The first Jewish woman to win the Miss America pageant won in 1945, but was asked to change her name to something less Jewish
It’s no easy task to be a contestant in the Miss America Pageant. It’s even harder to win.
Only one Jewish woman has ever won the Miss America Pageant. This poetically came in 1945, the same year that WWII ended, and anti-Semitism was at an all-time high.
The woman was Bess Myerson, the contestant from New York.
Pageant director Lenora Slaughter actually requested that she change her name to one less Jewish-sounding.
It was just four years earlier that the first Native American woman won the pageant, too.
Three years later and the first Hispanic woman would claim the prize, also being the first ever Miss Puerto Rico. Clearly this was a fairly progressive time for the pageant!
The most recent “first” would be Nina Davuluri, Miss New York, as the first Indian-American to win. This came in 2014.
The same year, Nicole Kelly, Miss Iowa, became the first contestant born without part of one arm, and Theresa Vail, Miss Kansas, became the first Miss America contestant to display tattoos in the swimsuit competition.