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February 2009

Pacific Northwest News

Beauty Types of Three Races from Hawaii

By Bennet Bronson and Chuimei Ho


Like most American fairs since the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE) gave time and space to feminist causes.  Not only did the AYPE feature a special Women’s Building, which still survives as the University of Washington’s Cunningham Hall, but it included a Woman Suffrage Day on July 7th and a National Council of Women Day on July 14th, both timed to coincide with the 41st Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association which was held in Seattle in 1909.

Other women-centered celebrations at the AYPE were more limited in scope, like Daughters of the American Revolution Day and Women’s Christian Temperance Union Flower Mission Day.  And still others were of a kind that feminists cannot have approved of, such as a contest for Pay Streak Queen and a Ballet of Beauties, although these, naturally enough and in spite of the puritanical attitudes of the AYPE's organizers, were enormously popular with less high-minded fairgoers.

A photograph of “Beauty Types of Three Races,” from a May 24 1909 issue of the Post-Intelligencer shows a white girl named Sophie De La Nux, a Honolulu bookkeeper whose father was connected to French nobility; a native Hawaiian girl, Elizabeth Victor, from Hilo on the Big Island; and a Chinese girl, Florence Ho, who was the first girl of her nationality to graduate from the prestigious Punahou School of Honolulu, now famous as the alma mater of Barack Obama. 

We welcome information from readers who can tell us more about these ladies.

Bennet Bronson is Emeritus Curator of the Field Museum in Chicago and Chuimei Ho is organizing the AYPE Asian Symposium on Sept. 12 & 13, 2009 in Seattle. For more information about AYPE:Asian Symposium, go to www.cinarc.org/AYPE.html 

The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Centennial Celebration is a project of the City of Seattle's Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs and 4Culture, King County's Cultural Services Agency, in collaboration with dozens of organizations and individuals around the region. For more information, go to www.ayp100.org

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