Piano, Pageants & Politics

Remembering Miss Cambridge 1952, Eileen Gingras

When a titleholder within the Miss America Organization passes on her crown, she becomes part of a unique, long-running sisterhood of "forever queens" alongside the women who have gracefully held the title before her. Every woman who wears the crown contributes her own story, personality and accomplishments to the organization and community she represents, growing off her predecessor's success and paving the way for her successor.

Before winning the title of Miss Massachusetts, I represented my community as Miss Cambridge, a sisterhood that I truly cherish. When the family of forever Miss Cambridge 1952, Eileen Gingras, reached out to the Miss Boston Organization, I was eager to learn about a woman I never met, yet shared this special bond with. I'm honored to share Eileen's story and help keep her legacy as Miss Cambridge alive.

Some things are truly timeless: effortless beauty, true love and a genuine Boston accent. Eileen Gingras was blessed with all three, recalls her daughter, Nicole. “Until the day she died she could speak just three words and people would ask her if she was from Boston even though she had moved away in 1955”. Despite spending most of her life in Ohio, Eileen grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was the oldest of three sisters, attended Catholic school in Cambridge and at only 17 years old, won the coveted title of “Miss Cambridge”. Despite competing at the youngest age of eligibility, it is easy to see how Eileen captured the hearts of the judges and the title of Miss Cambridge 1952 with her fine features, beautiful smile, lovely singing voice and long legs (a feature Nicole was especially grateful for inheriting, considering her dad’s side of the family was “on the shorter side”). This combination would also captivate the attention of the the love of her life, Alfred.

One evening, Eileen was singing at a wedding in her church. She quickly stole the heart of the best man when he turned around to see the "most stunning woman in a red dress with dark eyes”. Within 6 months, Alfred asked Eileen to marry him and they spent 62 wonderful years together, raising five children, eight grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. While Nicole recalls watching Miss America on TV, Eileen was often humble about her pageant past, blushing and brushing it off when her children curiously inquired for more details. Alfred was tremendously proud of this though, exclaiming "I married a beauty queen!” and keeping the Miss Cambridge trophy on display to “casually” show guests. (For interested pageant history fans, Miss Massachusetts was won that year by musician (and spoon-collector) Barbara Graves of Milton and Neva Jane Langley, Miss Georgia, was crowned Miss America. This was also the very first year that every contestant in Atlantic City was presented a college scholarship)

Success within the Miss America Organization is not based on physical attributes alone, but a combination internal and external beauty and the ability to serve as a positive role model. Eileen's beauty, both inside and out, was genuine and timeless. She rarely wore makeup, except for lipstick (and perhaps a little mascara on special occasions) and remained an active volunteer in her church and community long after her year of service ended. When remembering her mother, "some things", recalls Nicole, "haven’t changed in 65 years".