Imagine standing on a crowded train, only to look up and see a bevy of stylish, smiling women. From 1941 until 1976, the Miss Subways contest — “a search to find the loveliest subway rider” — graced New York City subway cars near and far. Created by the Subways Advertising committee to bring a little magic to an otherwise mundane commute, this hometown beauty contest displayed women’s faces and jobs, with a call to vote for the next winner. With a wide diversity of job titles (from flight attendant to FBI clerk) and a focus on integration, Miss Subways was truly ahead of its time. All told, over 200 New Yorkers were graced with the title.
Photographer Fiona Gardner and journalist Amy Zimmer have recently joined forces to locate and interview former Miss Subways. Part collective memoir, part cultural history, Meet Miss Subways will be the first book to examine the contest’s significance — both personal and historical. It’s a fascinating look at a nearly forgotten piece of New York history.
Inspired by the stylish Miss Subways of yore, these collections are dedicated to their memories.
Miss Subways Marie Theresa Thomas loved to read and “adored the March wind.”
[Pictured: 1. Vintage woven straw bag from foxandbow; 2. Bow Tie garden floral necklace from jessamity; 3. Vintage '40s-'50s maillot from SweetMoonlightShop; 4. 1940s peep toe shoes from honeytalkvintage.]
“A petite, Brooklyn-born colleen,” Peggy Byrne was studying to be an insurance broker when she became a Miss Subways in 1950.
An X-ray technician with “intriguing green eyes” and a penchant for bowling, Marie Leonard was a Miss Subways 1955.
[Pictured: 1. Fraternity baseball cap from StagVintageGoods; 2. Small leather wallet by ExpressionsInLeather; 3. Vintage sneakers with pointed toes from THAYERVintage; 4. 1960s Checkered shorts from foxandfawns.]
Maureen Walsh (Miss Subways 1968) had traveled to Europe four times and was a hostess at Shea Stadium.
Marcia Kilpatrick (Miss Subways 1974) had dreams of becoming an actress and liked to photograph the setting sun.