United States delegate Marjorie Wallace
revels in her title at the Coronation Ball following the
1973 competition. The Indiana native was the first American
woman to be named Miss World. But Wallace's reign ended
prematurely after she was criticized for dating too many
high-profile men, including professional soccer star George
Best and singer Tom Jones. Wallace later became a television
host for Good Morning Los Angeles and Entertainment Tonight.
(AP/Wide World Photos)
When Miss World held its first competition of the new decade,
the feminist movement's second wave was just reaching high tide.
Popular magazines had declared 1970 to be the "Year of Women's
Protest against the Miss World competition prior to 1970 had
been in the form of small-scale actions easily contained. But
when comedian Bob Hope stepped onto the stage of Royal Albert
Hall in London to host the competition that year, he was bombarded
by protestors hurling smoke and flour bombs. Feminists declared the protest a triumph. It became one of a handful of demonstrations in the early seventies that many believed strengthened the feminist movement in Britain. Five years later,
women's rights supporters in Britain succeeded in winning passage
of the Sex Discrimination Act and Equal Opportunities Act.
The revolt by feminists also inspired the founding of the Alternative Miss World
Competition, a kitschy spoof in which drag queens competed with one another. And through the years, pageant protestors' tactics became more militant with feminists staging counterdemonstrations, including events at which women dressed in gowns made of raw steaks, bologna and hot links. In the following decade, one activist even infiltrated a U.S. competition as a contestant, unfurling onstage a silk scarf that read "Pageants Hurt All Women."
Security guards rush demonstrators
out of Royal Albert Hall in London. Feminists stormed the
1970 pageant, hurling smoke and flour bombs at the stage.
They were protesting the competition's cattle auction atmosphere.
Contributing fuel to the fire, comedian Bob Hope, who hosted
the Miss World contest that year, made a joke in his standup
routine that compared contestants with cows. "It's been
quite a cattle market," Hope said. "I've been out there
checking calves." (AP/Wide World Photos)
The competition weathered other political controversy as well.
A United Nations boycott was organized in 1977 because of participation
by the apartheid government of South Africa. The U.N. dropped
the boycott after the country pulled out the following year.
And Miss World contestants continued to suffer the personal
indignities of the sort that had surfaced in the 1960s. Four
months after United States delegate Marjorie Wallace was crowned
Miss World in 1973, she was dethroned for dating too many high-profile
men. A year later, Helen Morgan, Miss United Kingdom, relinquished
her crown just four days after it was revealed she was a single
Despite a decade of notoriety, by the end of the 1970s, the
number of countries sending delegates to compete for Miss World
had more than doubled, and the competition's worldwide audience
had grown to more than 300 million viewers.
NEXT - 1980s: Miss World's Facelift
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