History of the
AMERICAN LEGION AUXILIARY
CALIFORNIA GIRLS STATE
In 1940, the American Legion Auxiliary's dream of the ALA California Girls State program became a reality. ALA California Girls State was proposed at an Interim Board Meeting of the Auxiliary. Some of the earliest pioneers who helped to create this program were Ruth Mathebat, Muriel Wright, and Mary Ann Holt, among other Auxiliary members. The Board unanimously accepted their program proposal. Plans were finalized after a visitation at Grant Union High School, and the first session of ALA California Girls State was held June 22-29, 1940.
The 1940 session saw 125 young women in attendance. At the time, there was only a $15 fee per delegate, and a $500 working budget for the entire week. The session had only two counties and four cities. After the 1941 session, ALA California Girls State was in recess during World War II from 1942-1945. The program returned in 1946.
The 1950's brought a new location for ALA California Girls State. It was moved to California Junior High, in Sacramento. Over 300 delegates attended, and the sponsorship fee for each increased to $60. The program expanded to four counties and twelve cities. The 1957 session, held at the University of California, Davis, took a devastating toll when nearly the entire staff and all of the ALA California Girls State citizens were stricken with the Asian flu. Unfortunately, the flu took its toll on the delegates and staff, and the American Legion Auxiliary regretfully lost ALA California Girls State's Director Ruth Mathebat two weeks after the session.
The 1960's began at the University of California, Davis campus and had over five hundred delegates in attendance. The program had already expanded to its current size, with four counties and sixteen cities, each named after famous figures in California history.
During the 1970's, rising costs led ALA California Girls State to move to the beautiful Squaw Valley. From 1971 to 1974, ALA California Girls State remained in Squaw Valley during for what one Auxiliary member referred to as "our Sound of Music years." After the Valley was sold to developers, the Auxiliary moved the ALA California Girls State program back home to Sacramento, and the 1975 session was the first one held on Sacramento State campus. Scholarship costs had risen to $150 per delegate, and there were 560 delegates in attendance.
By the 1980's, the American Legion Auxiliary had begun adding more instructional parts to the ALA California Girls State program, such as school boards, courts system, and planning commissions in which delegates could participate during the session. To ensure the continued quality of the ALA California Girls State program, the Auxiliary elected to cap the maximum attendance at 540 delegates. By this point, the cost of sponsoring a delegate was $250. The 1988 session was graciously hosted at the CSU Fresno campus due to campus renovations at Sacramento State, but we again returned home to Sacramento State in 1989.
The 1990s included the 50th anniversary of ALA California Girls State and two more moves. The 1992 session was held at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, with a delegate scholarship cost of $275. Then, for the first time in the history of ALA California Girls State, the session was moved to Southern California in order to reduce the costs of transportation. At the time, the American Legion Auxiliary would sponsor a minimum of ten busses to transport delegates to the session; however, planners believed that moving the session to Southern California would reduce reduce overall costs by decreasing the need for transportation. The 1995 session of ALA California Girls State was the first held on the campus of Claremont College, a cluster of colleges in Claremont, California. The 1995 session used the Pitzer and Harvey Mudd campuses; the following sessions were held at Pitzer and Claremont-McKenna campuses.
Currently, the American Legion Auxiliary continues to host ALA California Girls State on the Claremont McKenna College campus. The scholarship cost for a unit to sponsor one delegate to a session is $425. The ALA California Girls State program grows and adapts to meet the current challenges of our government.
ALA California Girls State has hosted over 31,000 young women in its history. Future leaders of California and the United States are born here at ALA California Girls State. With deepest appreciation, we wish to thank and recognize the past and present accomplishments of the American Legion Auxiliary Department of California; without their work, ALA California Girls State could not and would not exist.
History of the
AMERICAN LEGION AUXILIARY GIRLS NATION
During the American Great Depression of the early 1930s, the American Legion grew concerned over public sentiment that Democracy was crumbling. How, the American Legion wondered, could America train its young people in the process of self-government as effectively as Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany seemed to be training their youth groups in the promulgation of totalitarian forms of government?
American Legionnaires decided that the best way to learn something was by practicing it. In 1935, they began to gather young men representing different high schools together for a few days each summer in a citizenship training program on the processes of city and state government. They called this fledgling program 'American Legion Boys State.' As American Legion Boys State programs succeeded and spread throughout the United States, the American Legion Auxiliary began providing similar opportunities for young women, leading to the creation of Girls State programs throughout the country. The first Girls State session was conducted in 1938, and the first ALA California Girls State session followed in 1940. Since 1948, Girls State programs have been a regular part of the American Legion Auxiliary's citizenship programs. By 1984, Girls State sessions were held in all fifty states.
After the conclusion of all Girls State sessions each summer, the American Legion Auxiliary hosts Girls Nation, a similar program which educates attendees in the processes of federal government. Each Girls State session from around the country sends two senators to attend this prestigious program as a culmination of their educational experience. Girls Nation has been held in Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, for one week each summer since 1947. Girls Nation senators get hands-on experience with American Government systems, as well as exposure to American history through visits to the U.S. Capitol, the White House, Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and other historically important sites.
STAFF, FUNDING, & DELEGATE SELECTION
ALA California Girls State is staffed by American Legion Auxiliary members who volunteer their time and effort to this enterprise. All Girls State programs' administrative costs are defrayed by their Department (state-level) organizations. All costs for Girls Nation, including transportation, are financed by the American Legion Auxiliary's national organization. Delegates to Girls State programs are selected with the help of their high school principals on the basis of potential leadership qualities and must be between their Junior and Senior years in high school to qualify. Through these programs, it is estimated that each summer the American Legion Auxiliary is adding 19,000 young women trained in the processes of government to a group of women that has now reached over one million.