New York’s Forgotten Subway Beauty Pageant

Beginning in 1941, a local New York City beauty pageant known as “Miss Subways” posted placards of winners, chosen each month, in the city’s subway cars. 

When the pageant ended in 1976, so did a bit of NYC history. But author Susie Schnall has resurrected those bygone years in her lively and delightful novel, The Subway Girls, which alternates back and forth between plotlines set today and the 1940s in New York, exploring female ambition and the limitations placed on it.

Schnall talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about the dreams and drives that animated the young women of the pageant, and how the contest shaped their lives in unexpected ways.