Miss America Timeline
Miss America History
Newspaperman Horace Greeley publishes a landmark book by journalist and social reformer Margaret Fuller, Woman in the Nineteenth Century. The work argues for women's equality in all aspects of life.
American women move further into the public sphere; the first Women's Rights Convention is held at Seneca Falls, New York.
Amelia Bloomer begins her crusade to reform American women's fashions.
P.T. Barnum's efforts to launch a live beauty contest are unsuccessful. Respectable women do not parade their beauty in public. He launches a picture-based beauty contest sponsored by local newspapers. It is highly successful and imitated.
The nation is divided in two as North and South clash in the U.S. Civil War.
January 1: President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation.
The first recorded bathing beauty contest takes place at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Inventor Thomas Edison is a judge. A bridal trousseau is the prize. Contestants must be under 25, not married, at least 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weigh no more than 130 pounds.
November 18: Journalist Nellie Bly sets off to travel around the world in under 80 days.
An umbrella organization, the General Federation of Women's Clubs, is formed. Women's clubs are venues for women's education and development, and will increasingly focus on community service.
In a second wave of U.S. immigration, people from Eastern Europe and Italy come to America.
The Chicago Columbian Exposition features a Congress of Beauty.
The National Federation of Afro-American Women is formed. A year later it joins with the League of Colored Women to become the National Association of Colored Women.
U.S. Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson rules that segregation is not unconstitutional. The doctrine treating African Americans as "separate but equal" holds for the next half century.
American soldiers fight the Spanish American War in Cuba and the Philippines.
The National Women's Trade Union League is formed.
November: McClure's Magazine publishes the first installment of muckraker Ida Tarbell's exposé, The History of the Standard Oil Company.
Swimmer Annette Kellerman is arrested for indecent exposure while trying to popularize a one-piece swimsuit worn with tights rather than bloomers.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded.
World War I begins in Europe.
D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation is the first full-length feature film in the new motion picture industry. It portrays the Ku Klux Klan as American heroes.
The new sound recording industry begins a phase of rapid growth.
The U.S. enters World War I. Of the 4.3 million American soldiers who fight, 126,000 are killed. The total number dead in the bloodiest war mankind has ever seen is 8.5 million, from over a dozen nations.
The First International Congress of Working Women meets in Washington, D.C.
The Red Summer: widespread anti-Communist sentiment, racial and labor unrest, and the aftermath of war combine and cause the nation to erupt in violence.
January: The Eighteenth Amendment makes the sale, manufacture, and transportation of intoxicating liquors illegal.
August: The Nineteenth Amendment is ratified, giving women the right to vote. The National League of Women Voters is organized.
September 7: The first Miss America Pageant, called the "Inter-City Beauty Pageant," takes place in Atlantic City as a part of a Fall Frolic to attract tourists. There are seven contestants. Sixteen-year-old Margaret Gorman from Washington, D.C., wins the title, Miss America.
September: The Inter-City Beauty Contest grows in popularity, attracting over 70 contestants. After pageant officials forget to include a "no marriage" rule, it is discovered that "Miss" Alaska, Helmar Leiderman, is not only married but is also a resident of New York.
September: Mary Katherine Campbell becomes the only woman to win the Miss America title two years in a row. Pageant officials subsequently establish a rule that a woman cannot hold the title more than once.
The Immigration Act establishes a national quota system for limiting immigration.
Norma Smallwood, Miss America 1926, makes $100,000 in appearance fees, an income higher than either Babe Ruth or the president of the United States.
September: Baseball star Babe Ruth hits record-breaking home run number 60. All the people in attendance wave handkerchiefs in his honor. The record will stand for over 3 decades.
Religious groups and women's clubs protest the loose morals of young women in the pageant. Bad press plus financial trouble shut the pageant down between 1929 and 1932.
October 24: The stock market crashes. The Great Depression begins.
March 25: Nine black youths are accused of the rape of two white women in Paint Rock, Alabama. The Scottsboro boys' case becomes one of the most significant legal fights of the twentieth century.
