Therese Washington, Ball Queen
Therese Washington - New York City’s "Page One Ball Queen"
Therese Washington graduated from Ursuline Academy in Cumberland in 1957. She was the first African-American to graduate from Ursuline. Jobs were very limited for blacks during this time so she decided to move to New York City. Shortly after moving there, she began working for the Amsterdam News (an historic weekly black newspaper founded in 1909 and located in Harlem) as a clerk-typist. After one year while working for the newspaper she entered a beauty contest sponsored by the Newspaper Guild of New York in May 1959, and won.
This marked the first time in the 25-year history of the New York Chapter of the Newspaper Guild that an African-American had won the title "Miss Page One Queen." Therese was picked by a panel of judges quite accustomed to seeing beauty and she was chosen over 59 other women who signed up for the contest representing all the newspapers and news-magazines in New York City.
Therese Washington was crowned "Miss Page One of 1959" at a ball held at the exclusive Hotel Astor in June 1959. A few days later her picture began appearing on the front page of national newspapers. Stories were written and her picture appeared in several national magazines such as Ebony and Jet. She also was photographed for ads in magazines and newspapers and she received many expensive gifts; one of which was an $800 designer gown.
Therese appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1959, depicted in the top photograph. She is depicted with Ed Sullivan to her right, and the actress Rhonda Fleming on her left. She appeared on other television shows as well. She was photographed with such celebrities as Steve Allen, Sammy Davis, Jr., Eartha Kitt, Carmen McRae, and actors Jack Kelly and Gig Young.
She was also honored at a reception at the St. Philip's church in Cumberland later that summer. The Cumberland News photograph, August 1959 - "'Page One Ball' Queen Congratulated", shown below has as its caption: "Miss Therese Eunice Washington, third from left, who was queen of the 'Page One Ball' in New York City this summer, is shown receiving the congratulations of Mayor J. Edwin Keech at a reception last night at St. Philip's Episcopal Church on Smallwood Street. The reception was arranged by the Cumberland Chapter, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Pictured, left to right are Herman Washington, the girl's father; Mrs. Herman Washington, Miss Washington, Mrs. Opal Jones, president of the NAACP chapter here; Mayor Keech, Police and Fire Commissioner Philmore Fleming, and Water Commissioner G. Ray Light. The program opened the NAACP's annual membership drive.
This was significant news at the time because it happened when there were still racial tensions in parts of the United States. Therese now resides in Hartsdale, New York with her husband of 47 years, Tyrone Holmes.
Text and photographs courtesy of Bernadette Washington.
Allegany County, Maryland
African Americans, History; Allegany County (Md.), History.
Allegany County (Md.), 1890-2008