How Did the Miss America Pageant Begin?

The Miss America Pageant began in 1921 as a way for the businessmen of Atlantic City to attract post-summer business. Contestants in bathing suits paraded along the Atlantic City beach, and Margaret Gorman, a 16-year-old from Washington, D.C., became the first woman to be named Miss America. The pageant began attracting crowds of more than 100,000 people, and in 1954 it was first televised throughout the US.

More about the Miss America Pageant:

  • The Miss America pageant was suspended from 1929 through 1932 because of the Great Depression and public scandals regarding the marital status and state residency of some contestants.

  • No African-American women competed in the Miss America contest until the 1940s. The first black Miss America, Vanessa Williams, won her title in 1984.

  • Bess Myerson, who was named Miss America in 1945, later became the first Commissioner of Consumer Affairs for New York City.

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