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Los Angeles, California
Blessed with a beautiful soprano voice, Jean Bartel had a burning desire to realize a girlhood dream of appearing on the Broadway stage. When she heard that Horace Schmidlapp - the financial backer of the hit show "Oklahoma" - was going to judge The Miss America Pageant, Jean decided to enter. In a whirlwind of events she became Miss California, and was off to Atlantic City. Singing Cole Porter's "Night and Day" in what the press described as a "forceful and dramatic style", this "gifted soprano" was named Miss America.
Jean upset tradition by refusing to pose in a swimsuit after she won the title. Taking the commitment of a "War-Time" Miss America to heart, she embarked on a Bond-selling tour that would result in her being honored by the United States Treasury Department as the individual who had sold the most Series E Bonds that year. Two and one half million dollars worth, and surprisingly most of these twenty-five dollar bonds were sold to women.It was on this tour, at a "tea" sponsored by her college sorority sisters, that Jean's reasoning of a college scholarship to be awarded a Miss America was unveiled. "Opera singers get financial support from sponsors, so why not a college scholarship for Miss America?" Lenora Slaughter took this idea back to Atlantic City to discuss with the Board of Directors. And within two years, what we know of today as the world's largest single source of college scholarships for women was born.
That was only the beginning.
After she relinquished the title, Jean's remarkable talent enabled her to embark on a singing career, which included work on radio and television, two South American tours, the Middle East, Europe, Canada, and in every State of the Union but Maine. Ultimately, her dream became a reality when Jean became the first Miss America to star in a Broadway musical- "Of Thee I Sing"- opposite Jack Carson.
More stage work was to follow. Her American television work included "The Red Skelton Show", "The Danny Thomas Show", "Perry Mason", "Robert Montgomery Theatre", "The Ed Wynn Show", "Stop the Music", "The Milton Berle Show", and "Broadway TV Theatre". She's done additional television work in Paris, Cannes, London, Beirut, Athens, Rio de Janeiro, San Paulo, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Scandinavia. "It's a Woman's World", in which Jean was the hostess and star, received a special showing at the Montreux International Television Festival in Switzerland, with another special showing in Paris.
More recent television and feature film work included "The Rockford Files" with James Garner and "The Debtors" starring Michael Caine. Married to William ("Bill") Hogue for 31 years until his passing in 2001, Jean also operated her own successful international travel company "Jean Bartel and Associates"which allowed her to travel with some of her closest Miss America sisters, the Follies: Miss America 1948 BeBe Shopp, Miss America 1955 Lee Meriwether, Miss America 1957 Marian McKnight and Miss America 1960 Lynda Mead. Miss America 1943 Jean Bartel was known as the "Grand Dame" amongst her Miss America sisters and will forever be remembered for lighting the way for the Miss America Scholarship Program.
Jean continued to be active in church work, the Academy of Television Arts and Science and the Hollywood Radio and Television Society and in supporting the Veteran's Cemetery.
Jean passed away peacefully at home with her beloved dog Teddy by her side on March 6, 2011. Her gifts to us all were immeasurable. Her spirit of giving was evident when she returned to the 90th anniversary celebration of the 2011 Miss America Pageant with nearly fifty of her Miss America sisters but Jean did not have her crown for the official portrait. When asked why she didn't bring it, she quietly stated that she had donated it to the Smithsonian Museum.
Below is a note from Jean reflecting on our 90th anniversary that we would like to share with you, demonstrating her inspiring words and wisdom: "I would need to write an entire book before I could possibly relate all the blessings I have received from those early days as the "war baby" MISS AMERICA and I became the first to experience the foundation of so many new ideas that later Miss Americas have added and built upon. We all have been blessed. The Miss America experience has given me an opportunity to use my talents and hopefully to do some good. Think each day what you can do for someone else and be grateful to God that you can do it. Love, Jean p.s. "Love alone is life. When you are loving, you are living."