Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Honey," she said, "just pick me a lady."


While femininity reigns supreme and long legged women sashay across the stage before millions of admirers, the air is abuzz with vibrant energy and zeal surging from both audience and participants!

This cachet of talented and beautiful women parade before our eyes!  They're the epitome of women with a dark and sultry air of seduction to the color and charm of the girl next door.

You'll find these women command the stage, not only as spirited and beautiful, but the picture of candor, and sweetness! They represent some of the best America has to offer!
Alongside the jagged edge of talent and brains they exude relaxation and warmth, sincerity and vulnerability and  are equally at ease with their presence.

They capture our hearts, again  and again as they've done for decades, through their wit, grace, poise, intelligence, beauty, vulnerability and charm...all a strong magnetic appeal for anyone!

Look as far and wide as ye may, anyone would be hard pressed to find a more superbly executed, finished, polished production-so wonderfully staged yet, filled with honest, and truthful moments alongside gleaming smiles and high hopes.

The show, this pageant, is intense, precise and connected of the white hot charms of these talented American women.

Tell you more?  Thank you for asking!

This two day beauty pageant originated on September 8, 1921 in a seaside resort town known as Atlantic City, New Jersey. Atlantic City hoteliers,through what was reportedly an attempt to take advantage of the women's newfound role in society, perfected this idea. What better way to inovate and sway vacationers to extend their Labor Day weekend than a bathing suit contest?!  Hooplah!  Why didn't I think of that?  Atlantic City, with her surf, sun and boardwalk would prove the most perfect location for this event! Why King Neptune himself greeted the beauties who competed!  (Yours truly would give her tap shoes away for that esteemable honor alone!)

Surprise of surprises! This beauty contest bloomed and gained more interest AND recognition through time! Over the next eight decades, it would become a national tradition dedicated to defining the ideal American woman.


And indeed they came! Beautiful bevies of womenhood traveled to the Atlantic City resort each year,  sometimes with nothing but a dream and the hope that the Pageant would further their career aspirations! Why, it was an opportunity to cash in on looks and talents for the promising average working woman! These Miss Americas, winning the title, were reported to make $100,000 and more during their reign! Holy Smokes, why that's more than....(I'll look that  up and get back to you, poste haste, gentle readers!)

Still and all, this wasn't the perfect stage for American values and women to be paraded, or so it was said. So many pre-conceived values, from standards such as beauty, money, and a women's freedom and objectification! From patriotism to motherhood and American values, this Pageant was fraught, at times,  with scorn from anxious Americans!

What you say?

This Institution, the Pageant had emerged as one of our country's sources of pride and most popular event! All this in spite of naysayers and critics of stringent religious groups to women's groups and women's rights movements who were aghast and against the display of female form
in public and labeled it beneath respectable behavior?  No!  Finally, the assault and criticism brought  closure to the Pageant event in 1928.

 In considering this closure and ensuing history of the Pageant, now would be a fine time to mention...
"If you look closely, you'll find much by way of
American history since the advent of this pageant and through the decades of it's history" . This Pageant alone, will regale and reveal much about America and it's acceptance of women. Too, it reveals an insight and changing evolving througout American history and the struggles and promises experienced through the decades. You'll see for yourself, an intense
change in American culture, if you choose to look closely! From the Depression, World War II, and the Jazz Age and Rosie The Rivetor,..history doth unfold!

Continuing onward....

Evolution came to the pageant! With the post-war events and the economic depression of the 1930s there was an advent of a more conservative approach to display of femininty.
 Really?  More? 
Will wonders never cease?

With this new genesis of values, the Pageant was revived with a higher moral and respectable tone in mind. And to achieve this moral tone of respectability, 1935 brought in from stage left just the person to do it... Lenora Slaughter, who would  produce an entirely respectable and accepted event!
 But who was Lenora Slaughter?
Even the name evokes fear in the heart!  Shiver me timbers!
Lenora Slaughter, became the Director of
the Pageant with her own reign that lasted until 1967!  She was, of all persuasion, a Southern Baptist and businesswoman who had made a name for herself in her home of St. Petersburg, Florida, as a tireless advocate of causes.

A Pageant Judge once asked Slaughter what to look for in a winner. "Honey," she said, "just pick me a lady."

 Dearly beloved and gentle readers? 

The Pageant was rescuitated by Lenora Slaughter's passion!

 Lenora brought an advent of the most significant and lasting changes to the pageant structure. With single-minded determination Lenora would ban contestants who held titles representing commercial entities. Contestants must carry the title of city, region and state, thereby limiting monetary connections. The contestants ages would range between 18 and 25 years. They were unmarried and must observe a variety of curfews, rules and regulations appropriate to the new higher moral tone! Hooplah! Slaughter brought to fruition the talent competion with the idea that the contestants should and would be judged on more than beauty. Good for you dahling! EXCEPT: (And Devastatingly so): Lenora Slaughter added an entry requirement onto the Miss America Pageant by-laws. This entry requirement became known as Rule Seven. A new regulation which strictly limited Pageant participation to women "in good health and of the white race." We'll continue onward with a positive note further in our tome regarding Rule Seven. But, sadly, and negatively, there is a long history of excluding women of color and ethnicity since the Pageant's beginnings.

