“Miss America represents the highest ideals. She is a real combination of beauty, grace, and intelligence, artistic and refined. She is a type which the American Girl might well emulate.” -Frederick Hickman, Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce President
The Miss America Pageant began in Atlantic City as a bathing beauty contest. Although the pageant is held in other towns in the United States, Atlantic City, is still considered the birthplace of the pageant.
The very first Miss America Pageant was held in 1921 in hopes of boosting the beachfront economy of Atlantic City. The contestants wore wool bathing dresses with tunic tops over bloomers and they were paraded along the beach by local officials. The very first Miss America winner, Margaret Gorman, was 16 years old. She was chosen for her athletic looks and “potential to shoulder the responsibilities of homemaking and motherhood” according to a judge.
The pageant was discontinued in 1928 due to charges of indecency by women’s organizations. The organization claimed that the bathing suits were too revealing and also, there was a scandal with two contestants. One contestant was actually married while the other had an infant child. Because of these incidents the pageant did not start up again until the 1930s.
During the years the pageant had gone through many transformations.
Originally, contestants in the Miss America pageant were judged on their body measurements. Around the 1940s they changed the judging criteria and the contestants were ranked in evening gown, talent, swimsuit, and personality. Today, the contestants are given scores based on talent, interview, evening gown, and swimsuit.
The Miss America Pageant is one of our countries larges scholarship program for young women. Leonora Slaughter, the pageant director, came up with the idea of offering scholarships to pageant finalists. She “wanted the winners to become something” after the pageant instead of running off to Hollywood. The first Miss America to receive a scholarship was Bess Myerson, who used it to pursue her graduate studies at Columbia University. Today, the winner receives $50,000 in scholarship funds. The runner-ups also receive a generous amount in scholarship funds.
Throughout the years, Miss America has been making a different in people’s lives through charitable and community work. Miss America travels about 20,000 miles a month. She tours the nation reaching out to support her ideas and to help others. The Miss America Pageant has come very far from where it originated being a bathing beauty contest. Miss America is a woman who stands for tradition, sophistication and, who makes a valiant effort in changing people’s lives.