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Queen Esther and Bella Abzug: Costumes, Leadership, and Identity

Discover how two remarkable Jewish women: The biblical figure, Esther, and the historical figure, Bella Abzug, both fought for justice and liberation by adopting personas that helped them achieve their goals.

Miss America Pageant, 2014

Pageant Problems

by Abby Richmond

Bess Myerson, the one and only Jewish Miss America, was crowned winner in 1945. Jordyn Rozensky’s 2013 JWA blog post, Here She Comes….Miss America, discusses the influence Myerson had on America and on the Jewish community following her big win. Myerson was the first Jewish woman to win the pageant, and she experienced significant antisemitism as a result. Despite these challenges, Myerson channeled her fame into doing good—she became active with the Anti-Defamation League and launched a successful political career. 

Topics: Feminism, Television

Bess Myerson

When Bess Myerson encountered anti-Semitism as the first Jewish Miss America, she used her new-found fame to fight hatred through the Anti-Defamation League.

Queen Esther and Bella Abzug: Costumes, Leadership, and Identity

Throughout history, activists have chosen different costumes and personas as strategic tools to help them stand up against injustice. Examine how the biblical figure Esther and the historical figure Bella Abzug fought for justice and liberation by adopting personas that helped them to achieve their goals. JWA staff will demonstrate ways to use the stories of these women in your classrooms as you prepare for Purim.
Bess Myerson, 1957

Esther to Bess: We are Crowned by Fate

by  Deborah Fineblum Raub

Sixty-seven years ago today, Bess Myerson was crowned Miss America, the only Jewish woman ever to be so honored.

Bess Myerson crowned first Jewish Miss America

September 8, 1945

Just months after the shocking revelations of the Holocaust's devastation of European Jewry, Bess Myerson was crowned the first (and still only) Jew

"Women Strike for Equality"

August 26, 1970

Ten thousand women marched down New York's Fifth Avenue on August 26, 1970, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

Bess Myerson

The first Jewish Miss America, Bess Myerson transformed the fame bestowed upon her because of her beauty into an illustrious public career.

Hunter College

Long known as the “Jewish Girls’ Radcliffe,” Hunter College of the City University of New York was founded in 1870 as the Normal College of the City of New York. It was a public, tuition-free secondary and teacher-training school that admitted students solely on the basis of academic merit, determined by competitive examination, and by residency in the city. Over the years, it became a haven for academically advanced students unable to afford more costly schools or to gain admission to institutions with more restrictive admissions criteria. Women who were considered “socially undesirable”—African Americans, Catholics, and Jews, especially those from Eastern Europe—attended Hunter in disproportionate numbers. Hunter’s student body, therefore, differed significantly from that of other women’s colleges in America. From 1900 to the end of World War II, decades when many institutions of higher education implemented policies of selective admissions specifically designed to deflect minority students, Hunter gladly welcomed these same women. Hunter educated scores of intellectually gifted and professionally talented women whose skills and achievements amply repaid the city’s largesse.

Beauty and Power

by  Lily Rabinoff-Goldman

You may have noticed a former beauty queen in the news lately, but I'm not going to write about her. Instead, I'd like to focus on Bess Myerson, the first and only Jewish Miss American, who won her title on September 8, 1945, just four months after V-E Day. Ms. Myerson's victory was seen as a symbol of America's post-war rejection of Europe's anti-Semitic horrors.

Topics: Civil Service

Ms. JewSA

by JL

This day, sixty one years ago, Bess Myerson was the first (and so far, only) Jewish woman, to be crowned Miss America.

Topics: Anti-Semitism
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