Back during the summer of 1992, the summer before my senior year of high school, I was a delegate to Evergreen Girls’ State. Girls’ State is an event put together by the American Legion Auxiliary, where girls learn the workings of government. In order to be selected as a delegate, I had to fill out an application, as well as go through a rigorous interview with a woman from the American Legion Auxiliary and the two girls who represented my school the previous year. Two other girls besides me were interviewed, and I ended up being selected as one of our school’s delegates to the event.
I remember feeling nervous when I arrived at Central Washington University, because I only knew two people. After I registered, I went to the dorm and arrived at my floor, where I received a warm welcome from my junior counselor. I noticed a sign on the wall next to her, which stated that our floor was the city of Ryan, which was located in Billings County. I went to my dorm room to drop off my things and look through my Girls’ State booklet. I learned that the theme of Girls’ State was “The Women of Girls’ State,” and that each city and county was named after a famous woman who had been a former delegate to Girls’ State. My perusal of the booklet was interrupted by the arrival of my roommate; we introduced ourselves and quickly became friends. A short time later, we attended our first assembly, where we learned what would be expected of us during the week; we also had a former Girls’ State delegate as a guest speaker.
After the assembly, we returned to our dorm, where we had our first city meeting. Our junior counselor passed around a roll of toilet paper and said, “Take as much as you need.” Some girls, afraid there would be a toilet paper shortage, took a lot. After we had all taken some toilet paper, the junior counselor explained that this was an icebreaker activity; for each piece of toilet paper a girl had, she had to tell a fact about herself. After the activity, our junior counselor explained city government, and we took our bar exam.
We attended the lowering of the flag, and then headed to the dining hall for dinner. When we entered, we found that each table in the room had a sign bearing a city name. After we settled into our appropriate tables, the “scramble system” was explained to us – two cities would be called, and those girls would get their food. After that group was finished, they would call two more cities, until everyone was called.
After dinner, we attended another assembly. This time, we learned what to say and what not to say during speeches at Girls’ State. Afterwards, there was a pageant of flags; this seemed rather appropriate, since that day was Flag Day.
Next, we returned to our dorms and had another city meeting. The first order of business was to elect precinct officers. Each hallway represented a precinct. The Nationalists and Federalists of each precinct elected a precinct officer. I, along with three other girls from my party precinct got together to choose our officer. Problem was, three girls wanted the position. So, we wrote our names on slips of paper and put them in a cup. The girl that wasn’t running for the office pulled the name out of the cup… which turned out to be mine. After all the precincts chose their officers, we reconvened in our city meeting and filed for city offices. We also took our parliamentary procedure exam. After the exam, we were allowed to go to bed.
The next morning, I learned that in order to get a somewhat warm shower, I had to get up before 6 a.m. Everyone had to be ready by 7:15 a.m. for flag raising. After breakfast, we held our city elections. I served on a counting board, and I helped to tally the ballots.
After the election, we went to an assembly that explained the “Whats and Whys of a County Convention.” After the assembly, the two parties split up for county conventions. At the county convention we filed for state and county offices. The precinct officers cast votes for the candidate they wanted to support. These votes were tallied, and this decided who the county wanted to run at the state convention. We also decided our party platform, which included education, the environment, and equal rights. There was a break for lunch, and then the county conventions reconvened. The second session had to be rushed, because it turned out we had a surprise visit from Governor Booth Gardner. After his visit, we held state party conventions, where speeches were made by the candidates from all the counties. The precinct officers cast a vote for who they wanted to support, and from these votes, it was decided which candidates we wanted to represent us on the ballot.
After dinner we had another assembly, where the elected Mayors and City Managers were sworn in. Also at the assembly, the candidates for the non-partisan and state offices campaigned for their positions. After this, we returned to our county groups for campaigning, and all the candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives each made a quick speech. Afterwards, we returned to our dorms, had a city meeting, then went to bed.
Primary elections were held the next morning after breakfast; the only races decided by this election were the non-partisan offices. This was followed by a city meeting to discuss or city problem – in our city, there was a rapid increase in school population and traffic, and the community hospital wasn’t large enough.
After the city meeting, we attended yet another assembly; we learned how a bill becomes a law, and how to write a bill. During lunch, city pictures were taken. After lunch, there was another assembly; the guest speaker was the director of Boys’ State to give us a leadership presentation. This assembly was followed by another city meeting, where we reviewed the bar and parliamentary procedure exams. We also received a poppy, which we were asked to wear during dinner and the evening assembly.
The guest speaker at the assembly was the American Legion Auxiliary’s Poppy Chairman, who told us the story of the poppy; this was followed by a presentation on self-defense. Then came the introduction of the candidates for the state offices. Afterwards, there was a five-minute party rally, followed by a county rally. At the county rally, everyone had to make a quick speech. Then we returned to the dorm for a city meeting, and then went to bed.
The general elections took place after breakfast the next morning. This was followed by the morning assembly, where we heard a speaker from the League of Women Voters; we also received information on Central Washington University. Next came a city meeting, where we discussed our city problem. This was followed by lunch, where the results of the election were posted. I remember thinking how I would be in the Gold House of Representatives (the girls who weren’t elected to the House or Senate were automatically put into the Gold House or the Gold Senate). I approached the sheet, and found that may name was circled – which meant I had actually been elected into the House of Representatives!
After lunch, everyone split up into their designated areas for the legislative and judicial sessions. When we got together in the House of Representatives, we chose our party leader and our party whip, and prefiling of bills began.
After dinner we had yet another assembly; this time, we heard an address from the Governor from 1991’s Girls’ State, which was followed by the inauguration of the 1992 Girls’ State Governor. Then, everyone else was inaugurated into their respective offices. This was followed by a city meeting, and then it was off to bed.
Right after breakfast the next morning, we jumped right back to business in our legislative and judicial sessions. In the House of Representatives, we had Representative Barb Lisk as a guest speaker. After her visit, we debated bills until it was time to convene for an assembly, where we heard an address from our Governor.
After taking a break for lunch, we went right back to work debating bills at our legislative session, which lasted nearly three hours.
Then, after dinner, we had an evening assembly; the speaker was the president of Central Washington University. His presentation was followed by a candlelight ceremony; each candle brought forth represented each state that had a Girls’ State session. After the assembly, we had a city meeting, and then went to bed.
After breakfast the next morning, we went back to work debating bills in our legislative session for three and a half hours. We took a break for lunch, and then reconvened for our final session.
After dinner, we had our final assembly. First, our Governor gave her report to the people, where she explained what bills became law; those bills concerned water conservation and education. This was followed by the graduation ceremony, where we all received our certificates for participating in the program. Next was a skit from the junior counselors, where they acted out what happened during the week in a humorous manner; there was also a slide show.
At our city meeting, we voted for who we felt deserved the Outstanding Citizen Award, and our counselors gave us gifts from the American Legion Auxiliary. Then we packed our luggage, and our city had a party; we were up for most of the night.
The next morning at breakfast, awards were presented for Outstanding Citizens and City Problem Solving. This was followed by farewells, and then we all left and headed back home.
Looking back at it, I’m grateful to have had this experience. No matter how stressful it may have seemed at times, it was worth it.