Guide to the Miss America 1951 Papers
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.0888
Creators:
Sports, Entertainment and Leisure, Division of, NMAH, SI
Betbeze, Yolande
Dates:
1910 - 2003
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
4.5 Cubic feet
8 boxes
Repository:
Yolande Betbeze was crowned Miss America in September, 1950. During and after her reign she was influential in both the Civil Rights and Feminist movements. Her papers document her reign as Miss America, her life after Miss America, and the Miss America pageant itself.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
Scope and Content: This collection documents the life of Yolande Betbeze who reigned as Miss America 1951. Though the collection focuses heavily on the year of her reign from September 1950 to September 1951, it also includes information about her life before winning the Miss America pageant, the Miss Alabama and Miss America pageants of 1950, and her life post-Miss America. Visual imagery in the collection documents life and fashion in the 1950s through 2000. Newspaper articles offer evidence of the culture of the 1950s. This collection contains newspaper clippings, magazine articles, photographs, awards, and memorabilia of Miss America pageants throughout the twentieth century in the form of booklets, brochures, and paper dolls.
Series 1, Miss America Reign, 1950-1951, 1994, undated, includes newspaper articles, magazine articles, and awards from the House of Representatives, programs and brochures relating to Ms. Betbeze's activities as Miss America. All publicity articles—whether promotional or editorial-are included in this series. Betbeze traveled extensively during her reign, and her trips are documented here. Also included in this series are her visits to military installations, promotion of Miss America pageant sponsors, promotion of her own opera career, and most importantly her verbal attacks against the objectification of women in pageants while she wore the Miss America crown.
Subseries 1, Newspaper Clippings and Magazine Articles, 1950-1951, undated,
includes newspaper clippings about Betbeze during her reign as Miss America, documenting nearly every event she attended and delving into her love life and home life. The clippings are arranged by month and year from September 1950 through September 1951. The newspaper articles from Betbeze's reign that are without a date are arranged by topic behind the dated clippings. This subseries also includes several articles published in magazines about Betbeze during her reign. The articles are arranged in chronological order by year behind the newspaper clippings.
Subseries 2, Awards, 1950, includes awards given to Betbeze by the House of Representatives after she was named Miss America in Atlantic City, as well as an award by the town of Chickasaw naming Betbeze an honorary citizen.
Subseries 3, Programs and Brochures, 1950-1951, includes mini-photo books of Betbeze from her reign as Miss America, as well as pageant programs from pageants she attended as Miss America. It also includes programs and brochures of events she attended and participated in as Miss America, such as her Coronation Ball and a Symphony in Fashion runway show. The materials are arranged with the photograph books first, followed by pageant programs, then programs from various events.
Subseries 4, Promotional Advertisements, 1950-1951, includes promotional advertisements for Nash Automobile, the Official Car Company of Miss America, and Everglaze Fabric. These advertisements are arranged in chronological order.
Subseries 5, Materials Related to Miss America Reign, 1950-1951, 1994, includes material relevant to Betbeze's reign as Miss America, such as her schedule book from September 1950 to September 1951 and a 1994 interview regarding her life, her reign, and her beliefs. The materials are arranged in chronological order by year.
Series 2, Post-Miss America Reign, 1951-2001, undated, documents Betbeze's life after her reign as Miss America through newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and Betbeze's copy of pageant judging guidelines for Miss America 1957. It also documents the changing view of women from the 1950s through the turn of the twenty-first century. Betbeze pursued a career in opera after Miss America, but this career ended with her marriage to Matthew Fox. Materials also relate to her marriage to Matthew Fox, her relationship with Cherif Guellal, her life in Georgetown in Washington D.C in the 1960s, and her participation in later Miss America pageants.
Subseries 1, Newspaper Clippings and Magazine Articles, 1952-2001, undated, includes newspaper clippings and magazine articles about Betbeze after her reign as Miss America. They document her relationships, lifestyle, causes, and career. The clippings are arranged chronologically by year. The magazine articles are arranged chronologically by decade behind the newspaper clippings.
Subseries 2, Miss America Activities, 1957, comprises of Betbeze's copy of judging guidelines from the 1957 Miss America Pageant. It includes a schedule of events and the judging criteria for each woman, illustrating the changing perception of women in the United States of America from the 1950s through the twenty-first century.
Series 3, Photographs, 1950-2000, undated, documents Betbeze's life from the 1940s to the turn of the twenty-first century. It includes several photographs from her childhood and teen years. The majority of the series focuses on her reign as Miss America, including photos of her travels, glamour photos, publicity photos, and candid shots. It also includes photographs of Betbeze after her reign. There are negatives for several of the photographs. Photographs are arranged by topic.
Subseries 1, Pre-Miss America Reign, 1949-1950, contains Betbeze's life as a teenager and the Miss Alabama pageant. The photographs are arranged by topic.
Subseries 2, Miss America Reign, 1950-1951, undated, provides visual evidence enhancing the printed materials in the other series. It includes photographs of Betbeze's travels throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It also includes glamour photographs, candid shots, and publicity events that she attended as Miss America. There are a few photographs of her in a swimsuit. The photographs are arranged by topic.
Subseries 3, Post-Miss America Reign, 1951-2001, includes photographs of Betbeze in later life, especially at Miss America pageants in the 1990s. The photographs are arranged by topic.
Series 4, Materials Related to Miss America Pageants, 1910-2003, undated, documents the institution of the Miss America Pageant and its development throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. It includes memorabilia from Atlantic City, the pageants, and Miss America advertisements. It includes official pageant yearbooks and correspondence to Betbeze regarding the seventy-fifth anniversary of Miss America, including a booklet about the pageant. It also includes Miss America Through the Looking Glass (1985), a book documenting the Miss America Pageant from its inception to the 1980s.
Subseries 1, Official Pageant Yearbooks, 1946-2003, comprises of Official Pageant Yearbooks. They illustrate the changing fashions and culture surrounding the pageant. They are arranged in chronological order by year.
Subseries 2, Miss America Memorabilia, 1910-2001, undated, consists of memorabilia of the Miss America Pageant and Atlantic City. The materials include a package for a hairnet from the 1920s, advertisements using the Miss America label for Lucky Strike cigarettes, sheet music for the Miss America and Miss Alabama official songs, Miss America Through the Looking Glass, various stickers advertising the pageant and Atlantic City, Miss America paper dolls, cards and postcards. The memorabilia is arranged in chronological order by year.
Subseries 3, Seventy-fifth Anniversary of Miss America, 1995, includes correspondence between pageant directors and Betbeze regarding the seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Miss America Pageant, as well as a brochure about the pageant. The materials are arranged by type; first is the correspondence regarding the seventy-fifth anniversary, then the brochure advertising Miss America.
Series 5, Yolande Betbeze Personal Papers, 1949-1999, undated, documents life behind-the-scenes through telegrams and letters from friends and fans, invitations and Betbeze's schedule book as Miss America. It includes magazine articles and newspaper clippings from her pre-Miss America years, and the layout of an interview she gave in 1994.
Subseries 1, Personal Correspondence, 1950-1995, undated, consists of personal letters between Betbeze and her friends, including Lenora Slaughter, the head of the Miss America Pageant when Betbeze was Miss America. It also includes fan-mail and autograph requests. The correspondence is arranged chronologically by year.
Subseries 2, Telegrams, 1950-1951, consists of telegrams that Betbeze received as Miss America. They consist of well wishes for her reign, birthday, and Christmas. The telegrams are arranged chronologically by year.
Subseries 3, Newspaper Clippings and Magazine Articles, 1949-1950, consists of newspaper clippings and magazine articles saved by Betbeze. They include reviews of her performance as Musetta in La Boheme in Mobile in 1949 and articles about Matthew Fox. The clippings are arranged chronologically by month and year. The magazine articles are arranged by year behind the newspaper clippings.

