1945 Miss America Pageant - Bess Myerson Miss New York wins
Bess Myerson, Miss America 1945, won the 1945 Miss America Pageant as Miss New York City. She was crowned by outgoing titleholder Miss America 1944 Venus Ramey in Atlantic City as World War II drew to a close and the Nazi's and Japanese surrendered to Allied forces.
Bess Myerson Miss America 1945, Miss New York, was the first Miss America to be awarded a scholarship, $5000, and the first Jewish titleholder.
A week before, on September 2nd, 1945, Japan had surrendered, finally ending the brutality of World War II, after the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The Nazi's had surrendered that May, ending Hitler's war on Europe, with its tragic loss of an estimated 48,231,700 lives. As Allied forces freed the victims of German concentration camps, the horrific reality of the Holocaust and the murder of 6 million Jews became public.
In one of the most symbolic coincidences in pageant history, Myerson became the first Jewish woman to win the Miss America title. To Jewish people throughout the United States and Europe, she became a symbol of hope.
Myerson was also the first Miss America scholarship, a $5000 award. She later served as co-host for Miss America telecasts. She won both the preliminary swimsuit competition and talent competition. In the talent competition, she played "Summertime" on the flute, before switching to play "Concerto in A-Minor" on the piano.
During her reign, she traveled widely, encountering a peculiar blend of anti-Sementism and near hero-worship from the public. She found satisfaction in visiting military hospitals where her appearance seemed to encourage soldiers who had been seriously injured or maimed in the war. She was in many respects the embodiment of what they had been fighting for.
At the conclusion of her reign, she returned to crown her successor, Marilyn Buferd, Miss America 1946 of California.
In October 1946, Bess married Allan Wayne, a business company executive and former Army captain, with whom she had a daughter. They later divorced.
Myerson went on to become one of the most important figures of New York City politics, first being appointed by Mayor John Lindsay to serve as New York City's Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, and later serving as Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for Mayor Ed Koch. She also ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.
Tragically, Myerson's later life was marred by a series of serious scandals and legal charges that severely tainted what had been an inspiring life of great success.
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