From what I can gather, the 'Miss Future Secretary' contest was launched in 1954 by the National Secretaries Association. Though I don't believe it was a national contest. Local chapters of the NSA selected winners from high schools.
Miss Future Secretaries continued to be chosen for three decades, until the early 1980s, when being labeled a "future secretary" had come to sound more like an insult than a positive career aspiration.
Wikipedia notes that the National Secretaries Association changed its name in 1982 to Professional Secretaries International, and in 1998 changed it again to the International Association of Administrative Professionals.
Marvene Fischer won the title of Miss Wisconsin in 1948. The Armour food company then decided to name a brand of cheese 'Miss Wisconsin' in her honor. It simultaneously hired her to serve as the traveling ambassador for the brand. In this position, she became known as Miss Wisconsin Cheese.
She ended up working for nine years as Miss Wisconsin Cheese. During this time she reportedly traveled more than two million miles in 48 states, visited more than a thousand towns, and distributed over 15 tons of cheese samples in more than 8000 food stores.
Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulleting - June 6, 1951
Here are some more details about her job from the Portage Daily Register (Dec 21, 1953):
Miss Fischer's carefully planned visit to a town usually sets off a varied series of events, most of which are reported in the press and over radio and TV broadcasts.
She is greeted by mayors, governors, senators, congressmen, movie stars, chiefs of police, food editors, currently reigning local beauty queens, and other assorted celebrities.
Most of these meetings are highlighted by a formal presentation of a basket of cheese by Miss Fischer in exchange for a gift symbolic of the city being visited. She has received roses, posies, rhododendrons, wine, fruit, foam rubber pillows, cake, and Indian headdress, and any number of giant keys of the city. In St. Joseph, Mo., she was made a deputy sheriff. At the Rockingham Park race track, Miss Wisconsin Day was proclaimed in her honor. In San Francisco, she toured a submarine, and the event was officially publicized by the U.S. Navy.
Miss Fischer takes all this gracefully, in fact gives a continuous impression that it's all a lot of fun. Actually, a lot of good hard salesmanship is involved.
Miss Fischer does most of her traveling by air and prefers to travel alone. She says she has no need for a chaperone. "Why I have about 65,000 chaperones — all Armour employees," she says.
Glamour may be fleeting, figures Miss Fischer, but cheese is here to stay.
Unfortunately I haven't been able to find many details about what became of Marvene Fischer after her time as Miss Wisconsin Cheese. The only info I came across was a listing for a Marvene Fischer, age 94, living in Wisconsin. About the right age, and living in the right state — so I'm guessing it's her.
My mother's family lived in the Pittsburgh area, and a lot of them (including my great-grandfather) worked in the steel mills. But I hadn't known that the mills employed archers to ignite the gas coming out of the tall bleeder stacks.
In January 1939, Lyra Ferguson of Missouri left her job as a church secretary and took off on a tour of the United States. Her goal was to spend a week working in all 48 states. Alaska and Hawaii weren't yet states, so she didn't have to worry about those. She was equipped with only "a new automobile, a small wardrobe, a little pistol and $200." I'm not sure of her exact age, but news reports said she was "over 40."
She made advance plans to secure a job in a handful of states, but mostly she just arrived and tried to find employment. She also tried to find jobs in industries that seemed representative of each state.
Ultimately she managed to find one-week jobs in 45 states but failed to get work in New York, Nevada, or Arizona.
Her plan had been to write a book about her adventures, but in a later interview she said her attempt at a book was "terrible." So that plan fell through.
However, she did take film footage of her entire journey and later edited this together into a movie which she showed to various groups. Unfortunately I can't find any evidence that this movie still exists.
Below is a list of her jobs in 42 states. I couldn't find any info about her jobs in Arkansas, Colorado, or West Virginia.
Alabama: performed at the assembly exercises of the Tuskegee Institute
California: worked for an overall company at the San Francisco fair
Connecticut: typewriter factory
Delaware: tanned kid skins in a tannery
Florida: packed oranges
Idaho: dug potatoes
Illinois: made wax fruits and flowers
Indiana: manufactured refrigerators
Iowa: pen factory
Kansas: packed dog food
Kentucky: ironed shirts in a laundromat
Louisiana: packed shrimp
Maine: helped out in a lighthouse
Maryland: tea packing factory
Massachusetts: served as attendant in an insane asylum
Michigan: maid on a Great Lakes steamer during tulip festival
Minnesota: sewed buttons on suits
Mississippi: shucked oysters
Missouri: social hostess at a hotel
Montana: cooked on a dude ranch
Nebraska: booked well-known artists for an agency
New Hampshire: paper factory
New Jersey: cosmetics factory
New Mexico: sewed labels on ties made by Native Americans
North Carolina: weaved homespun suiting
North Dakota: picked chickens
Ohio: worked in the printing room of a newspaper
Oklahoma: wiped windshields at a gas station
Oregon: packed salmon
Pennsylvania: made chocolate candy at Hersheys
Rhode Island: baking powder factory
South Carolina: textile industry
South Dakota: took pictures of the Black Hills for the association of commerce
Tennessee: washed turnip greens
Texas: delivered packages during the Christmas holidays
Utah: wove blankets in a woolen mill
Vermont: helped make maple syrup
Virginia: weighed peanuts
Washington: worked at a general store in a logging camp
Wisconsin: milked cows for a dairy
Wyoming: worked at Yellowstone
Pittsburgh Press - Dec 24, 1939
Weekly Kansas City Star - May 8, 1940
Sedalia Democrat - Sep 23, 1941
The only follow-up info I can find about her was that in 1956 she had just returned home from a world tour during which she collected souvenirs from the countries she visited. She obviously really liked to travel!
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.