Sunday June 02, 2019 we kicked off the 77th Session of American Legion Auxiliary Sunflower Girls State!
We checked 136 delegates into 8 newly named cities. Our cities are all named for noteworthy women of Kansas.
Brooks is named for Gwendolyn Brooks a poet born in Topeka who was published at age 13. She became the first African-American woman to win a pulitzer in 1950. In 1976 she was the first African-American woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
The city of Brown is named for Linda Carol Brown from Topeka, KS. She was the 3rd grade student involved in the Brown v Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that American state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. She continued advocating for equal access to education in Kansas throughout her life.
The city of Earhart is named for Amelia Earhart. From Atchison, KS she became the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic. Earhart was an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and was influential to the formation of the Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots.
Finney is a city named for Joan Finney, an American politician who served as the 42nd Governor of Kansas from 1991 to 1995, the first woman to hold that office. She had previously served four terms as the Kansas State Treasurer from 1975 to 1991, the first woman to hold that office as well.
Koger is named for Mary Koger from Beloit first female lawyer in Topeka, a volunteer with Sunflower Girls State, President of American Legion Auxiliary Department of Kansas, National ALA Vice President and President, and 1964s Kansan of the Year.
McFarland is named for the first female Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, Kay McFarland from Coffeyville. She was also the first female judge in Shawnee County, first female elected the the KS supreme court.
Dora Seymore was ALA Department of Kansas President, ALA National President, and served as director for both Sunflower Girls State and Girls Nation. The city of Seymore is named for her due to her great contributions to these programs.
Susanna Salter is the namesake for the city of Salter. She was the first female mayor in the United States when she was elected in Argonia, Kansas in 1887. She also spoke at a women’s suffrage convention alongside Susan B. Anthony.
We were sad to see our former names go but proud to carry this history with us.
Cities gathered in their town squares (dorm lobbies) to get acquainted, review the program and procedures, and elect their mayors. Kate Bircher (Lansing, KS) from the city of Brown, an election board member and precinct committee woman, related that she is very excited about what’s to come. When asked what she was excited for she stated, “I’m eager to see what happens and what impacts our city can make.” She explained she liked the city meeting because it was a time to learn about each other and create an environment with a very good group dynamic.
The official opening started with a bang thanks to Dr. Barbara W. Ballard. She has joined us many times and in recent years has been scheduled at the beginning of the program due to her fire and enthusiasm. Director of ALASGS Rachel Barnes expressed she loved having Dr. Ballard first because she really sets the tone for the week. Not only telling her personal story and encouraging the delegates herself, she asked them to rise and repeat positive affirmations. She is the best kind of boisterous, inspiring, and an uplifting start to our program. She also wore a really awesome floral pants suit that we’ll be talking about for years! Amelia Ross (Overland Park, KS) from Brown said Dr. Ballard made her feel “ready for the week and ready to kick butt!”
Because “I am who I am. And you are who you are” we can come together with different histories and talents for a week of learning, opportunity, and fun!