girls State. http://auxiliary.arlegion.org/girls_state.html (accessed February 19, 2014).
Piplin, Patsy. “Visit to Girl’s [sic] State.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 14, 2010, p. 5B.
Charlotte WilsonArkansas Girls State
Last Updated 2/25/2014
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