Bettie Page: A Smart Cookie

by: Rachel Gates

The Queen of Pinups was a driven, successful, high school student. Bettie Page was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by her peers at Hume-Fogg High School. This girl next-door was a member of the debate team and on June 6, 1940 Bettie Page was salutatorian of her high school class. What an accomplishment, as a young teenager. When talking about female empowerment and successful driven women, Bettie Page easily comes to mind.

With her $100 salutatorian scholarship, Bettie Page enrolled at George Peabody College, better known as Vanderbilt University, with the goal and every intention of becoming a teacher. Like many college students, Bettie’s passions changed and in the fall semester she got involved in acting. Bettie Page’s aspirations switched from studying teaching to dreaming about becoming a movie star. During her college career, Bettie Page’s first job was typing for Alfred Leland Crabb, American academic and author of historical novels. Bettie Page ended up graduating from George Peabody College in 1944 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Bettie Page was the typical college girl figuring out what she wanted in life. She met a boy and fell in love. Page got married in 1943 before graduating from Peabody College. The handsome young man she fell for was Billy Neal. The high school sweethearts got together and had a simple courthouse ceremony before Billy was drafted into the Army for World War II.

For the next few years, Bettie Page’s feelings toward Billy Neal changed due to the inconstancy from moving all over the place. Bettie Page fell in love with the culture, people, and country of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The beautiful Haitian culture and country provided Bettie Page with a change of heart. In November 1947, she filed for divorce after returning to the United States.

Bettie Page moved on with her life and set off to New York City as an aspiring actress. Her college education and Bachelor of Arts degree provided her with the skill set necessary to support herself as a secretary overlooking Rockefeller Center. An avid photographer and NYPD officer, Jerry Tibbs, eventually discovered Bettie Page walking alone on the shore of Coney Island.

Bettie Page’s modeling career took off after that lonely walk on Coney Island and the legendary Queen of Pinups was born. One must remember and acknowledge that Bettie Page’s success can be attributed to her drive, strong work ethic, zest for life, and appreciation of a good education.

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