Bess Myerson Crowned First Jewish Miss America

September 8, 1945
Bess Myerson in 1957.

Just months after the shocking revelations of the Holocaust's devastation of European Jewry, Bess Myerson was crowned the first (and still only) Jewish Miss America on September 8, 1945.

Her victory was seen by many as a symbolic statement of America's post-war rejection of the crimes and prejudices that ravaged Europe as well as a representation of the vitality of the American Jewish community. Raised in a Jewish cooperative in the Bronx, Myerson was unfamiliar with the anti-Semitism that confronted her throughout the pageant. Myerson refused to adopt the suggested less-ethnic pseudonym, Beth Merrick. "It was the most important decision I ever made," she recalled. "It told me who I was, that I was first and foremost a Jew."

Myerson received a scholarship award accompanying her title, but she did not receive automatic acceptance. Three of five sponsoring companies withdrew their support from her post-pageant tour, and there was little demand for Myerson on the speaker circuit frequented by past winners. When an invitation to speak at a country club was revoked because of her religion, Myerson began to distance herself from the usual pageant scene, and instead began lecturing at schools and other venues about discrimination and the consequences of prejudice, under the sponsorship of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

This work initiated a long partnership with the ADL as a speaker and later as a national commissioner. Myerson also created a successful television career and became involved in both local and national politics. She was appointed commissioner of New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs in 1969 and used that position to develop what was at that time the most far-reaching consumer protection legislation in the country. This work prompted Myerson to write The Complete Consumer (1979); she also coauthored The I Love New York Diet with Bill Adler in 1982. Myerson served as New York City's commissioner of cultural affairs from 1983 to 1987.

Sources: Jewish News Weekly,;; Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 962–964.


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She was also Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs under then-Mayor Koch.

I remember her name but not all the history and accomplishments she had.

She was a
Strong person

She was beautiful, a strong personality and good representation for "Miss A."

I was born October 23rd, 1941, 5 weeks before Pearl Harbor. I remember her for her beauty and all of her important works. She was and is a blessing!

I was just a child when Ms. Myerson received her crown. I remember seeing a picture of her, on a store counter, and thought how pretty she was. This article brought back some wonderful memories of times long gone.

I’ve had the privilege to have met and made many Jewish friends, I call my self fortunate. Also, happy to know I’m 2% Ashkenazy, not much, but still very special to me… I’d read about Ms Myerson’s experiences, long ago, so was gratified to see the article again. Thank You.

What an amazing, talented, ahead of her day woman!

A woman to be proud of

Anti-Semitism is still alive and well, even living in New York. I wonder who were the three companies who revoked their association with the contest after Ms. Myerson was crowned. Any answers?

glad to learn this, thank you


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Bess Myerson Crowned First Jewish Miss America." (Viewed on May 19, 2024) <>.