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Transforming a Beauty Pageant: Mrs. America Contest in the Palisades Amusement Park and Asbury Park, NJ

Nogin Chung

Abstract


The paper examines the history and transformation of the Mrs. America Pageant that was first initiated as a part of the Palisades Amusement Park attractions and later moved to Asbury Park, NJ. It looks at how the idea of model motherhood was enacted in the contest for married women which had begun as a beauty contest emulating the Miss America Pageant. The contest which transformed itself into a "home-making Olympics" after the Second World War testing contestants' skills of cooking, baking, sewing, and even changing diapers in addition to judging their physical appearance truly reflected the social ideal for American women in the Cold War period. The paper assesses how the contest helped to consolidate the notion of the perfect housewife, implying that beauty and home economics went together, and contributed to the professionalization of women's work at home.

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