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Ellen Freudenheim

This Sunday: Special Tour of NY Transit Museum "Miss Subway" Exhibit- Sheds Light on Role of Women, Minorities in Mid-20th Century

By May 16, 2013

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Here's a treat...Head to the NY Transit Museum in Downtown Brooklyn for a special tour of the exhibit on the "Miss Subways" beauty pageant, which ran for over 30 years. The show features photos of some of the same women today, with recordings of their live stories. This retrospective, the brainchild of photographer Fiona Gardner and journalist Amy Zimmer,  is fascinating in that it sheds some light on the evolving role of women in New York City as well as Brooklyn. The "Miss Subway" ads were first designed to promote such products as chewing gum and tobacco. But as early as the 1940s, there was pressure to "integrate" the ads.  According to the museum:

In the 1940s, African-American advocacy groups pressured John Robert Powers, the modeling agent in charge of selecting winners, to integrate the contest, finally succeeding near the end of the decade with Thelma Porter. As the first black Miss Subways, she was celebrated on the cover of Crisis Magazine. Winners' photos and biographies were displayed in trains throughout the city, and the publicity often led to work in radio and television. In 1949, Helen Lee became the first Asian-American winner."

"Miss Subway Poster" Events at the NY Transit Museum (see below for address & directions)

  • Sun, May 19, 2013 2 PM
  • Sat, May 25, 2013 2 PM

Join the exhibit photographer Fiona Gardner on an intimate gallery tour, as she looks beyond the pretty faces and pageant sashes to explore the fascinating changes and challenges that shaped these women.
Free with paid Museum admission ($7 general, $5 kids 2-17 and seniors 62+)

Where it Is:

  • NY Transit Museum is located on the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in a decommissioned subway station
  • Closest subways are the 2, 3, 4, 5 to Borough Hall or the A, C, F, R to Jay St-MetroTech.



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