queen for a day


There is an amazing moral dilemma hidden in the text of Richard Layard’s lectures on economics and happiness.

If you are evil, he outlines a reasonably simple reciepe you can use to make a large groups of people unhappy. The  trick is to engineer a change in their model of their rank.  This is easier to do than you might expect.    You breakdown the barriers around their local community joining them to a larger community, but only if that larger community is better off than they are.

He tell the story of the East Germans. In the last decade and a half they have been set free from a horrible Governmen, for example it arranged for everybody to spy on each other.    Their incomes have been risen substantially.  This is obviously wonderful.  But then, why are they collectively less happy?  Apparently it’s because they now calibrate themselves against the West Germans.  Their perceived rank has fallen in spite of their absolute rank having rising significantly.

What a mess!  You do the obviously right thing; free an entire nation of people and pour tremendous amounts of energy into raising their standard of living and after a long period the end result is an overall decrease in the happiness of the very people you set out to help. At that point your only hope is to start to calculate some other score; maybe one where justice can counter the decrease in unhappiness. What a mess!

This problem is far more common than it appears at first. He reports the same story for holds true for many women in industrial nations who now compare their rank against that of men. Or, he reports, that watching television with pictures of beautiful people living rich lives causes people to start contrasting their rank with the people in those images (fictional people!) and this makes them unhappy.

If you are really evil – get a satellite television station. Beam images of first world life styles into the homes of third world citizens.

People say of the third world’s anger “What’s their problem?” Maybe it’s not our cultural imperialism. Maybe it’s not the way our media is full of violence, or loose morals. Maybe it’s not the destructive effects our culture has on local culturals, persay.

It could be entirely that our media erodes the boundary around their local frames of reference and in doing so it implicitly suggests that their rank is lower than ours. That doesn’t trigger a desire to strive; it only triggers a sense of unhappiness, frustration and worse.

You might make this argument not just between the first and third world, but between the urban and rural cultures or (between rich and poor) inside the first world.

All that got me to thinking – could you use these insights to make people happier. I think you might argue that the old TV show ‘Queen for a Day’ is an example of TV that made people happy. Queen for a Day ran for 25 years, each show would share with it’s audience two contestants who’s lives were mind boggling awful – the grinding poverty of recent widows who’s small children were suffering some crippling affliction. These stories gave the audience a point of reference that could only raise their self assessment of their rank in the world.

I recall traveling in Ireland many years ago where on the TV I saw documentaries about an awful place I was entirely unfamiliar with. This place went by the name America. These shows certainly did seem to cheer up all the Irish folks who were watching them.

But the most fascinating insight is that if you want to be a more cheerful person the answer is simple. Work to help those less fortunate than yourself.

Done right, this is a win all around. First the very poor gain substantial happiness from each and every improvement in their material condition. Those of us who are quite well off gain very little happiness from increases in our material well being. Second by associating with those who are less well off we recalibrate where we stand in the overall ranking of things. And that will make you happier!

Good news indeed; as long as in doing it you don’t create more unhappiness as in the West German example.

31 thoughts on “queen for a day

  1. Lynne E. Hoots

    I have a friend who’s mother was on Queen for a day and won. I believe that there were six children, after they moved back to Illinois she killed herself. I was wondering if it would be possible to find a print of the show that she was on. This family would love to have a copy of that show. Or maybe you could lead me in the right direction in obtaining a copy. Thanks Lynne


    My mother won on queen for a day I was 1 I am now 47 my mothers name was carolyn chambers she passed away when i was 11 I would really like to get a copy of the show she was on it would be nice to here her voice again thanks. Robert Chambers

  3. nicole

    I am looking for a copy of a queen for a day episode in which my grandmother, Carolyne Wallingford, won. It was probably from 1958 or 1959. We would love to find a copy!

  4. Mary Tobin

    I worked on Queen For A Day in l954 and 1955 and would like to find some old videos of any of those shows. Who would I get in touch with today?

  5. Mike Manley

    My Mother who has passed away was on and was crowned queen in November of 1959; I believe it to be around the 11th or thereabouts. Her Name is Mary C. Manley. If you can not help me, please direct me in the right direction.

