Gainesville State School for Girls was established in 1913 as a home for delinquent and dependent girls. Girls between the ages of eight and seventeen are sent to the institution by court order. The school, originally called the Texas State Training School for Girls, was authorized by the Thirty-third Legislature, which appropriated $25,000 for construction. Under the direction of its first superintendent, Dr. Carrie Weaver Smith (1916–25), the school sought to rehabilitate delinquent girls and stressed "character building, formation of habits of self-control and stability, better understanding of spiritual values and . . . an ability to cope with present social conditions," as well as providing an education emphasizing vocational skills.
The school, located on a 160-acre tract just east of Gainesville, began with four dormitories and a superintendent's residence. By 1948, when enrollment reached 198, it took on its present name. At that time the campus included seven brick cottages, five frame houses for the families of staff members, and a number of other buildings including a gymnasium, a hospital, a school building with a cafeteria and an auditorium, a beauty parlor, and a laundry. From the beginning the school has been relatively self-sufficient; food for the girls and staff is grown on 100 to 160 acres.
The Fifty-fifth Legislature transferred control of the school from the State Board of Control to the Texas Youth Council (now the Texas Youth Commission). By the mid-1960s 364 students attended the Gainesville institution, and in the early 1970s 390 girls were enrolled. Extensive renovation of existing facilities and construction of new facilities, including a security-treatment cottage, made the school "one of the finest training institutions for delinquent females in America." In 1991 the Gainesville State School for Girls housed 257 students, and Jerry Day was the superintendent.