Arrangement
Arrangement
Tyhe collection is divided into five series.
Series 1: Miss America Reign, 1950-1951, 1994, undated
Subseries 1.1, Newspaper Clippings and Magazine Articles, 1950-1951, undated
Subseries 1.2, Awards, 1950
Subseries 1.3, Programs and Brochures, 1950-1951
Subseries 1.4, Promotional Advertisements, 1950-1951
Subseries 1.5, Materials Related to Miss America Reign, 1950-1994
Series 2: Post Miss America, 1952-2001, undated
Subseries 1, Newspaper Clippings and Magazine Articles, 1952-2001, undated
Subseries 2, Miss America Activities, 1957
Series 3: Photographs, 1950-2000, undated
Subseries 3.1, Pre-Miss America Reign, 1949-1950
Subseries 3.2, Miss America Reign, 1950-1951, undated
Subseries 3.3, Post Miss America Reign, 1951-2001
Series 4: Materials Related to Miss America Pageants, 1910-2003, undated
Subseries 4.1, Official Pageant Yearbooks, 1946-2003
Subseries 4.2, Miss America Memorabilia, 1910-2001, undated
Subseries 4.3, Seventy-fifth Anniversary of Miss America, 1995
Series 5: Yolande Betbeze Personal Papers, 1949-1999, undated
Subseries 5.1, Personal Correspondence, 1950-1995, undated
Subseries 5.2, Telegrams, 1950-1951
Subseries 5.3, Newspaper Clippings and Magazine Articles, 1949-1950

