1935 Miss America Pageant
Pageant Results > Miss America Pageant > 1935 Henrietta Leaver
Henrietta Leaver, Miss Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, won the 1935 Miss America title midway through the Great Depression.
Henrietta Leaver, a 19-year-old sales clerk from Pittsburgh, was named Miss America 1935.
A beautiful blue-eyed brunette, who needed to drop out of high school and find work to help with the family finances, the nineteen-year-old worked as a cosmetics clerk at the local 5&10 cent store, G.C. Murphy Company in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.
After winning the Miss McKeesport and Miss Pittsburgh titles, she was soon off to compete at the now famous Miss America pageant. There, when the judges awarded her the coveted title, reporters predictably dubbed the sales clerk "the million-dollar baby from the five-and-ten-cent store."
Upon her victory, the Pittsburgh Press ran the revealing headline: "Henrietta Leaver, a Modern Cinderella, Would Swap Ermine Robes and Golden Coach for a Steady Job with a Regular Salary -- and Call herself a Lucky Girl". The accompanying article noted that "life hasn't exactly been a bowl of cherries" for the new queen, describing Leaver in stark terms reflective of millions of other American girls with similar dreams: "Miss America is a serious girl, grown up during the bitter subduing influence of the depression, who would swap her crown and her ermine robes, and even her golden coach, for a steady job with a regular salary every Saturday night and call herself lucky."**
During her reign, the famous sculptor Frank Vittor, renowned for his statues of U.S. Presidents Coolidge, Wilson, Roosevelt and Lincoln, asked her to model for a sculpture. She agreed, posing for the sessions in a modest swimsuit.
To her shock, when Vittor unveiled the statue, which he had named "American Venus", he had presented Miss America stark naked, in Venus De Milo style. A major scandal ensued, with the titleholder proclaiming her innocence, threats of legal action against the sculptor threatened, and panels of judges chosen to evaluate if the statuette was obscene (it was deemed not to be).
However, the scandal, with its damage was done to her reputation, took its toll on Henrietta and she eloped midway during her reign.
Sources: www.tubecityonline.com, **The Pittsburgh Press
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