Associated Press article:
It was an ad campaign conceived as eye candy to bring attention to other advertisements in New York’s transit system. But the “Meet Miss Subways” beauty contest posters of pretty young New York women and their aspirations quickly evolved into a popular and even groundbreaking fixture that ran for 35 years, from 1941 to 1976.
The first African-American was crowned Miss Subways in 1948 — long before Vanessa Williams was named Miss America in 1984 — and the first Asian-American was honored in 1949.
“It was the first integrated and ethnically diverse beauty contest in America,” representing working-class women, said [photographer Fiona] Gardner, who was born the year the contest ended. “I realized I had stumbled on a piece of forgotten New York history.”
I don’t know terribly much about the New York City subway system, nor was I alive before 1976, so I’d certainly never heard of this ad campaign before. The reason this story was written is that that quoted photographer, Fiona Gardner, has an exhibition at the New York Transit Museum about Miss Subways starting later this month. Records of the winners were lost, so she tracked down existing copies of the old posters and then the women themselves.