“She represents the type of womanhood America needs, strong, red-blooded, able to shoulder the responsibilities of homemaking and motherhood. It is in her type that the hope of the country rests” (Martin & Watson, 2004, p.3). This was Samuel Gompers sharing his thoughts about the very first “Miss America”, Margaret Gorman. The Miss America Pageant was established in the most fitting of all decades: the 1920s. During a time when women were just starting to experience newfound independence and rights, the Miss America Pageant strengthened the idea that women had more freedom to express themselves. The competition began as a simple tourist attraction, but the fact that the Miss America Pageant survived throughout the decades exemplifies that the competition was so much more.
In the year 1921, Conrad Eckhold, the owner of Atlantic City’s Monticello Hotel was looking for a way to keep tourists in town past Labor Day. After discussing the tourist problem with other Atlantic City business owners, the idea of a “Fall Frolic” was created. The Fall Frolic included a two-day competition to be called “Atlantic City’s Inter-City Beauty Pageant”, in years after it would be known as the “Miss America Pageant” (Miss America, 2/20/2011).
To become a contestant, women across the country entered themselves into popularity contests that featured their pictures in the newspapers. Editors of the paper then chose winners based on physical appearance. The winners were then given a free trip to Atlantic City where they were placed in the Inter-City Beauty Pageant (Bivans, 1991).
The “Fall Frolic” began with “King Neptune”, a man named Hudson Maxim, who wore a crown, seaweed robe, and long white beard. King Neptune announced the competitors and participated in the Rolling Chair Parade with the ladies involved in the pageant. The young women were judged not only on appearance,—though appearance was an important factor—but also on personality, interactions with the crowd and judges, and performance in the parade and Bather’s Revue (Bivans, 1991).
During the 1920s, roles of women were changing drastically, causing the Miss America Competition to be affected as well. Men at this time felt they were losing control over their wives and other women in their lives. Women were recently given the right to vote in 1920 and many were inspired by their new freedom and say in social issues. Women felt that showing themselves off was no longer a crime or something to be looked down upon, and the Miss America Pageant emphasized these new points of view (Carter, 1977).
Women were also experimenting with new clothing options, such as shorter skirts and haircuts. This new generation of women was often referred to as “flappers”. Flappers were known to interact with the opposite sex before marriage and many took up smoking. Women were finally being given the opportunity to do as they pleased, and flappers were taking advantage of it. The Miss America Pageant illustrated these new morals...