They may not have become as famous as “Miss America,” but in New York City “Miss Subways” were local legends. Now a book and new exhibit celebrates the competition and looks at the women that became the faces of New York City’s underground system from 1941 to 1976.
The contest reflected an evolving America. When it was launched, the war already was changing the role of women. From 1952 to 1962, the contest featured schoolteachers, stewardesses and suburban housewives; the next 10 years saw secretaries and airplane pilots.
The first African-American was crowned Miss Subways in 1948 and the first Asian-American was honoured in 1949.
Photographer Fiona Gardner has spent the last five years tracking down the women in the posters and travelled across the U.S. to photograph 41 Miss Subways.
The exhibition “Meet Miss Subways: New York’s Beauty Queens 1941-1976,” will be on display at the New York City Transit Museum until March 25th.
A book featuring the stories of some of these women is out now.