Friday, March 4, 2016

The Rise and Fall of the "Queen of Snows"

Carnival Girl from CosmopolitanLong before Dartmouth opened its doors to female students, coeds from up and down the East Coast flocked annually to the little village of Hanover to celebrate the culmination of the winter sports season. In a history of carnival by past DOC Executive Director, John Rand reported that for the first winter weekend in 1910, “nearly 50 fair guests were invited to Hanover for the occasion, and the Outing Club ball in Commons was a social triumph.”

Manuscript history of Winter CarnivalWhat began as an attempt “to awaken the campus from its winter hibernation…” snowballed into an intercollegiate competition hosting competitors and guests from around the world. Nearly thirty years after its founding, “From Nome to Norway by way of Ecuador, one thousand and ninety-nine girls flock[ed] to Hanover…” reported The Dartmouth in 1938.

The popularity of the weekend was in large part due to the social events, which accompanied the competitions. Musical concerts, skating exhibitions, and the opportunities for snowshoeing and hot cocoa almost effortlessly set the scene for weekend romances. The annual revelry became so popularized that in 1941 the short story, “Carnival Girl” by Isabel Moore was featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine. The love story employs the allure of Winter Carnival as the backdrop for a reunion of past lovers.

Ultimately, the highlight of the weekend was the crowning of the "Queen of Snows" during Friday’s Outdoor Evening. The event, a contest of beauty, kicked off the festivities and offered up an opportunity for the male hosts to ogle the girls that had been selected as the prettiest of all the dates. The “snatches,” aka members of the student body, were tasked with selecting the candidates upon their arrival to campus.
List of "Snatches"Fifteen Prominent members of the Dartmouth student body are selected to choose Carnival Queen candidates. Each man has three invitations to give out during Thursday and Friday...The girls selected... are interviewed and appraised by a Judging Committee consisting of students and honorary judges.
The objectification of women at carnival nonetheless proved thrilling for the hosts and at least some of their dates.

Photo of Winter Cranival Queen contestants

1972 Winter Carnival Queen and dateMargee Russell, a freshman at Colby-Junior College in New London, NH, called her crowning experience “the greatest thrill of my life.” Russell will go down in carnival history as the last queen in a 43-year long reign. The tradition, which began in 1928 died in 1972 at the 62nd annual Winter Carnival.

The onset of coeducation, shortly followed by the fielding of women’s winter sports teams contributed to the end of the old tradition and gave birth to a new competition based upon athleticism, skill and talent.

Dartmouth Women's Ski Team
The history of the queen competition, the sensation of winter carnival in popular culture and the rise of a new era of queens of the snow are featured in our exhibit, The Rise and Fall of the ‘Queen of Snows’: Women at Winter Carnival. The exhibit is on display in Rauner Library’s Reading Room from February 29th-April 15th.

To see the documents included in this post see:
DO-1, Box 6134 Dartmouth College Outing Club Records, Folder: “Carnival History
DO-1, Box 6142 Dartmouth College Outing Club Records, Folder: “Carnival Publicity”
“Carnival Girl.”,Rauner D.C. History PZ3.M789 Ca
“Winter Carnival Queens 1930s” photo file
“Winter Carnival Queens 1960s and 1970s” photo file
“ Skiing-Women’s 1970s” photo file

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