In The Weeds 1.16.19: Cotton Maid Cathy

Serendipity. Thank goodness for it. Just today I learned about a Miss Cathy Muirhead, TWU sophomore and resident of 1502 Greenwood Street, who, in January of 1969, was named “Maid of Cotton” by the National Cotton Council of Memphis, TN. That was exactly 50 years ago, give or take a week.

January 8, 1969 TWU Daily Lass-O.
Miss Maid of Cotton with President Nixon. (DRC, January 6, 1969)

The Maid of Cotton beauty pageant was sponsored by the National Cotton Council, Memphis Cotton Carnival, and the Cotton Exchanges of Memphis, New York, and New Orleans from 1939-1993. The contest was held annually in Memphis until the Cotton Council International moved to Dallas, Texas in 1985 where competition was held until its demise in 1993.

Miss Muirhead was not the first woman from TWU to have won the contest; Jeannine Holland was crowned Cotton Maid in 1951. If you include Miss America winners Phyllis George and Shirley Cothran (both Denton High alumnae), Denton had a pretty large per capita of beauty contest winners there for a while.

(In case you are wondering, the Cotton Bowl football game, stadium, and history appear to have been created and existed separately with the above-mentioned entities. Texas was simply the largest producer of cotton at the time of the game’s inception. However, Miss Muirhead did christen an float in the 1969 Cotton Bowl Parade.)

The papers of the Maid of Cotton Contest are held in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Written by Chuck Voellinger. Please contact me at


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