    Thanks so much,

    Mike Manley October 15, 2004

  6. sheri

    is there a place/website to get a copy of old Queen for a Day shows–my friend’s mother was on and she died when he was little–he doesnt remember her and I would love to get a copy of the show wshe was on

  7. chris stewart

    I am wondering if anyone found out where to find these copies. My g-ma as well was Queen for a day and would like to find out more info about her. I never got to know her or any other of my fatherside curious to hear what she may have sounded like. If anyone has info on Jesseye P White (Stewart) O dont know if she was married as of yet. Please forward me the info at dastewbums@aol.com

  8. david a gold

    my mother won on the t.v. show queen for a day back in the early 1960’s i would like to have some photos or a video of the show she won her name is bessie lee gold

  9. jessica

    My grandmother was on queen for a day, Marie Ohana, with my father and his other brother and sisters. The show allowed her to fly her childred from Morocco to the states and appeared on television with them. Anyone know where i can find this episode?

  10. Doris (Brown) Arnold

    I was on Queen for a Day, my name at the time was Doris M. Brown. I would like to know how I can purchase a copy of that show. My cousin saw a replay of it about (7) years ago, called me but I live in Ariz. & she was in Calif. it was not showing here. it was around July of 1959, I was pregant with my 1st son. I had accidently shot my husband (at that time) in a hunting accident, I was at the time I was on the show (8) mos. pregnant. the police at the time had released me pending further investigation ( they proved it was an accident) my husband had was shot on March 15,1959 in Chino, Calif. we had just gotten out of the Navy had no ins. and no place to live. There was another lady on for a boy who needed a wheelchair when they put their hands over my head the needle on the meter went way over we all thought I had won, but instead the lady for the boy in the wheelchair won. Can you help me?

  11. Deb

    I have also been looking for an episode of that show. My mom won Queen for a Day and we would love to see it again! It aired on TV about two weeks after it was taped.

    I purchased the 3-DVD set that is available, but unfortunately my mom is not one of the contestants on any of the seven episodes. On each complete episode, each contestant came out and was identified by name and interviewed briefly by Jack Bailey. The third disc contains one of the complete episodes and parts of a few others with some contestants not named. I wrote down the names (as best as I could understand them) and compared them to the names of the people that were being asked about on this site (and a few other sites as well). Sorry none matched.

    According to the DVD case, these are the “Only surviving 7 episodes remaining”. Doris, you now just posted that you were seen in an episode that aired a few years ago. I am sorry I did not see your name on these episodes. But maybe that just means there are more. Do you know what station it aired on?

    I purchased the Dvd set from “Dvd Planet” and have seen it available at other sites. It has the original commercials and it was nice to be able to show the “applause meter” to my grown children. I had forgotten how different TV was back then!

    There is a website called Shokus Videos with an online catalog of old TV shows. The Game Show section has two compilations of shows which include Queen For a Day (#’s 309 and 314). #314 has a watchable video clip of one of the episodes. This episode is included in the DVD set.

    If interested, there is another site – “Hall of Game Show Fame”. This one is asking for “Contestants True Tales” experiences on classic game shows. Several have responded about Queen For a Day.

    I don’t know how often anyone checks back here or the other sites, but perhaps a tv or game show message board or forum would be a better and faster way to exchange ideas back and forth. Maybe it would get the attention of someone with helpful information. Does anyone have a site they are comfortable with or has anyone else had any luck finding copies of the show?

  12. Jodi Lorenz

    My mother won the queen for a day show in the early 1960’s. Her name is Jean Lorenz. Her husband had just been hurt in a motorcycle accident and she had 3 little kids. I would love to obtain a copy of this video to share with my mother Jean Lorenz. She is still alive. It would be a great gift.
    Thank You

  13. Maryjane Barker

    I am trying to find Queen for a Day in 1950’s
    guest was Dorthy Barker can anyone help?

  14. jan reilly

    I’m searching for my grandmother – Agnes Farmer_ who was a contestant and won.
    I wish I could find her video of show.

