8 Sep: The First Miss America

Margaret Gorman, a schoolgirl from Washington DC, was crowned ‘Miss Intercity Beauty’ at the “Fall Frolic” in Atlantic City on 8th September, 1921 – an event that would eventually become known as Miss America, and watched by 75% of American households.

She and her fellow competitors took part in an early incarnation of the swimsuit round (complete with woollen leggings), making their grand entrance on a barge, headed up by ‘Neptune’ (played by the octogenarian inventor of smokeless gun powder. Of course.) 

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the controversy that saw early favourite Virginia Lee kicked out on day one; consider the appeal of the ‘rolling chair parade’; and address the intrinsic Madonna/Whore complex at the heart of this iconic beauty pageant… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Margaret Gorman won first Miss America pageant amid scandal’ (The Washington Post, 2021): https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/12/16/first-miss-america-margaret-gorman/

• ‘Live from Atlantic City: The History of the Miss America Pageant Before, After and in Spite of Television By Armando Riverol’ (Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1992):


• ‘Miss America and Atlantic City Become Forever United [1921-2006]’ (The Spectacular History of the New Jersey Shore):

Enjoy this? There’s FIVE MINUTES MORE available to our show’s top supporters, in which you can discover what Margaret Gorman did next; how the competition came to be called ‘Miss America’; and what the consolation prizes on offer were for the less-than-beautiful beauties. Unlock it – and a bonus bit like it, every single week – by supporting our show on Apple Podcasts, or at https://patreon.com/Retrospectors