If you are into social anthropology, the “Meet Miss Subways: New York’s Beauty Queens 1941-76,” is the exhibition for you. The photo show will be on display at the New York Transit Museum from October 23 to March 2.
For over thirty years, photos and one-sentence aspirations of New York women were displayed in subway cars as part of the “Meet Miss Subways” contest with a hidden agenda of drawing subway-riders’ attention to other advertisements in New York’s transit system.
For the first 22 years, winners were selected by the John Robert Powers modeling agency and the New York Subways Advertising Company. Afterward, the voting went the American Idol way, with NYC subway-riders voting via postcard for their favorites.
The contest saw its first African-American winner in 1948 – long before Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America in 1984—and the first Asian-American was honored in 1949.
Immigrants from Russia, Lithuania, Guatemala had their wins. This is New York, after all!
Anyone could participate and win. Married with kids – no problem!
The photos contain the evidence of women’s upward mobility. Here is a winner who happened to be a Recruiting Sergeant at the Manhattan Marine Corp.
Another one was an FBI employee.
There were team winners – twins and triplets.
What made Miss Subways contest so marvelous is that it celebrated ordinary New York women end their dreams. Everyone’s life deserved to be in the spotlight.