  15. Elizabeth Anne Ferguson

    Trying to get information on the Queen for a Day episode sometime in July 1959, regarding my mother Wanda Josepine Ferguson. Our father took his 6 children and went to Mexico. I have a photo of mom with Jack Bailey and we have her Queen for a Day watch, but I always thought it was July 1958. Just trying to put some pieces together in my life. How can I get this information, as I have searched and searched the internet. Just trying to get a copy of the show and the exact date.
    Elizabeth Anne Ferguson, Queensland, Australia

  16. Kim Harris

    My mother Helen Joyce Bailey or she may have went by Helen Joyce Johnson won on Queen for a day also and she passed away when I was 13 that was 32 year ago and sisters and I would like to find the episode on which she won also. Does anyone know how to find the episodes. We think she was on in the years 1958 and 1963 with Jack Bailey as the host. If someone could let me know if My mother was on any of the shows that you have seen????

  17. ninajean

    My grandmother, Marie Lazo won Queen for a Day. I don’t recall the year but it had to be in the early 50’s as i can recall her having the May Tag washer and pictures were posted of her crowned,robed and holding roses.
    It would be touching and so wonderful to be able to see and hear her again.

  18. Catherine

    My great-grandmother, Dorthey Lea Yates, won Queen for a Day, in 1959. She was a deaf-mute. She went on the show with her oldest daughter. My grandmother tells stories of all the prizes her mom won. They were a poor family of seven, and the show gave them tons of things for Christmas. I would love to find this tape for my grandmother who is ill. It would make her very happy to see her mother again.

  19. Elisa

    Deb, I know you said you had the DVD… I hate to ask it – and I know that there’s little chance, given the sheer number of people on here looking for their mothers/grandmothers, but my grandma was Eva Crossman. She won the show sometime in the late 50s or early 60s… If she’s on the DVD, I’d love to buy it or get a copy somehow!

  20. Heather

    Anyone who owns the DVD happen to know if there is a contestant named Francis Snell on the surviving 7 episodes? It was my grandmother and I would love to have this tape for my dad and our family.


    My great grandmother from England was on the show…not sure if she was just watching it or was a contestant…i can’t remember that part….her name was Amelia Hudson..
    does anyone now this name or seen it on one of the videos..would love to see.

  22. Angie Stone

    My mother, Mary Kathryn Campbell, became “Vacation Queen” in May 1948, when Jack Bailey’s show was a radio program. She won with a 25-words-or-less answer to why she would like to be Vacation Queen. I have the original letters, photos and news articles. She was interviewed nation-wide as she traveled in a trailer caravan across the country. She passed away in 1952 when I was almost three. I’d naturally be delighted (and astonished) to locate any old recordings of those interviews.

  23. linda headley

    was there ever a lady last name grimm ever won the queen for a day, she had 8 kids .lived in maryland

  24. Belinda Passig

    My mother was on queen for a day on January 15 1959 with Jack Bailey and i was wondering if there was any way to get a copy of the episode?

  25. Cassandra

    My Grandmother was crowned Queen in 1963. Her name is Shirley Shay. I am looking for a copy of her episode. Can anyone help?

  26. tara maag

    Like everyone else, I’m wondering if my grandmother, Edith Smith, was on one of the surviving episodes. I would love to surprise my dad with a copy. Any help would be appreciated.

  27. Carl Bryant

    My Grandmother was on an episode of Queen for a day in the fall of 1959. Her name at the time was Franaces Polley. Although she was not named Queen of the Day, I would still would much like to find a copy of the show if possible. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks again,

  28. James Webb Jr

    My mom won in July 1958! her name was Mary ann Webb at the age 15 and i was 5 months old sitting in her lap for the news paper shoot. my dad was 21 and out of the marine corp in body cast in hopital from a 40 foot fall at that time. Now i’m 54 and she’s 70
    they say she was the youngest queen ever to win. if anyone has a copy of her show on queen for a day let know by posting here

  29. Leticia yeary

    Looking for an episode October or November 1959. Francis lulu Yeary won queen for a day. Her son mark Yeary was going to have open heart surgery. He was 1 of the 1st 100 on the new heart lung machine. He was 7. In 2012 he had surgery again. One of 6 original still alive. He was in tucson, at the hospital where his 1st surgeon in los angelo’s came to work and the wing was named for him. Mark us writing a book and would love to have pictures or info on his mom’s episode.

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