Miss Vermont 1933: Nettina Rich



Miss Vermont was the last contestant to be identified, unknown until 2016. Although Nettina Rich wore the banner for Miss Vermont, she actually had been crowned "Miss New England" in the regional beauty contest. A farm girl from Norton, Massachusetts, Nettina was peeved that the Miss America pageant was a "racket" which made many promises none of which they delivered.


1930 the Rich Family - Norton, Massachusetts
Nettina (matches photo below)
1930 census:
Village of Norton, Bristol county, Massachusetts.
James Rich, 44 (born in Italy, immigrated 1905), wool comber at wool mill
Bridget Rich, 44 (born in Italy, immigrated 1905), Vincent 22 (MA), Elizabeth 17 (MA), Natina 15 (MA), Clarence 14 (MA), Alexander 9 (MA), David 7 (MA).
(On the 1940 census Nettina is again living at home with her parents in Norton, Massachusetts, along with siblings Alec and David and nephew Robert.)

19-year old Nettina from the panorama photo (also available, a second panorama photo)

Until Nettina's 2005 obituary was located in 2016, the sum of my and MAO knowledge was there was a Miss Vermont in Atlantic City for the Miss America Pageant, she had some proof she was from Vermont in 1933, and she had been selected in a state contest. We only had her picture (at left) from panorama shots of all the contestants; her name was unknown.

It is unknown if there was a state pageant in Vermont. An Ohio newspaper article about perhaps day 2 of the pageant, did specifically mention that Vermont had been selected in a state contest, along with Delaware, Virginia, Michigan, Maryland, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine (as well as the two New York contestants whom Oliver was representing). No newspaper articles about any state pageant have been located in Vermont newspapers (specifically Burlington, Springfield, Brattleboro and Bennington) or in newspapers of other states in the summer of 1933.

It is also unknown how Nettina came to represent Vermont when she was born in and lived in Massachusetts. It is possible she lived in Vermont in the summer of 1933; her nieces and nephews were not certain either, and thought she may just have been tapped to be Miss Vermont at the Pageant based on her selection as "Miss New England". The rules for the national contest were pretty lax and non-specific, and perhaps there had been plans initially for regional and state contestants, similar to how there was a Miss New York City and a Miss New York State.

Therefore, it is thought that the "state" Vermont pageant referred to in the Ohio newspaper was actually the August 11, 1933 "regional" New England contest in Fall River, Massachusetts, where Nettina was crowned as "Miss New England". Although the Fall River newspapers in August mentioned the upcoming regional contest, there have been no newspaper articles located about the results of this regional contest in either Massachusetts or in nearby Providence, Rhode Island.

August 24 Wilmington, DE newspaper
The four 1933 New England contestants (description on the reverse side only lists titles, not names)
Nov 6 New Castle, PA newspaper - see longer version
There were several nationwide newspapers in late August with a picture and caption about Nettina: "Rich in Beauty. This pretty New England girl from Norton, Mass., is as rich in beauty as she is in name. She is Miss Nettina Rich, one of seven children in her family, who has been selected at Fall River, Mass., to represent "Miss New England." She will go to Atlantic City to compete." (see Wilmington, DE article at right). These articles seem to indicate the original plan and Nettina's expectation was for her to be Miss New England at the Pageant, but somehow somewhere along the way she was instead told to wear the sash for Vermont.

There was no mention of Nettina in the Atlantic City newspapers, by name or by the title of "Miss Vermont," other than the state's inclusion on the list of states on day 1.

Two months after the Pageant, Nettina is featured in several newspapers when she "Calls Beauty Contest 'Racket'". The caption to the picture states that "Miss New England is back on the old home farm as plain Nettina Rich, just a Norton (Mass.) girl who wishes she never had heard of a beauty contest. 'They promised me everything. A movie contract; said they would make me a star. A diamond wrist-watch. A complete wardrobe of new clothes. But they gave me nothing. I had to pay my way everywhere, buy lots of fine clothes -- I even had to buy the bathing suit. It's a racket.'" (Central Press) (also see longer version). It is noteworthy that these articles post-pageant list her as Miss New England and not Miss Vermont. Ten days later a November 16 Lowell Sun article mentions Nettina performed and displayed lingerie with a "group of Atlantic City pageant beauties".

Nettina never married, living mainly in Massachusetts, specifically Boston, where she worked as a legal secretary until her retirement.

NORTON — Nettina A. "Tina" Rich, 90, of Norton, died on Monday evening, June 13, 2005, at the Oak Hill Nursing Home in Middleboro.
      Born in Norton, Mass., on Aug. 17, 1914, she was a daughter of the late James and Bridget (Leone) Rich Sr. She had been educated in Norton schools, and had also taken several courses at Suffolk University. Miss Rich had worked as a legal secretary for the law firm of Hale and Dorr in Boston before retiring, and had previously worked as a secretary for the administrator at Suffolk University.
      In her younger years, Tina had participated in many beauty contests and had the won the titles of both Miss New England and Miss Vermont. She had also enjoyed gardening and working in her yard. She had lived in Norton for most of her life, and had also lived in Boston and Washington, D.C.
      She was the sister of David B. Rich Sr. of Norton, and the late Clarence P. Rich Sr., Alec E. Rich Sr., James P. Rich Jr., and Elizabeth Rush and Angelina Ferrini. She is also survived by her many nieces and nephews, including Attorney Daniel M. Rich of Norton, who cared and provided for her for many years.

SSDI: Given Name Nettina Middle Name A Surname Rich Birth Date 17 Aug 1914 State New york Last Place of Residence Raynham, Bristol, Massachusetts Previous Residence Postal Code 02767 Event Date 13 Jun 2005

To date, no articles have been found in Vermont newspapers (in Burlington, Springfield, Brattleboro and Bennington) that mention a Miss Vermont or a state contest. Vermont newspapers were searched by hand for 1933 so very kindly by librarians of these four cities. Other newspapers nationwide were searched digitally for the title of Miss Vermont 1933 (and with her name in 2016); it is possible that more digitization will turn up more articles about Nettina's selection process.

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The original breakthrough in 2016 was an ebay photo shown above featuring the four New England contestants (Misses Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts), from the Philadelphia Inquirer on September 7th. Most unfortunately, the description only included the state names and not the personal names of the four contestants. And no names were found in the accompanying articles. ("Disappointed" surely understates what Daryl and I felt upon this discovery.) But soon thereafter Daryl found the obituary that mentioned Nettina Rich had been both a Miss Vermont and a Miss New England. Pictures confirmed the match.