Jean Bartel

Jean Bartel Biography

Jean Bartel (October 26, 1923 Los Angeles, California, USA" March 6, 2011 Brentwood, California, USA) was Miss California and Miss America 1943. She won the talent and swimsuit awards at the national pageant. At 5 feet 8 inches tall, Bartel was the tallest pageant winner at the time. There had been comparisons between Bartel and popular blond actress Carole Lombard.

Bartel initially entered the pageant after learning one of the judges was Broadway actor and producer W. Horace Schmidlapp. As talent counted for 50% of the score, she thought it was a way to launch her career on Broadway. This tactic worked. Not only was she chosen as Miss America after a vocal performance the press hailed as a "forceful and dramatic style," but she landed a career on Broadway and an agent that booked her on tours in South America, the Middle East, Europe, Canada, and in every State of the Union except Maine. In 1946 she appeared on stage in "The Desert Song" at the New York City Center for Music and Drama.

Bartel was the first Miss America to refuse to pose in her swimsuit after the pageant, a choice that eventually led to Catalina Swimwear dropping their sponsorship and starting the Miss USA Pageant.

She sold more Series E bonds in 1943 than any other United States Citizen, amounting to over $2.5 million. Eighty percent of those bonds were sold to women.

Bartel was also the first college student to win the title of Miss America. After visiting her sorority sisters in Kappa Kappa Gamma around the country, she and her traveling companion developed the idea of awarding scholarships to those who competed in the Miss America Organization. The Miss America Organization is now the world's largest provider of scholarships for women in the world.

She was born Jean Bartlemeh. Later her name was shortened to Bartel. Bartel was from Los Angeles, California, worked for many years on Broadway and in television, including starring in her own travel series, It's a Woman's World, as well as performing for seven months in South America.

Bartel died on March 6, 2011, and the Miss America Organization issued a statement calling her "one of our most beloved Miss Americas."

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