Little Bits of History

There She Is

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 8, 2013
Margaret Gorman

Margaret Gorman

September 8, 1921: Margaret Gorman wins a contest, but it isn’t given the title until the next year. The 16-year-old junior at Western High School in Washington, D.C. was one of the six finalists chosen from over 1,000 pictures entered for a local contest. After touring around the city for the summer with the top six contestants, Margaret was chosen as “Miss Washington, D.C.” Her prize was a trip to the Second Annual Atlantic City Pageant. Other inner city girls met her in Atlantic City and the pageant operators decided on a new contest for the title of “Inner-City Beauty.”

The girls were introduced to the crowds and permitted to mingle with them. The public was given half of the voting weight so personality was a large part of the vote. The girls, dressed in “stylish afternoon attire,” were presented later on stage at the Keith Theatre on the Garden Pier. After the votes were tallied, the popular Margaret was awarded the amateur prize.

The show was a hit and more “Inner-City Beauties” were judged one-to-one with a new set of winners. There was an “amateur winner” and a “professional winner” (actress or model) emerging. The grand prize – The Golden Mermaid Trophy – was won by Margaret. She returned to DC and high school. The next year, Margaret was back in New Jersey as a contestant. But there was already a new Miss Washington, D.C. so the event planners granted Margaret the title of Miss America and gave her the official symbol, a crown. She was the only winner to be crowned at the end of her reign.

Today, pageant contestants must have already won local and state pageants to get to come to Las Vegas, the venue since 2006. The women, aged 17-24, compete in five different areas. 1) Private interview, 2) talent, 3) lifestyle and fitness in swimsuit, 4) evening wear, and 5) onstage question. Bert Parks hosted the first telecast Miss America and remained the emcee for 25 years. He was followed by Ron Ely and then Gary Collins. In recent years, a new celebrity is chosen on a yearly basis as host.

“I’ve lived a charmed life. I’ve been very lucky. God has been very kind to me.” – Margaret Gorman

“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

“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” – Kahlil Gibran

“In every man’s heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty.” – Christopher Morley

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Margaret Gorman was born August 18, 1905 in Washington, D. C. Her initial win was due to her athletic ability, past accomplishments, and outgoing personality. One of the statistics kept by the Miss America people is the weight of contestants. Margaret was the lightest winner up until 1949. Margaret weighed only 108 pounds and in 1949 Jacque Mercer (5′ 3.5″ tall) weighed 106 and she retains the title of what is today a coveted area. Margaret continued to compete in 1922 and 1923 and forever saved the sea green sequined chiffon dress she wore in the 1922 competition. She married Victor Cahill and remained with him until his death in 1957. She never moved from Washington, D. C. and in later years was a socialite who enjoyed travel. She died on October 1, 1995 at the age of 90.

Also on this day: Something in the Water – In 1854, Dr. John Snow saved London from an outbreak of cholera.
David Revealed – In 1504, Michelangelo’s statue was unveiled.
Flags – In 1892, the Pledge of Allegiance appeared in print for the first time.

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