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There Was a ‘Miss Correct Posture’ Pageant in the 1950s (And It Was Weird)

A traditional beauty pageant focuses on the physical characteristics of a participant, and you know, somewhere includes points awarded for personality and stuff. Let’s be honest though—it’s all about the moneymaker and most importantly, the bikini portion of the competition. But back in the 1950s and 1960s it was apparently pageant worthy to have really great posture.

Chicago chiropractors convention, May 1956. Photos from Wallace Kirkland/LIFE

Chicago chiropractors convention, May 1956. Photos from Wallace Kirkland/LIFE

When chiropractors first entered the medical field, they were facing a huge PR problem. I guess being able to crack a back properly seemed like some weird voodoo magic to the general public. So they saw the posture contests as a way to gain credibility within the medical field, and the contest winners won a nice chunk of cash or a scholarship. And obviously women having that title to write on college applications would be a serious plus.

Lois Conway stands by her spinal X-ray, May 1946. Photos from Wallace Kirkland/LIFE

Lois Conway stands by her spinal X-ray, May 1946. Photos from Wallace Kirkland/LIFE

All the contestants had to do was be gorgeous, have experts study their X-rays and let them critique their standing posture. Louis Conway was crowned the first Miss Correct Posture in 1956, and the pageants spread all over the country. Salt Lake’s Desert News reported on the judges’ qualifications saying, “Bad posture, say the experts, is due largely to a lazy or disorderly state of mind and to our soft way of living.” So basically if you sit and walk like a Hunch Back, you aren’t really gangster hard at all.

Judge checking out contestant

Judge checking out contestant’s spine. Photos from Wallace Kirkland/LIFE

I haven’t yet had a guy compliment me on how straight my back is, but if someone did come up to me and say something like, “Whoa, girl. You got an X-ray handy? Because your posture’s banging,” I might be flattered. And then become slightly terrified. But the last Miss Correct Posture Pageant was in 1969, so ladies we’re safe for now from being judged for another weird physical attribute. Yeah I’m referring to you, impossible thigh gap.

Via History By Zim


Nicole Theodore is an editorial assistant at Playboy. She has a slight case of scoliosis.

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