The Mysterious World of the Miss Civil Service Beauty Contests

The Mysterious World of the Miss Civil Service Beauty Contests


Clipped from

  1. The Ottawa Journal,
  2. 01 May 1971, Sat,
  3. Page 20

“The Miss Civil Service beauty contests would solidify the ideology of  femininity and beauty that was at the core of the Cold War cult of domesticity while justifying the gender division of labour.”

Though the 1950s was in many ways a period of conformity with traditional gender roles, it was also a decade of change, when discontent with the status quo was emerging. Popular culture and the mass media reinforced messages about traditional gender roles, consumer culture, and the Cold War ideal of domesticity, but the reality of women’s lives did not always reflect these ideals. Between 1946 and 1964, the largest generation known as the baby boomers, were born. This demographic trend in turn reinforced women’s identities as wives and mothers. Despite societal norms that encouraged women to stay in the home and out of the workplace, approximately forty percent of women with young children, and at least half of women with older children, chose to remain in the work force.

Did you know our local Ottawa government encouraged civil service beauty contests in order to project how females should act like in the workforce? I had no idea that these ‘contests’ existed until I came across them in the news archives and I was immediately floored. Gay people were considered security risks in the late 1950s and it was all about security and keeping your employees in line–especially women. The civil service beauty contests were established as they were what was considered appropriate behaviour for all female civil servants.

When I opened my store Flash Cadilac on Rideau Street in 1976 I not only had the artistic folks come and shop. On bi-weekly cheque days civil servants flocked to my store to buy things that they could use to live out their fantasies in their homes. At Halloween “the crowds went wild” as they say, and the lowly civil servant became alive. They were seeking independence and adventure that their 9-5 jobs did not give them. I heard many  times that they felt like they were in dead end jobs.

Being chosen queen of the department, or queen of the civil service, gave winners instant celebrity status. They became ambassadors of the Canadian civil service and met high ranking officials and opened events. They were like Miss America or any other beauty pageant queen,  and they were told  to project what every other female in the civil service could become if they put their mind to it. These contests were considered proper feminine behaviour and to be encouraged.  Of course talks for Mr. Civil Service came soon after– but it never materialized. These contests were used as nothing more than hidden security props because gender practices were central to the construction of the Canadian national security state.

Screenshot 2018-10-06 at 19.jpg

From —Whose National Security? Paperback – Oct 30 2000

Screenshot 2018-10-06 at 19.jpg

From —Whose National Security? Paperback – Oct 30 2000


Clipped from

  1. The Ottawa Journal,
  2. 24 May 1969, Sat,
  3. Page 3


Would you believe that RCMP operatives used to spy on Tupperware parties? In the 1950s and ’60s they did. They also monitored high school students, gays and lesbians, trade unionists, left-wing political groups, feminists, consumer’s associations, Black activists, First Nations people, and Quebec sovereignists.

The establishment of a tenacious Canadian security state came as no accident. On the contrary, the highest levels of government and the police, along with non-governmental interests and institutions, were involved in a concerted campaign. The security state grouped ordinary Canadians into dozens of political stereotypes and labelled them as threats.

Whose National Security? probes the security state’s ideologies and hidden agendas, and sheds light on threats to democracy that persist to the present day. The contributors’ varied approaches open up avenues for reconceptualizing the nature of spying.-From —Whose National Security? Paperback – Oct 30 2000

51WydAanIsL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgWhose National Security? Paperback – Oct 30 2000

  1. relatedreading

    1970s Lanark County Beauty Queens

    Here She Comes Miss Eastern Ontario –Photos

  2. Last Night I Saw Someone I Loved at the Halloween Parade

  3. Here She Comes Miss Almonte — Karen Hirst and other Notes

  4. Miss Civitan Club 1976? Who Are These Women?

About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

One response »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s