The American Legion Auxiliary Girls State is a nonpartisan program that teaches young women responsible citizenship and love for God and Country. Since the inception of the Girls State program in 1937, nearly 1 million young people have had the opportunity to learn firsthand how their state and local government works.
High school girls who have completed their Junior year spend an intensive week of study, working together as self-governing citizens at Auxiliary-sponsored Girls State programs in every state (with the exception of Hawaii).
Participants learn how to participate in the functioning of their state's government in preparation for their future roles as responsible adult citizens. Two girls are selected from each Girls State program to attend Girls Nation, a national government training program. Girls Nation "senators" meet for a week in Washington, D.C., where they run for political office, campaign for the passage of legislation and possibly meet with state representatives and senators. Capping off the week of Girls Nation is oftentimes a meeting with the President of the United States at the White House.
Louisiana Girls State began in 1940 and held its first full session in 1941. In the beginning, although Boys and Girls State were conducted as separate programs, both had the same director and academic director. The first director of Boys and Girls State was Colonel J. Perry Cole, Dean of Students and Professor of Mathematics at Louisiana State University and academic director, Dr. Alden Powell of the Department of Government at Louisiana State University who established the general format of the program. When Dean Cole began Girls State in 1941, he was greatly aided in his work by the involvement of Mrs. Iler Campbell, who was then the President of the Louisiana Department of the American Legion Auxiliary. Another person who contributed in the early days of the program was Mrs. George Tigner of Homer who was the first secretary of Louisiana Girls State.
In 1942, Colonel Cole was elected the Commander of The American Legion for the Department of Louisiana and Dr. A. R. Choppin, Dean of the College of Chemistry and Physics at Louisiana State University was appointed Director of both Boys and Girls State. The program prospered during the 32 years that "Doc" Choppin was Director. Upon his death in October, 1974, Mr. Albert Clary, Director of Academic Services at Louisiana State University became director of both programs. In February 1999 Albert Clary retired from his service to Boys and Girls State and was named Director Emeritus. At that time D'Ann Morris was appointed director of Boys and Girls State. She is the youngest person - and the first female to be appointed director of both organizations. She served until 2005 when Ms. Essie DeCuir and Mrs. Maggie Watts, both past presidents of the American Legion Auxiliary were appointed as acting directors of the Girls State program, then as co directors in 2006. In 2007, Mrs. Maggie Watts assumed the position of director.
Associate directors who have contributed greatly to the program are Mrs Ruth Madison, Mrs. Thelma Ashley, Mrs. Elizabeth Kenyon, Mrs. Lucille Amacker, Mrs. Helen Fields, Mrs. Allison St.Blanc, Mrs. Linda Lovelady, Monique Batiste, and Essie DeCuir.
Louisiana Girls State has had several homes. In 1941, it was a two day program and was held in New Orleans. Later, it was moved to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and evolved into an eight day program where it continued until 2006 when it was moved to the campus of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana where it remains at this time.
In 2006, for the first time in Louisiana Girls State history, it became fully staffed by members of the Louisiana Department of the American Legion Auxiliary.
In 2019, Rachel Funel was named as the new Director. In recent years, the program has expanded and added a college fair, leadership panels, incorporated technology into the voting process, and sen a steady increase in participant numbers.