This program was left on my desk during an event. I don't know who donated it, and I didn't find any more info about the Miss Edina pageants in a first pass through our collection (although not everything is cataloged in detail; we may have more filed under something like "Events" or "Women," for example.)
Even without more background material, this program provides a lot information. Let's take a closer look....
_This is not Miss Edina (above).This young woman is Miss America 1967, Debra Dene Barnes of Kansas.
_This is Miss Edina Pamela Steiner (above) who was second runner-up in the Miss Minnesota pageant. She reigned over the 1968 Miss Edina contest, which included the familiar talent, swimsuit and evening gown competitions, as you can see from the schedule of events (below).
This is a thick booklet, with a page featuring each of the contestants (with portraits taken by Edina photographer Clair Peterson) as well as photos and stories from the 1967 Miss America pageant.
Here's the page for Judy Mendenhall, who must have won the Miss Edina title that night, because she was crowned Miss Minnesota in 1969 and went onto earn the fourth runner-_up position in the Miss America pageant. Even though she didn't come home with the tiara, she did receive scholarship money for her flute solo "The Swiss Shepherd's Song."
Only one other Miss Edina wore the Miss Minnesota crown. When Bebe Shopp of Hopkins won the Miss America title in 1948, runner up Jean Sheils of Edina took over duties. The first and only Edinan to be crowned Miss America was Dorothy Benham in 1977, but she entered the contest as Miss South St. Paul not Miss Edina. (See the Miss Minnesota web site to view all the winners.)
Coincidentally, Benham won the national title shortly after another Edina woman, Barbara Peterson, was crowned Miss USA in 1976, prompting one women's magazine to write that Edina was a town that grew "American Beauties."
During the early days of television, the Miss America pageant was one of the most highly rated shows. Think Super Bowl audiences. It was consistently the top-rated show for the year. Nearly every American household sat down together and waited for the final moment when emcee Burt Parks would sing, "There she is... Miss America" as the newly crowned beauty would walk the runway with tears streaming down her cheeks. (Dorothy Benham broke that mold; in an interview with People magazine, she said she was the only one not crying when she was crowned.)
Miss America 1967, pictured on the donated program, was the last queen to serve during the Golden Age of beauty pageants.
That next year, the New York Radical Feminists protested at the 1968 national contest in Atlantic City, calling the pageant degrading to women. The protesters gathered up items they felt represented the oppression of women in America — cosmetics, high heels, curlers, girdles and bras — and threw them in a trash can. Even though nothing was set on fire, hereafter the movement would be known by the derogatory term "bra burning feminists."
To put the demonstration in perspective, this was a year of protests, with draft card burnings, civil rights activism, campus sit-ins and anti-Vietnam rallies throughout the country. America was changing and the youth movement rebelled against "the establishment." Miss America was created during their grandparents' era as a swimming suit pageant designed to keep tourists around Atlantic City after the summer season ended. Although the pageant would later include a talent portion, feminists railed against the idea that little girls could aspire only to become Miss America while little boys could be President.
The pageant lost viewers, and the feminist movement reached a national audience.
The pageant survived by evolving with the times, and is now one of the largest scholarship programs for women. Television ratings are back on the rise, although they are not anywhere near the 1960s hey day. This year's pageant is this Saturday (Jan. 14.) Will you tune in?
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