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Researchers Track Down Fifty Former “Miss Subways” for Museum Exhibit; Uncover Many Cute Old Ladies
by Susana Polo | 4:12 pm, September 25th, 2012
The Miss Subways program ran from 1941 to 1976, seeking out women passengers on the city of New York’s 209 mile subway system in order to feature their picture and a small blurb about their lives on every subway car for a month. Eligible misses simply had to be New Yorkers and regular subway riders. Is it any wonder, then, that the program featured so many young working women, in an era when the working woman was only just beginning to become a mainstream idea? And that so many of those ladies went on to become pretty accomplished?
We might never know more about them than those brief blurbs on their old subway car features, if not for the efforts of Fiona Gardner and Amy Zimmer, a photographer and journalist team who tracked down fifty Miss Subways and found out more about them for Brooklyn’s Transit Museum.
A feature on NYC commuter vehicles wasn’t the only perk that might have been associated with the title of Miss Subways. Some said the title made them celebrities in their home neighborhoods.
“It was very exciting,” said Maureen Walsh Roaldson, a 1968 Miss Subways.
When Roaldson won the competition, at 23 years old, she was sent to Richard Nixon’s inauguration, met Fred Astaire and starred in a tourism board promotion called “The Sights and Sounds of New York City at Christmas.”
She ended up going to Brooklyn College in her 30s, and law school in her 40s — but her reputation as a former Miss Subways always preceded her.
“I’d be at one of the receptions and one of the assistant deans would come over and say, ‘I understand you were a Miss Subways,’” she said.
“It’s a little piece of New York City History. I was always very proud.”
The exhibit, which opens in October, will feature interviews with the various Miss Subways and 146 original Miss Subways posters, of the around 200 total winners.
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