Boys Town is now Girls and Boys Town

Posted: Friday, August 25, 2000

In a shower of confetti and balloons, Boys Town officials announced Thursday that residents had approved a name change for the home for troubled youth.

Nearly seven of every 10 residents voted in favor of the change, intended to reflect the growing role that young girls now play at the home made famous by the Oscar-winning 1938 Spencer Tracy movie.

Ballots were distributed Wednesday to the home's 1,000 residents at all 18 sites from California to New England, including the 500 youths age 10 to 18 at the main Boys Town campus west of Omaha.

''I think it's a big, positive thing,'' said Walter Caldwell, the home's 18-year-old ''mayor,'' or student body president. ''I did think it would pass by a little more than it did.''

He said he was first against the change, arguing that tradition was worth keeping, but ''I decided if it would save the life of a girl who didn't know Boys Town was here to help, it was the right thing to do.''

The 83-year-old institution announced last week that it would ask its residents to vote on the switch to Girls and Boys Town.

''The children have spoken!'' the Rev. Val Peter shouted to nearly 900 residents, staff members and supporters attending Thursday's announcement. ''To all of the girls of America and the boys of America, I would implore: Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive.''

When the Rev. Edward Flanagan started the home for wayward boys in 1917, girls were not included in the original charter because of the belief that girls could be adopted more quickly than troublesome boys.

The home was at first called Father Flanagan's Home for Boys. The residents voted to change the name to Boys Town in 1926.

The first girls were admitted to Boys Town in 1979, when five were enrolled. Today, girls make up nearly half of residents.

Peter said girls were first in the new name because officials didn't want to divide the words ''boys'' and ''town.''

The name of the incorporated village of Boys Town, Neb., will not change.

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