Slaughter continued onward in her purpose of infusing respectability into the Pageant with intensity by persuading Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) to become sponsors of the Pageant! Why... allow American parents and society to feel their
daughters were out of harm's way and in the gentlest and most proprietary of hands! She persuaded socialites of the upper strata to act as chaperones, mentors and hostesses for the young
contestants of the Pageant.

Many feel that Lenora Slaughters' most significant and worthy legacy to Miss America was "The Miss America Scholarship Program". Regarding this legacy and in her auto-biography Ms. Slaughter wrote: "I knew that the
shine of a girl's hair wasn't going to make her a success in life".

 Through this educational enticement and advancement she introduced to the Pageant, Slaughter influenced America's middle-class aspirations
and sensibilities into becoming more and more accepting of the Pageant possibilities for American women. By 1945, Slaughter had raised $5,000 and the Miss America Pageant was one of the premier organizations in
American able to offer college scholarships to women! Note: On December 2000, at the ripe old age of 94, Lenora Slaughter died in December 2000. By the time of her demise, the Miss America Organization was the eminent contributor of scholarships to women in the United States.

Moving onward, it was now time to put the bathing suit competition, as feature attraction, to rest! With the scholarship program now in place, Lenora
Slaughter wanted to project a more dignified image, here, as well.

A downplay of the bathing suits began in earnest. However, it was necessary that, Catalina Swimwear, one the Pageant's major sponsors was not in any way offended by the changes on the horizon. In 1947, upon reaching  fine resolve, Lenora Slaughter struck the words "bathing suit" out of the
Pageant dictionary, and replaced it with the more sporty and health conscious word... "swimsuit." Ms. Slaughter, further banned two-piece suits from the competition, and announced that Miss America
would now be crowned in an evening gown.
Darn, there went the itsy bitsy eensy weeny polka dotted bikini!

Yes, 1935 certainly did mark the genesis, the beginning of a newly revived pagent engaged in attracting an appropriate "class of girl" to represent the nation with the title of Miss America.

In the end,  through the efforts of Ms. Slaughters' changes, each September, Americans everywhere, by the millions, could view the annual newsreel of Miss America's crowning!  Featured through newspaper and advertisements, Miss America was even honored with her own day at the World's Fair!
What a sensation! 

Did you know that when the United States entered World War II, and the Federal Government shut down many large public events that Slaughter convinced officials that the Pageant should continue? It's reported Lenora Slaughter appealed to them, not to shut down the Pageant.  "Miss America is emblematic of the nation's spirit,and that spirit continues through war and peace, good times and bad."  Well, that being said and perhaps a bit of persuasion, the Pageant did continue! Permission was granted to continue with the Pageant on the condition that the winner sell war bonds!

Now how is that for the barter and trade of society?!  Ingenious and Frugal!


Hmmmm, hmmmm!

The very first year of the Pageant, there was a literal break down of judging, and here we're doing a wee bit of quoting:

Since the 1920s, participating judges used this literal breakdown of the females' features to calculate the next Miss America. The young woman who drew nearest in adding up to 100
points would win (Lucky was Miss 100!)

From head to foot, these categories were:
Construction of Head: 15 points

Eyes: 10
Hair: 5
Nose: 5
Mouth: 5
Facial Expression: 10
Torso: 10
Legs: 10
Arms: 10
Hands: 10
Grace of Bearing: 10


The judges were all well-known illustrators and artists, such as James Montgomery Flagg, Howard Chandler Christy, and did we mention Norman Rockwell?  These judges, more than anyone, perhaps, assessed a
woman's form with the eye of an artist's, through training, appreciation and objectivity.  Added to those inate talents of the judges, was a pageant royal command that the previous year's " Miss America be the "ideal" standard  judges should assess new contestants!  Oiy! 
By the 1940s, the categories for judging had been reduced to four, each with a maximum score of 25 points: talent, evening gown, swimsuit, and personality.

Today's judging format change is an altogether different beast. There are a great deal of valuable resources available for further reading should you so wish!

Miss America Website

A special note: An American Dream and Ideal Embraces All Americans 

Bess Meyerson,  was crowned the first Jewish Miss America in 1945, the same year the Allies won World War II. Now, that was a wee part and parcel as evidence of what our American Heros
were fighting for.
September 17, 1983, further history was made! Vanessa Williams, was the first African
American woman to be crowned Miss America.  The notorious Rule Number 7 was over, well over ruled!This was certainly a victory and a milestone in the American history and racial history!

1948 PAGEANT CONTRACT (Read this and truly weep dahlings)

Primary Sources: 1948 Pageant Contract

Pageant organizers drew upcontracts over the years for sponsors of local contests. This contract is  from 1948 and include the Rule Number 7 which barred non-white women from competing.


