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Beauty Prize Winners: 1922

Four prize winners in the 1922 beauty show at Washington Bathing Beach, Washington, D.C. Left to right: Gay Gatley, Eva Fridell, Anna Niebel, Iola Swinnerton. View full size. National Photo Company Collection.

Four prize winners in the 1922 beauty show at Washington Bathing Beach, Washington, D.C. Left to right: Gay Gatley, Eva Fridell, Anna Niebel, Iola Swinnerton. View full size. National Photo Company Collection.

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A very sizable prize!

I was impressed that the first prize was $1,000! That would be a pretty good prize for a beach beauty pageant, now! I agree about the winner's bathing costume. Maybe her stockings were yellow with black stripes, but not the suit! It is hard to imagine her as beautiful, based on this picture, but I'll bet she looked much better in color. (Later, I went to an inflation calculator to see how that $1,000 prize in 1922 would compare in today's money. It would be worth less than $14,000 today, still a decent piece of change, but not nearly as much as I was thinking. That was because things actually went backwards during the depression. That $1,000 in 1922 didn't get back to being worth the same $1,000 again until twenty years later, 1942.)

My favorite is Iola. She was very charming and attractive, and obviously loved the beach. However, I think that bathing costume was absolutely hideous!

Body Image

I beg to differ. That image of plump women=healthy was outdated by the late 1910s. The fashion magazines began promoting the image of thin, athletic women. Harper's Bazaar and the other glossies had a hand in making women obsess over their weight and the amount of exercise they had to do to look like the girls in the magazines. That's still where we are today.

The power of suggestion the magazines had/have over us is so great, women didn't even shave their arms and legs until a magazine (I think it was Vanity Fair) began this massive and explosive campaign degrading hairy legs and armpits, because it was disagreeable to see the hair while wearing the short-hemmed and sleeveless outfits that were just coming into fashion.

Iola's address

3125 Mount Pleasant St NW is still there. The first floor is (or was recently) occupied by the Mount Pleasant Cleaners and the Raven Grill. Anyone have a better photo of that location today?

Weight was healthy.

Many comments about body type for all these types of photos. At that time, a thin person was considered unhealthy. A thin woman with a high metabolism was considered "sickly" and was not thought to make for a good wife or mother. Other attitudes migrated with immigrants from places where food was sometimes scarce. A healthy wife and family was a sign of prosperity where the man was a good provider and his family ate well. He could be proud of the abundance he brought to his home and the fact that they could afford plenty of meat, etc..


I get the "titian haired beauty part" because she's definitely that, but if she's wearing the same suit that she wore in the competition I'll eat a pair of my old sneakers. There is no way in the world that that suit is "a yellow bathing suit with narrow black stripes around it."

$1000 for Titian-Haired Beauty

Washington Post, Aug 6, 1922

Titian-Haired Girl Wins Beauty Prize

The old-fashioned titian-haired beauty, without the modern make-up, returned to popularity yesterday, by winning the fourth annual beauty contest at the Tidal Basin. A girl with curls, of athletic type and wearing the normal style of bathing suit, Miss Eva Fridell, a 17 year-old Business High school student, took the capital prize, a large silver loving cup. She wore a yellow bathing suit with narrow black stripes around it. Not only is she a regular patron of the beach, but one of the expert divers and swimmers. Miss Fridell, whose complexion needed no paint or powder, quickly caught the eye of the judges A.J. Frey, Isaac Gans and Arthur Leslie Smith. The winner lives with her parents at 611 Ninth street, northeast

The winner of the style show at the beach a few months ago, Miss Anna Niebel, of 1370 Harvard street northwest, again came out as the winner of the best costume for beauty, design and durability. Miss Niebel was awarded a silver loving cup for the suit she wore, which was all blue rubber, with several white stripes at intervals.

Second prize for the beauty was awarded to Miss Gay Gately (sic), of 1402 Massachusetts avenue southeast. Miss Iola Swinnerton, of 3125 Mount Pleasant street, northwest, was awarded second prize for costumes. Both were given engraved gold medals.

The winner of this contest received a check for $1000 as first prize.

Four Prize Winners?

Looks like there were only four contestants

Girl on the right...

I've noticed that girl on the right in several photos. She looks like a female version of Ronnie James Dio, ha.

DC bathing Beach

My wife, a native Washingtonian now 82 years old, tells me her parents went swimming there, it was at Hains Point.
- Milt

No. 2

looks like she is a redhead

I agree

I agree with Anonymous Tipster......In today's society if you are a woman you have to be skinny or almost fake looking to get in pictures for commercials or magazines. I think today people need to reconsider woman as a whole and not based on what they look like.

Missouri woman

Lil' Iola

Has perfect posture, and her feet are in a dance position. My guess is she was a dancer.

The second one from the left

The second one from the left scares me. She looks like she could kill me with her eyes if she wanted to.

No airbrushing here!

Funny how times, styles and beliefs change!

Anon Tipster

I agree Anonymous Tipster. :)
It's sad that we can't be happy with how our bodies look. It's nice to see women that aren't starved winning awards for being beautiful!


I'm curious as to where this DC Bathing Beach was. I'm sure the water back in '22 was a heck of a lot cleaner than it currenty is. I coulnd't imagine getting in any of the rivers around here for enjoyment. Ew!

Beauty Pageant Winners

It's fascinating to see how the image of the "ideal" body has changed, and yet the average female has the same type shape. This female feels a little better. . .!

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