Beauty contests were a way for people, places and businesses to celebrate events, highlight pop culture and promote various products or ideas. [Zim’s Note: To see more beauty contests, check out History By Zim’s “Beauty Contest” series]
In the 1950s and 1960s, chiropractors around the country found themselves with a PR problem. In the United States, the chiropractic profession first gained momentum in the late nineteenth century with Daniel David Palmer founding the first practice in Davenport, Iowa around 1895. Two years later, he created the Palmer School of Chiropractic.
However, the profession was still considered “the new kids on the block” in the medical community as Dr. P. Reginald Hug put it. So they decided to utilize beauty contests as a way to legitimize their profession. Through these pageants they hoped to gain credibility with traditional doctors. Additionally, the contest winners would win money or scholarships thus increasing the profession’s popularity with the general public. “Miss Correct Posture” was one of the few titles used in these chiropractic pageants.
In May 1956, a week-long chiropractic convention took place in Chicago – including a beauty contest. Lois Conway, 18, was crowned Miss Correct Posture while Marianne Caba, 16, took second and Ruth Swenson, 26, came in third. According to the Chicago Tribune, the contest winners “were picked not only by their apparent beauty, and their X-rays, but also by their standing posture. Each girl stood on a pair of scales – one foot to each – and the winning trio each registered exactly half their weight on each scale, confirming the correct standing posture.”
From Washington to Connecticut and Salt Lake to Alabama, these contests took place all around the country. Salt Lake’s Deseret News, discussed the pageant in a weekly column and mentioned the judges’ qualifications, “Bad posture, say the experts, is due largely to a lazy or disorderly state of mind and to our soft way of living. The sharp-eyed judge who picks the violets from among the wild morning glories in these beauty bids, has been correcting defects for quite some time.”
Chattanooga, Tennessee hosted the last big pageant in 1969. Dr. Hug remarked that the beauty contests served the intended purpose. “While they [posture contests] had a short lived tenure, these contests increased the public’s awareness of chiropractic during a time of struggle for licensure.” By the start of the 1970s, these pageants ended. “Their time had come and gone,” Dr. Hug concluded.
More photographs of the Chicago chiropractic convention that took place in May 1956.
Scott Hensley, “You Think Beauty is Skin Deep? You’re Not a Chiropractor,” NPR, August 1, 2012.
Les Goates, “Les Go: New Beauty Contest Places Emphasis On Proper Posture,” Deseret News, June 16, 1965.
American Chiropractic Association