Between Official Franchise Holder And Miss America Pageant
For Conducting Local Contests To Name A Candidate To Be
Entered In The National Finals For the Selection Of
Miss America, 1948
Atlantic City, N.J., September 6th to 13th
(Name of Franchise Holder) of (Street Address) (City and State) hereby accept the exclusive rights to sponsor and conduct the territorial contests within the territory listed as
follows: (Name of Territory)

We hereby agree to sponsor, promote and finance fair and unbiased contests within the territory assigned to us, according to the rules and regulations set forth in this contract.

We agree that we will not assume any obligations locally for or on behalf of the Miss America Pageant, and we thoroughly understand that the Miss America Pageant is in no way obligated to pay for any debts or fulfill any promises made by us in conducting our local preliminary contests.

We agree to pay first class transportation to Atlantic City and return of winning candidate from our territory and to see that she arrives in Atlantic City not later than 6 P.M. on Monday, September 6th, 1948.

We agree to provide winning candidate with $10.00 in cash for incidentals in Atlantic City, and to also provide her with sufficient money for meals while enroute.

We agree to furnish winning candidate from our territory with a maximum of four evening gowns and a minimum of three evening gowns to wear in the national contest.

We agree to mention the $25,000 Scholarship awards which will be given sixteen 1948 Miss America contestants at the National Finals, in all promotional material used in conducting our preliminary and final contests and to acknowledge the donors of this Scholarship Foundation. We understand that these companies are:
(Company Name)
(Company Name)

We also agree to furnish the Miss America Pageant with copy of each piece of said advertising and promotional material used.

We agree that in judging preliminary and final contests to select our candidate for the National Finals, we shall follow the national contest method of judging, copy of which we have received and acknowledge herewith.

We agree that if for any reason contestant winning our official final contest is disqualified or released from appearing in the Miss America Finals at Atlantic City, then the next choice of the judges shall be considered the winner of our contest.

We agree to abide by the following rules and regulations for selecting contestants:
1. Contestant must be resident of city, state, or territory in which local contest is held for six months prior to contest. This rule is only waived for contestants whose residence is out of the city or state, but who is a college or university student in city or state where contests is held and at time contest is held. She may not compete in more than one Official Preliminary Contest each year.
2. Contestant must be single and never have been married, divorced, or had marriage annulled.
3. Contestant must be high school graduate or a senior attending high school at time of contest.
4. Contestant's age on September 1, 1948 shall be not less than eighteen, and more than twenty-eight years.
5. Contestant must be of good character and possess poise, personality, intelligence, charm, and beauty of face and figure.
6. Contestant must possess and display in a three minute routine TALENT. This talent may be singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, dramatic reading, or she may give a three minute talk...
7. Contestant must be in good health and of the white race.
8. Contestant may be either amateur or professional.

The Miss America Pageant agrees to accept our candidate in their National Finals in Atlantic City, September 6th of 1948, and to furnish hotel accommodations and meals for her during the week...

Miss America Timeline: (Notables)

1938- A "society matron" chaperon system is enacted, to keep Pageant contestants away from scandal.
A talent competition is added as part of the scoring process.

Contestants are no longer allowed to represent cities, resorts, or theaters. Instead, they are required to represent states.

1940 -September: The Pageant is officially dubbed the Miss America Pageant and moves into Atlantic City's Convention Hall.

1944 -Director Lenora Slaughter raises $5000 to launch the Miss America scholarship program. Previously Miss America is offered furs and movie contracts. Now she is offered funds for college. The original scholarship patrons are: Joseph Bancroft and Sons, Catalina Swimwear, F.W. Fitch Company, and the Sandy Valley Grocery Company. She also enlists Junior Chambers of Commerce across the country to sponsor local and state contests.

1945- Bess Myerson becomes Miss America 1945, the first Jewish Miss America and the first winner of the scholarship program. She plans to study conducting.

1945 -Bess Myerson receives few offers for appearances and product endorsement. America appears not to be ready for a Jewish Miss America. Myerson decides to spend her year speaking for the Jewish Anti-Defamation League on the topic, "You Can Not Be Beautiful and Hate."

1946- Lenora Slaughter bans the phrase "bathing suit"-- the garments are to be called "swimsuits."

1947- September: For the last time, Miss America is crowned in a bathing suit. Afterwards, winners are crowned in evening gowns.

1983- Vanessa Williams, was the first African American Woman crowned Miss America.


Whether you love the notion or despise it, Miss America is undeniably a part of our history. And through that history, take heed to
learn much about ourselves and our forebears. And, should we listen intently, we'll see the future of our dreams there as well...either love it or you hate it.


Miss America?
It's still a dream in a little girls heart, yet today...I'm near positive.

We've Come A Long Way Americans...and then some.

This delightful tome took a great deal of my beauty rest, sigh,
never thee mind,...I'll sleep when I'm no more!

Hubba, Hubba

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