Guide to the Miss California Scrapbook Collection (1956 – 1985) – History

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The Miss California Pageant was first held in 1924 in Santa Cruz, California. In the first years the competition was called the ‘Miss California Bathing Beauty Contest.’ A number of local Santa Cruz businessmen and politicians wanted to boost tourism and revenue by making Santa Cruz more like Atlantic City. This idea came from the popularity of the first Miss America Pageant held in Atlantic City in 1921. The first Miss California was Fay Lanphier of Oakland. There was a small controversy concerning her win and title as ‘Miss California Bathing Beauty’ as she could not swim. In 1925 she won the title of Miss America.

The pageant became vastly popular and drew huge crowds every year. In 1945 the Miss California Pageant began awarding scholarships. This changed the emphasis from a ‘beauty pageant’ to a scholarship program.’ The competition was moved from the boardwalk to the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium in 1966.

The competition was moved to San Diego in 1985. The franchise was again moved in 1994, it now resides in Fresno, California. The Miss California officials have maintained the assertion that the pageant is a scholarship program focused on career development, education, and community service, not just a beauty pageant.

Protests – There have almost always been protests associated with the Miss California Pageant. In the 1920s protests focused on women wearing too much makeup and showing too much skin. The protestors saw the competition as an indecent and immoral spectacle. Protests since the 1960s have focused on a lack of diversity and the negative effects on female body image. One of the most disruptive protestors was Ann Simonton. A former model and founder of Media Watch, she was outspoken about how the pageant objectified women. Some of her protests included wearing dresses and bikinis of meat (denoting that women in the competition were treated like meat), throwing a bucket of blood on stage, and creating the ‘Myth California’ counter-pageant with Nikki Craft. The ‘Myth California’ protestors wore sashes identifying them as contestants, such as Miss Behavin, Miss Understood, and Miss Ogeny. These protests were part of why the pageant was moved to San Diego in 1966.

Linda McPherson – This collection of scrapbooks was donated to the Museum of Art and History by Linda McPherson. Along with the scrapbooks, she donated other pageant materials such as photographs, videos, and a crown. In 1961 Linda McPherson, then Linda Epperson, won the title of Miss Santa Cruz and competed in the Miss California Pageant.