Between 1912 and 1939, Marguerite Motie served as a symbol of Spokane's indigenous past and its pioneer present. After winning a Spokane beauty pageant, she was chosen by the Spokane Advertising Club as the face of their winning city sketch. In the picture, she is depicted as a Native American princess with a sheaf of wheat in one hand. The symbolism recognized Spokane's indigenous culture while encouraging the idea of westward expansion. The wheat suggested agricultural wealth.
In their latest Northwest history book titled Miss Spokane: Elegant Ambassadors and Their City, Tony Bamonte and his wife Suzanne Schaeffer Bamonte have compiled two years worth of historic documentation on the region's first official beauty contest. But the book is less about beauty and more about the history and culture of Spokane over the last 100-plus years.
"Marguerite Motie was the first official city hostess. It was a high-profile position," says Schaeffer Bamonte.
Motie wasn't Spokane's pioneer of the feminist movement, but her role did help women to exercise some kind of political position in diplomacy. Her role was more social than it was progressive, however. May Hutton was actually the woman who started women's suffrage in Spokane. Known for being outspoken, she was also the first woman to attend a Democratic National Convention.
"People just liked Motie a lot. She's also revered as the center of Spokane's first advertising campaign in history," says Schaeffer Bamonte.
The pages of this elegant, hard-bound history book are covered in documentary photographs collected courtesy of private donors. There are photos from the various time periods of Motie's life, photos of later Miss Spokanes, depictions of Spokane as it was at the turn of the century and even photos that document interaction between Spokane dignitaries and the Spokane Tribe.
"The book paints a picture of what Spokane was like at that time," says Tony Bamonte.
Pictures of parties offer glimpses of the festive activities and decorations of Spokane's famous Davenport Hotel. Chinese paper lanterns, hats, flowers and plants dangle from the ceiling and miniature palm trees lined the sidewalk of what was then the Davenport restaurant, the Spanish-style building in central downtown Spokane. The photos also show the clothing and style worn by upper class members of Spokane's Age of Elegance.
In the midst of all this glamour was the reigning Miss Spokane, Marguerite Motie. Bamonte says that following the various Miss Spokanes' history helped them to find out who the important figures were during different time periods. Presidents, governors and diplomats were all greeted by the Miss Spokanes, especially in the early years of the tradition.
"It was unique to have a host represented by a woman," says Schaeffer Bamonte. "It was also unique that the city's Miss wear Native American clothes."
Schaeffer Bamonte says the indigenous costume design continued for many years even when other city misses across the United States were donning traditionally European styles.
"Spokane held firm to the idea of the Native dress," says Schaeffer Bamonte. "The whole idea was that it represented national heritage in the area."
Did the Native Americans agree? In this day and age, the image of a white woman adorned in Native American attire is anything but politcally correct. But the Bamontes confirm that local tribes fully supported Miss Spokane. In fact, they feel that the symbol of Spokane as a young Native American maiden was actually part of the "healing" of pioneer/Native American conflicts and land rights. To some, the idea sounds contradictory, but Marguerite Motie and several other Miss Spokanes were made honorary members of local tribes and those tribes contributed to the design and construction of their costumes. During the duration of the Miss Spokane pageants from 1915 to 1977, there were only four dresses that were passed from one Miss to another.
As years went by, two Miss Spokane traditions emerged. The original Miss Spokane role as city hostess ended in 1977, but a newer pageant which sent Miss Spokanes on to compete in the Miss Washington and Miss America contests continued. Both traditions are documented in this book.
The Bamontes hope that the Miss Spokane book will sell as successfully as their previous Northwest history books have. They don't expect nationwide attention, but they would be proud to find readers throughout Washington state and even across the mountains in Seattle. They say that once people get past the idea of Miss Spokane as solely a documentary of local beauty pageants, the historical information is educational and hard to match in other documents. And they add that it's no random coincidence that Miss Spokane be the center of historic attention in the Inland Northwest.
"We've looked at every newspaper between 1879 up through the mid-1940s," says Bamonte, who has lived in the Inland Empire since his birth in 1942. "Marguerite Motie is the most publicized woman Spokane has ever had. There were Motie candies, license plate brackets and airplanes. You name it, they had it."
& & & lt;i & Tony Bamonte and Suzanne Schaeffer Bamonte autograph copies of Miss Spokane at the Shadle Hastings on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 3 pm, and at the Valley Mall Barnes and Noble on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 7 pm. On Sunday, Dec. 17, they will be at the South Hill Hastings at 3 pm. A special signing will be Tuesday, Dec. 19, from 2-4 pm at Joel, featuring an appearance by the second Miss Spokane, Cay Betts Williams. Their last appearance before Christmas is at the NorthTown Barnes and Noble on Friday, Dec. 22, at 3 pm. Call: 838-7114. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &