1943 Miss America Pageant - Jean Bartel Miss California wins
Jean Bartel, Miss California, won the 1943 Miss America Pageant, where she was crowned by her predecessor, Jo-Carroll Dennison, Miss America 1942, making her the second war-time titleholder. Informed backstage that she was the winner, Bartel emerged from behind the curtains to greet the audience and walk the runway as the band serenaded her to the graduation tune, "Pomp and Circumstance".
Jean Bartel, Miss America 1943, Miss California, inspired the pageant to develop its now famous scholarship program.
During her travels as Miss America, Bartel became increasingly convinced that there was a need for college scholarships for women - an idea that was considered a "back burner" need given the enormous needs of American World War II servicemen. Nevertheless, the idea took root in Lenora's heart and she set her sights to adding a new element to the pageant, a scholarship program to award titleholders with funds to attend college.
Serving at the height of American involvement in World War II, Jean's reign was heavily focused on supporting patriotism and the war effort. With thousands of young men being killed in battle, Americans were personally experiencing the sacrifices of their sons, brothers, fathers and husbands necessary to battle Nazi brutality (warning: link contains graphic photos), and Bartel worked tirelessly selling war bonds. She was so effective in her efforts that the United States Treasury Department honored her as the individual who had sold the most Series E Bonds that year -- two and one half million dollars worth.*
As Bartel continued her successful nationwide travels as Miss America 1943, director Slaughter tackled the daunting task of beginning to solicit American business leaders to contribute donations to fund her a scholarship fund for women. Although rebuffed continuously by uninterested businessmen throughout 1943 and 1944, she continued undaunted in her efforts and managed to elicit a handful of businesses to contribute the first contributions to the new Miss America scholarship fund. By September 1945, a $5000 would be awarded to whoever earned the 1945 Miss America title.
After her reign, Bartel went on to star on Broadway, have a TV show, produce documentaries, and perform extensively throughout and United States and many countries. Some of her theater, television and film credits include:
Sources: *Miss America Organization, www.tvguide.com, broadwayworld.com
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