The Book

Finding My Little Red Hat

by Jo-Carroll Dennison

This is a book about courage: finding it, losing it, and the search to find it again.

The path begins in 1923 on my father’s traveling medicine show, and leads through a circus, a carnival, finding a way through child abuse, and becoming a secretary, of all things.

My path took a major turn when I won the Miss America pageant in 1942, at the age of 18, which led to becoming a movie starlet amid the extraordinary goings on of 1940s and 50s Hollywood.

Growing up on the road, when I went to school I had to face the suspicious critical eyes of a new classroom every week or so. To help me find the courage to do so, I wore my little red hat with its little red feather. The hat was my red badge of courage, so to speak. While wearing it I felt brave and unafraid.

During my twenty-three years of marriage, however, somehow I lost my little red hat, and was now terrified by the prospect of starting a brand new life alone at age 57. I decided the best place to look for it was where I had first found it, in my childhood. This book is the result.

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The book is heavily illustrated with vintage photos going back more than a century. The story includes mature topics.