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Jeanne F. Lively

GIRLSTOWN, U.S.A. Girlstown, U.S.A. is on Farm Road 1780 nine miles south of Whiteface in east central Cochran County. It originally offered a temporary shelter for girls, but developed to provide a stable, long-term home environment for abused and neglected girls and in the later twentieth century expanded services to include predelinquent, delinquent, troubled, and disturbed children. Girlstown was the idea of Amelia Anthony, who took in six homeless girls at Buffalo Gap, Texas, in March 1939. In July of the same year, Lubbock attorney Tom Duggan gave 1,425 acres of ranchland near Whiteface for a new campus. An affiliate was opened at Borger in 1967, followed by another at Austin in 1970. The three facilities were governed by a thirty-member board of directors drawn from throughout the United States. The board was responsible for appointing the executive director, who was responsible for the overall administration of Girlstown, U.S.A., including fund-raising, policy interpretation, public relations, and program development.

Generally, girls were accepted at Girlstown if the facility could meet their needs and space was available. Decisions regarding placement and treatment plans for applicants were made by an on-site committee composed of the director of social services, the superintendent, and the caseworker. The process involved the gathering of all available data such as the application, social history, psychological and psychiatric evaluation, school records, and medical and dental records. On tentative acceptance the applicant met with the committee, at which time the committee finalized its approval or rejection. Children with learning disabilities were often placed on the Borger campus because of the special-education program available in the Borger school district. Because of the urban setting and mental-health resources available in Travis County, the Austin campus accepted girls who were more emotionally disturbed than those generally found on the other campuses. Individual treatment plans were periodically reviewed for modification. In addition to treatment for residents by a qualified staff, consultants from a variety of community agencies and private practices were utilized. The Whiteface campus was home to girls from across the country and Canada. Farm animals, including a stable of horses, helped provide a country-living atmosphere. The campus had a dining hall, a chapel, a gym, a swimming pool, tennis courts, a game room, and a country store where residents could purchase incidentals. A new Career Center was opened in 1984 where job skills were taught.

In April 1987 Girlstown merged with Cal Farley's Boys Ranch. Shortly afterward the Austin campus was closed. The facility at Borger was changed to provide a home for elementary school-age children, both boys and girls, under Cal Farley's Family Program. The Girlstown Whiteface campus continued to provide a home for girls and had a housing capacity of seventy-five.

Girlstown tries to offer girls a family setting, with fifteen girls living in a cottage. Three girls are assigned to each room. Each cottage is managed by a married couple who live in a small apartment in the cottage. Girlstown residents attend local schools and are required to attend churches of their choice. In addition to academic development, staff try to teach the girls respect of elders, manners, independence, and self-confidence. Also, many girls need to be taught how to cook, eat nutritiously, do simple sewing for themselves, and do laundry. When the girls become high school seniors, the emphasis is on learning independent-living skills. The girls are encouraged to attend college or a trade school for career training. They may apply for scholarships and loans through the Boys Ranch scholarship fund. If a girl maintains her grades and exhibits good behavior she earns privileges, such as attending school functions, visiting her friends, and dating. The most common form of discipline is restriction of privileges; rarely is anything else necessary. During a girl's stay on campus she performs chores in her cottage. Girls also hold salaried jobs on campus, and their wages are deposited in checking and savings accounts.

Before the merger in 1987, Girlstown, U.S.A. received 76 percent of its finances from contributions and public support, with the remainder being provided by fees, farm income, and income from securities. In the early 1990s Girlstown still received contributions from longtime supporters, and the remaining funds were provided by the Boys Ranch general fund. In 1994 the Borger campus had fifty children and the Whiteface campus had seventy girls. Six girls qualified for college scholarships that year. Plans included development of a follow-up program, negotiation of cooperative agreements with various agencies working with children, and initiation of local agency involvement to alleviate problems within the family, thus encouraging successful reentry of girls into their families.

Girlstown Chit-Chat, May 1970, June 1974. Girlstown Guardian, June 1979. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, March 12, 1989. Reference File, Southwest Collection, Texas Tech University.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Jeanne F. Lively, "GIRLSTOWN, U.S.A.," accessed August 14, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/yng02.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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