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Yolande Betbeze, Miss America 1951, was born in 1929 in Mobile, Alabama. Her mother was of Basque ancestry, so Yolande ended up with a foreign sounding name and dark European looks, quite different from the general populace of Mobile. Early on she aspired to become a famous opera singer, and took voice lessons throughout her teenage years. In 1949 she starred as Musetta in Puccini's La Boheme, through the Mobile Opera Guild.
In 1950, Yolande entered the Miss Mobile Beauty Pageant, hoping to win and continue to state and national levels to receive a scholarship to study voice in New York City, or even abroad. When she entered the pageant she gave her age as 21, but at her next birthday in late 1950 (presumably her 22nd) she confessed that she had lied about her age. Really, she was 20 when she entered the Miss America pageant, and this was her 21st birthday. She was crowned Miss Mobile, then Miss Alabama. In September 1950, she made her way to Atlantic City to compete for the title of Miss America. Newspapers in Alabama raved about her. Even journalists in the north predicted that Yolande would be crowned the next Miss America. In an interview, pageant director Lenora Slaughter says that from the moment she saw her she felt that Yolande would be crowned the next Miss America. During preliminaries, Yolande won first place in the swimsuit competition, while Miss Connecticut won first place in the talent competition. Nonetheless, Yolande wowed them with her singing. When she won the title of Miss America, her schedule quickly filled with singing engagements.
On September 9th, 1950, Yolande Betbeze was crowned Miss America. She became an overnight success due to her grace, poise, beauty, and talent. However, she had received an education at a convent school, and felt a bit squeamish about 'cheesecake poses' in a bathing suit. Every Miss America had done a swimsuit tour, even though it wasn't in their contracts that they must, and Yolande was expected to follow in their footsteps. But she wanted to be an opera star, not a pin-up girl, she declared. After winning Miss America, she refused to pose in a swimsuit unless she was going swimming.
The Catalina Swimwear Company, a sponsor of the Miss America pageant, did not like Yolande's stance on swimsuits. They contended that the Miss America pageant had become less focused on the beauty of the contestant and more on their talents and personality. They wanted to bring beauty back. They pulled their sponsorship and created a new pageant line which now includes Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA. This pageant focuses only on the physical beauty of a competitor. Even today there is no talent portion, and even the interview portion has been diluted.
Another issue of the Miss America pageant involved the marriage of a Miss America. Though Yolande had no plans to marry, or even a boyfriend, the papers certainly wanted to know the details surrounding her love-life and ability to marry with the title Miss America. Yolande explained that she received an extra $4000 for staying single throughout the year, but if she wanted to marry she could ask permission from the 18 pageant directors. "Wouldn't it be easier to wait a year?" she asked.
Her year as Miss America was an eventful one. She traveled throughout the United States, the Bahamas, Mexico, France, and Italy. She met with Congressmen, foreign leaders, opera stars, and famous fashion designers. According to Lenora Slaughter, Yolande had the fullest schedule of any Miss America to that date. Everyone agreed that she had put class into the Miss America pageant.
After her reign, she was succeeded as Miss America by Colleen Kay Hutchins, originally Miss Utah. The two became friends and Yolande was in Colleen's wedding some years later. Yolande took up philanthropic causes—fighting for racial equality in the pageants, for instance. She also marched in civil rights demonstrations, participated in sit-ins, and marched in a feminist demonstration in Atlantic City. In 1954 she married a motion picture and television producer, Matthew Fox. They had one daughter before his death in 1964. After she was widowed, Yolande moved to Georgetown in the District of Columbia, where she lives to this day.

Administration
Separated Materials
The Division of Work and Industry, Natiuonal Museum of American Historu holds artifacts related to this collection: the Miss America crown, scepter, and sash of 1950-1951, worn by the donor, and the Miss Alabama sash and Miss America ribbon of 1950-1951.
Processing Information
Collection processed by Craig Orr, archivist and Abigail Fine (volunteer), supervised by Vanessa Broussard Simmons, archivist, 2006.
Author
Craig Orr and Abigail Fine
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Yolande Betbeze in 2005.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Miss America 1951 Papers, 1949-2000, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions. Reproduction restricted due to copyright or trademark.

Related Materials
Materials in the Archives Center, National Museum of American History
The Miss America 1943 [Jean Bartel] Photographs, 1943-1944 (AC0902)

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Letters (correspondence) -- 20th century. Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Programs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Paper dolls Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Beauty contests -- United States Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Beauty contestants Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Clippings -- 20th century Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Awards Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- 1950-2000 Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Magazines (periodicals) -- 20th century Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Advertisements -- 20th century Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sports, Entertainment and Leisure, Division of, NMAH, SI Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
archivescenter@si.edu
http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives