It’s impossible to tell exactly when beauty contests or beauty pageants began, but they certainly existed since antiquity. For example, in Troy, in Ellas, on Lesbos Island, in ancient China etc, beauty pageants were a form of entertainment. Even in the Ottoman Empire, despite strict Islamic morals, rulers entertained themselves with competitions to choose the most gorgeous wife in their harem.
It’s interesting how the perception of beauty have changed over time. Looking at the beauty quins of the past and the women of today I am sure you will agree they aren’t beautiful as todays “modern woman”. What was once considered beautiful and fashionable is now even laughable.
The first modern Europen pageant was held in 1839 in Scotland. The title of “Queen of Beauty” was awarded to the 30 year old Jane Georgiana Sheridan (5 November 1809 – 14 December 1884), wife of Edward Seymour, 12th Duke of Somerset and sister of noted author Caroline Norton .
The first modern American pageant, involving the display of women’s faces and figures before judges, was staged by Phineas Taylor Barnum in 1854, but his beauty contest was closed down by public protest.
It was in the 1880s that beauty pageants became more popular and the first “Bathing Beauty Pageant” took place as part of a summer festival to promote business in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware