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The Forgotten Scandal In the back of the First Ever Omit The usa Competition — Very best Existence

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At the present time, hobby within the Omit The usa festival is fading away, however 100 years in the past, the contest was once simply getting began. The very first Omit The usa festival was once held in 1921, and it wasn’t even known as Omit The usa but. As an alternative, a bunch of 9 younger girls from more than a few towns within the proximity of Atlantic Town, New Jersey had been invited to participate in a “Inter-Town Good looks Contest” throughout a seaside competition. However whilst that sounds blameless sufficient, the primary festival incorporated a war involving the 2 frontrunners that ended with one in every of them being disqualified from the principle festival and the opposite turning into perpetually referred to as the primary Omit The usa.

The scandal is detailed within the new e-book There She Was once: The Secret Historical past of Omit The usa through Amy Argetsingera model of the tale was once printed through The Washington Submit. Learn on to determine what precisely went down.

RELATED: A 97-Yr-Outdated Former Omit The usa Refused to Do This All through Her Reign.

Margaret Gorman in the first Miss America pageant in 1921
Fotosearch/Getty Pictures

Out of the 9 contestants within the first Omit The usa, the 2 frontrunners had been Virginia Lee of New York Town and Margaret Gorman of Washington, D.C. Like lots of the festival hopefuls, 16-year-old Gorman have been selected by way of a competition in her native newspaper. Twenty-year-old Lee, alternatively, was once selected for the contest through a bunch of illustrators she had modeled for.

“The verdict of the judges, to be given to-morrow evening, is understood to lie between Virginia Lee . . . and Margaret Gorman,” wrote the New York Tribune after the contest, in line with Argetsinger’s article.

Miss America competitors in 1921
Hulton Archive/Getty Pictures

Previous to the winner of the festival being introduced, Lee was once disqualified, as a result of she was once deemed a “skilled” reasonably than an “novice” like the opposite contestants. As Argetsinger notes, the verdict wasn’t totally defined within the newspapers of the time, however a couple of doable causes were recognized.


“Possibly it had one thing to do along with her movie occupation: She already had a dozen credit to her identify,” Argetsinger writes. However, as a result of this primary festival did not have particular laws a couple of skilled occupation now not being allowed, “this primary season had reputedly thrown the doorways open to any girl.”

2nd, there was once a war of hobby in that Lee was once shut with the executive pass judgement on of the contest, the illustrator Howard Chandler Christy.

And, finally, Lee was once married, which may have doubtlessly been a subject matter. On the other hand, because the Submit issues out, “[being married] was once now not technically in opposition to the foundations at that first festival.”

Margaret Gorman wearing her Miss America sash in 1922
Bettmann / Getty Pictures

With Lee out of the working, Gorman turned into the primary winner and took house the Golden Mermaid trophy. As Argetsinger explains, Gorman, who dressed modestly and had lengthy Victorian taste hair, will have been noticed as a reminder of a previous generation throughout a time when girls had been gaining extra rights and freedom and flapper taste was once setting out. “[F]rom day one,” the thing explains, “the festival staked out its template: Ladies above girls. Newbie reasonably than skilled. Outdated-school virtues over fashionable aptitude.”

Lee ended up successful a secondary class on the festival that was once in particular for execs.

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Contestants in the 2007 Miss America pageant
Everett Assortment / Shutterstock

In step with The Washington Submit article, Lee mentioned of the contest throughout a 1993 interview, “They got here again and mentioned, ‘Oh, Virginia, you received however we will’t give it to you.’ That is all they’d ever inform me. I received it arms down.”

As for Gorman, she competed once more the next yr, and since there was once a brand new Omit D.C., she turned into referred to as Omit The usa, which established the identify of the contest. However, later in lifestyles, Gorman did not have a fond view of her festival days. “Existence has been extraordinarily, I say extraordinarily, sort,” she mentioned in 1980, in line with her 1995 Los Angeles Instances obituary. However of being Omit The usa, she added, “I by no means cared to be Omit The usa. It wasn’t my concept. I’m so bored through all of it. I in point of fact need to fail to remember the entire thing.”

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