Father Flanagan and Boys Town

Father Edward J. Flanagan (1886-1948) became famous as the founder of an orphanage for boys in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1917, which developed into  Boys Town,  "one of the largest non-profit child care and healthcare organizations in the country" serving troubled youth and those without family resources. ("Boys Town Kicks off Centennial Celebration,"  October 26, 2016;  Stevens, C. J. (2010). Father Flanagan and the founding of Boys Town: Omaha, Nebraska (1917-1925). American Catholic Studies, 121(1), 91-97.)  Boys Town captured the popular imagination as the subject of a 1938 Oscar-winning film starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney.  Flanagan was a tireless promoter of Boys Town, with its philosophy of "no bad boys":  "Boys are better capable of governing themselves than of submitting to government by adults. Don't repress a boy, give him outlets for his energies. Don't preach at him, give him the example you want him to follow. Make him responsible. Remember, there are no bad boys." (Flanagan, Edward Joseph. (1948). Current Biography (Bio Ref Bank).)  He was a prominent speaker during the 1930s and 1940s at meetings of educators and other child welfare professionals and religious and charitable organizations.

There were clearly parallels with the mission and clientele of Boys Town and that of Our Lady of the Woods.  Flanagan spoke in Cincinnati  in September 1939,  November 1940, and June 1945.  According to an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, he reportedly suggested  a name change to Girls' Town during a visit to Our Lady of the Woods in 1945 ("'Girls Town' is Inaugurated at First Fete in Carthage Institution’s 59-Year History,"  9/24/1945). Though there is no formal documentation of Flanagan's direct involvement in the name change, by September 1945, Our Lady of the Woods had adopted the name  Girls' Town of America.