NOW activist Tobi Hale was crowned Homecoming Queen at New Mexico Highlands University.
Blowing all the stereotypes out of the water, NOW activist Tobi Hale was recently crowned 1994 Homecoming Queen at New Mexico Highlands University. Hale is an openly-lesbian, 44-year-old, wheelchair-bound woman who is legally blind. Rheumatoid arthritis has been a crippling force in her life, confining her "on and off for the past two or three years" to a wheelchair.
Hale praised the student body for selecting someone who represents such diversity. "I think that the student body selecting a person in a wheelchair as their homecoming queen says a lot about the student body widening their diversity," she said. "That's so important."
To enter the competition, a candidate must get a number of signatures on a petition, then put up campaign posters around town. Hale, who is working toward a master's degree, said she has many friends to thank for all the help they gave her.
Homecoming queen selection is based on 40 percent popular vote, 40 percent pageant score and 10 percent on private interviews with judges. Hale met all the requirements for queen candidates, including the pageant dance category. She wheeled around the stage, while people danced around her.
For the talent portion of the contest, Hale did a comedy routine she described as "precision wheelchair driving," to the Patsy Cline song, Stop the World. She also told jokes, but said it was difficult finding material that would not be offensive in some way to someone or some group.
With her 4.0 grade point average and active participation in a number of organizations, Highlands University is well represented by Tobi Hale.
NOW activist Cindy "Gams" Judd Hill named Ms. National Senior Citizen
She clinched the title in the talent portion of the show by performing head-high dance kicks while singing a medley including Razzle Dazzle and New York, New York.
As winner of the pageant, held in Joliet, Ill., Hill garnered the usual pageant paraphernalia -- a tiara, sash, a three-foot trophy and some cash -- but she says what's more important to her is the purpose of the pageant itself, "to break the stereotype of women over 55. We're very vibrant," says Hill. The pageant, which began in 1981, drew 25 participants from across the country who were judged on fashion, talent and an interview.
With four grown children and a husband who supports her career, Hill spends her time singing and dancing for civic organizations, clubs and senior citizens' homes. "It feeds my soul," she says. "I'm finally me, and I'm reveling in it. I'm absolutely euphoric."
Hill had always wanted to dance and sing, but found herself trapped in the "Stepford Wife" role. "I was a teen during [World War II], and all the guys went to war and when they came back in their uniforms, we all got married," Hill said. "I had a job and husband and four children. I was very obedient then, but now we have a wonderful partnership." Hill says the house isn't quite as "neat," but her life is "so much richer."
Hill exudes energy: "I just want to keep entertaining people and especially telling women there's a lot of life still here for you. Chronologically, I'm 67, emotionally I'm in late adolescence and spiritually I have never felt such joy. I just love doing what I'm doing."
Events surrounding the birth of her fourth child led Hill to the feminist movement. Her first three children were born before she began teaching. Hill then worked as a high school music teacher and got pregnant while on a sabbatical to get her master's degree. When the school board refused to take her back, she went to court.
Hill had not considered herself an "aggressive" person, but her perception of being "punished" for "staying home to have babies and singing in the church" led her to take action. She sued the school district, and NOW came in to help her win her case.
Hill's case ended up before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which ruled in 1968 that she should get her job back. As a result, she says, "teachers' organizations now have written into their contracts that when a teacher becomes pregnant, she cannot be fired and the school is obligated to put her back in the same slot and pay scale."
With her case settled, Hill became an active NOW member, working for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and on other issues. She lectures about women in history and believes women need to be policy-makers and leaders.