Sweetheart Jackets: Comeback or Nah?

Sweetheart Jackets: Comeback or Nah?

Copyright Trustees of Indiana University

Copyright Trustees of Indiana University

While some trends were going out of style, women were making a tenacious move into the hollows of boys clubs and were shattering glass ceilings everywhere. With shards still hitting the floor, pantyhose guidelines are on their way out, and we think the sweetheart jacket should make a comeback: here’s why.

Thanks to an unnamed NFFA archivist, we are able to to dive into a bit of history.

  • Photographic evidence suggests FFA featured the Sweetheart/Queen position as early as 1939 with Miss Ruth Snyder as the earliest recorded appointee. Newspaper clippings comment only on the dresses and mention the election process for the title was carried out by secret ballot.

  • The first Sweetheart jacket appeared in the 1949 spring Supply Service catalog. The jacket was made of rayon and is quoted as being “attractively styled” with color options in National Blue or white. Featuring a small FFA emblem with “Chapter Sweetheart” monogramed below noting “Queen” could be substituted for sweetheart if desired. (Yaaaas) The girl’s name and chapter could be embroidered on the right front of the jacket and there were no words on the back. Did we mention you could buy this jacket for $6.50 with $.30 for lettering at the time? What. A. Steal.

  • Without the 1959 or 1960 editions of the Supply Service catalog, we simply know that by 1961 some changes were made regarding jacket colors options. The option for white remained the same while the option for a jacket in National Blue was changed to a light blue and the fabric adopted the corduroy theme leaving rayon behind.

  • In 1964-65, the the National Blue was abandoned altogether leaving white corduroy as the only option for the jacket.

We believe sweetheart jackets need a comeback, not as an appliance of beauty or popularity decided by the masses, rather a moment of empowerment for the historical women who made the present day involvement possible.

You say FFA Sweetheart, we say trailblazer.

  • Being selected the FFA Sweetheart/Queen became a huge affair as states began selecting one woman to represent them as a whole and state-elected queens appeared as participants in the American Royal Queen Competition.
  • In 1992-93 we saw the last appearance of the FFA Sweetheart jacket in the chapter catalog. This change followed  the 1992 delegate vote  to dissolve the FFA Sweetheart as a role for women in the organization. [New Horizon Dec/Jan 1992-93 edition.

 1970 American Royal Queen contestants: Sharon Kemp of Maryland was elected American Royal Queen. // Copyright Trustees of Indiana University

 1970 American Royal Queen contestants: Sharon Kemp of Maryland was elected American Royal Queen. // Copyright Trustees of Indiana University

  • There are no recorded responsibilities or duties associated with the FFA Sweetheart/Queen position. It also does not appear to have been a program recognized by the National FFA Organization before or after the admission of women into the organization in 1969. Quite a bit of mystery surrounds this position as there are also no recorded rules or qualifications describing the selection process for the title. We simply recognize that before 1969, the jacket symbolized honorary affiliation for females juxtaposed to the FFA boys club.

What can be gleaned from breaking down the FFA Sweetheart timeline?

For starters, the first Miss USA Pageant was held in 1952, almost 15 years after the first FFA Sweetheart/Queen was crowned. It can be argued that the agricultural organization set the precedent for the competition. With humble beginnings as a seemingly informal popularity contest, this set the stage for larger roles for women in the organization and ultimately, led to the formal inclusion of women in the organization.

Today, 45 percent of membership is female and half of all state officer positions being held by women.  


Cost of the first FFA Sweetheart jacket in 1949.


Women nationally recognized as FFA members.


Percentage of female membership in 2017.


Percentage of female state officers.


Jan Eberly, from California, serves as the first female National FFA President. 


Karlene Lindow, from Wisconsin, was the first female FFA member to win the American Star Farmer Award.



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