Norma Smallwood

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Norma Smallwood
Norma Smallwood.jpg
Norma Des Cygne Smallwood

(1909-05-12)May 12, 1909
DiedMay 8, 1966(1966-05-08) (aged 56)
EducationOklahoma College for Women
TitleMiss Tulsa 1926
Miss America 1926
PredecessorFay Lanphier
SuccessorLois Delander
Thomas Gilcrease
(m. 1928; div. 1934)

George H. Bruce (m. 1936)

Norma Des Cygne Smallwood (May 12, 1909 – May 8, 1966) was the winner of the Miss America 1926 pageant. Smallwood was the first Native American to win the title.

Early life[edit]

Smallwood's hometown was Bristow, Oklahoma.[1] She was the daughter of Edward Smallwood and Mahalia Angela (Robinette) Smallwood. She also had a half sister and a half brother from her father. She earned the Miss Tulsa title and graduated from high school at age 16.

Miss America 1926[edit]

At the time she competed for Miss America, Smallwood was a student at the Oklahoma College for Women.[2] Her hobbies included swimming, dancing, and horseback riding, and she served as captain of her college hockey team.[3][4]

Smallwood captured first place in both the bather's review[2] and the evening gown contest.[5] For the latter, she wore a pale blue velvet gown designed by Paul Nemzershe.[6] The following evening, she was crowned Miss America 1926.[7] Smallwood is noted as being the first Native American (Cherokee) to win the crown.[8]

Smallwood wore her long chestnut hair in two braided buns, unlike the bobbed flapper style that was popular at the time.[1] Her measurements were 33-24-33, which also contrasted with the flat-chested style preferred by flappers.[9] The Tulsa World considered Smallwood's win a victory against the nontraditional flappers.[1]

During her year as Miss America, she became the poster girl for Meadows Washing Machines and Westinghouse Electric, in addition to many others. It was said she made approximately $100,000 during her year.[4]

Later life[edit]

Though Smallwood had originally planned to return to Oklahoma College for Women after her year as Miss America, she instead accepted an offer to tour the United States on the Orpheum Circuit for $1,500 a week.[1]

Smallwood married oilman, Thomas Gilcrease, on September 3, 1928.[10][1] They had a daughter, Des Cygne L'Amour Gilcrease, who was born on June 12, 1929, in Tulsa. The marriage ended in divorce on May 2, 1934, and the father was awarded sole custody of their daughter.[11][12]

In 1936, Smallwood married George H. Bruce, president of Aladdin Petroleum Corporation.[1][13]

She died on May 8, 1966, in Wichita, Kansas, aged 56.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Jackson, Debbie and Hilary Pittman. "Throwback Tulsa: Ex-Miss America's divorce case scandalized Tulsa in '34," Tulsa World, May 28, 2015. Accessed May 28, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "'Miss America' Likes Tall Man". The Pittsburgh Press. United Press. 1926-09-11. p. 1.
  3. ^ N.E.A. (1926-09-24). "Miss America 1926 Truly Beautiful and Different". The Evening Independent. p. 10A.
  4. ^ a b "Miss America History 1926". Archived from the original on 2006-09-23. Retrieved 2006-12-23.
  5. ^ Associated Press (1926-09-10). "Beauty Contest Narrows Down". The Evening Independent.
  6. ^ a b Covington, Hannah. "For Sale: One Miss America Trophy - Mystery Included," Tulsa World, July 15, 2015. Accessed July 15, 2015.
  7. ^ United News (1926-09-14). "Miss America Fets Offers to Go In Movies, on Stage, and to Altar". The Evening Independent. p. 2.
  8. ^ 1926 Norma Smallwood Archived 2012-05-02 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Carlile, Glenda. Petticoats, Politics, and Pirouettes: Oklahoma Women 1900-1950, Southern Hills Publishing Company: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1995, p.58.
  10. ^ "Miss America Is Oil Man's Bride". The Rock Hill Herald. 1928-09-28. p. 1.
  11. ^ Associated Press (1934-04-22). "Witness Stirs Beauty Queen". Reading Eagle. p. 1.
  12. ^ United Press (1937-08-08). "Ex-Beauty Seeks $10,000 Alimony". The Pittsburgh Press. p. 2.
  13. ^ Associated Press (2007-01-31). "When It Comes To Miss America, Oklahoma Comes Out On Top". Las Vegas Sun.
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Fay Lanphier
Miss America
Succeeded by
Lois Delander
Preceded by
Sue Starkey
Miss Tulsa
Succeeded by
Virginia Howard