In 1937 at the National convention, the American Legion Auxiliary organized Girls State as a national Americanism activity. It is designed to teach young women responsible citizenship and love for God and Country. Since its inception, nearly one million young women, nationwide, have had the opportunity to learn firsthand how their state and local governments work.
Virginia Girls State was organized by Liza Crush in 1947 who was also the first Director. The American Legion Auxiliary sponsors girls from the state who have completed their junior year in high school to attend Virginia Girls State. This interactive program teaches the formation and operation of city, county and state government entities. The participants vote and carry out elected and appointed positions in the Girls State government. The program gives participants the experience of living together as self governing citizens with the privileges, rights and responsibilities of American citizenship, as well as the opportunity to gain knowledge of the American Legion Auxiliary.
Virginia Girls State is comprised of 14 cities, each named after a famous citizen of Virginia. One is named to honor Dr. Kate Waller Barrett of Falmouth, the second National President of the American Legion Auxiliary. She was also Virginia’s first Department President.
The full list of cities and historical relevance:
Barrett – named for Dr. Kate Waller Barrett of Falmouth, Virginia.
Clark – named for William Clark who was chosen by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the Louisiana Territory with Meriwether Lewis.
Crush – named for Liza Crush, an organizer and director of the first Virginia Girls State in 1947.
Draper – named for Bettie Draper, who was captured by Indians. Her husband, John Draper, found her in the Ohio Valley living with the family of an Indian chief. John paid the chief to bring her home.
Ingles – named for Mary Draper Ingles, a frontier woman, who was captured by Indians along with Bettie Draper. Mrs. Mary Draper Ingles, wife of William Ingles, escaped from the Indians and found her way back to Draper’s Meadows.
Lewis – named for Meriwether Lewis, a frontier scout who was chosen by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the Louisiana Territory with William Clark.
Madison – named for James Madison, the fourth President of the United States.
Monroe – named for James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States.
Pocahontas – named for Chief Powhatan’s daughter who saved John Smith and helped Jamestown survive. She later married John Rolfe.
Preston – named for Colonel James Patton Preston who was the Governor of Virginia from December 1816 to December 1819.
Randolph – named for Edmund Randolph, Governor of Virginia and delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He was the first Attorney General of the United States.
Tyler – named for John Tyler, Jr., the tenth President of the United States.
Vance – named for Verna Vance, the former director of Virginia Girls State from 1977 through 2004. She attended Virginia Girls State as a delegate, representing Churchland High School. Verna Vance dedicated over 50 years of service to Virginia Girls State.
Wilson – named for Woodrow Wilson, the twenty-eighth President of the United States.
Girls State is held annually on the Longwood University campus in Farmville, Virginia, and the average attendance is 600 – 625 young ladies each year.