May 20: Amelia Earhart is the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She becomes a Depression-era hero and advocate for women's equality, saying, "A pilot's a pilot. I hope that such equality could be carried out in other fields so that men and women may achieve equally in any endeavor..."
September: Atlantic City sponsors revive the Miss America Pageant. Fifteen-year-old Marian Bergeron is Miss America 1933. Age requirements are instituted afterwards requiring contestants to be between 18 and 26.
Sometime in the 1930s a pageant rule is established requiring contestants to be of the white race.
Union membership among women in the U.S. increases threefold, to almost 20% of the female workforce.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is inaugurated.
Pageant officials hope to re-invent the pageant. They hire Lenora Slaughter to do the job for six weeks. She will stay for 32 years, serving as the pageant's director.
Winner Bette Cooper changes her mind about being Miss America, and flees Atlantic City.
Dust Bowl farmers in the Great Plains suffer the effects of severe dust storms as well as economic hard times.
A "society matron" chaperone system is enacted, to keep pageant contestants away from scandal.
A talent competition is added as part of the scoring process.
Contestants are no longer allowed to represent cities, resorts, or theaters. Instead, they are required to represent states.
April: RCA's National Broadcasting Company (NBC) broadcasts the opening of the New York World's Fair. One of the first television sets is displayed at the Fair.
September 1: Germany invades Poland. World War II begins.
September: The pageant is officially dubbed the Miss America Pageant and moves into Atlantic City's Convention Hall.
December 7: The Japanese bomb a U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. A day later, President Roosevelt declares war on Japan and the U.S. enters World War II.
Women's employment rises dramatically as women take on new wartime jobs.
Miss America is transformed into an emblem of patriotism. Miss America 1942, Jean Bartel, turns down a lucrative movie offer to sell a record number of war bonds.
Women's branches of armed forces are formed, including the Army WACS, the Navy WAVES, the Coast Guard SPARS, the Marines MCWR, and the Army Air Force's WASPS. Women are six percent of the armed services.
January 22: More than 17 months after news of Hitler's plan to annihilate Europe's Jews reaches the U.S., President Roosevelt issues an executive order to establish the War Refugee Board.
Director Lenora Slaughter raises $5000 to launch the Miss America scholarship program. Previously Miss America is offered furs and movie contracts. Now she is offered funds for college. The original scholarship patrons are: Joseph Bancroft and Sons, Catalina Swimwear, F.W. Fitch Company, and the Sandy Valley Grocery Company. She also enlists Junior Chambers of Commerce across the country to sponsor local and state contests.
September 8: Bess Myerson becomes Miss America 1945, the first Jewish Miss America and the first winner of the scholarship program. She plans to study conducting.
Bess Myerson receives few offers for appearances and product endorsement. America appears not to be ready for a Jewish Miss America. Myerson decides to spend her year speaking for the Jewish Anti-Defamation League on the topic, "You Can Not Be Beautiful and Hate."
May 8: V-E Day. President Harry Truman announces the end of the war in Europe via radio.
September 2: V-J Day, when Japan formally surrenders, ends World War II.
Lenora Slaughter bans the phrase "bathing suit"-- the garments are to be called "swimsuits."
The Baby Boom begins. The birth rate will rise dramatically over the next decade.
September: For the last time, Miss America is crowned in a bathing suit. Afterwards, winners are crowned in evening gowns.
June 12: President Harry Truman signs into law the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, enabling women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed services. The law limits the number of women that can serve in the military to two percent of the total forces in each branch.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is formed.
A "Cold War" develops between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.
June: North Korea invades South Korea. President Truman commits U.S. troops.
September: Yolande Betbeze sings an operatic aria and is crowned Miss America 1951. Catalina Swimwear withdraws sponsorship of the pageant after Betbeze refuses to appear in public in a swimsuit.
Dwight Eisenhower is elected president.
Catalina inaugurates the Miss Universe and Miss USA Pageants, two years after withdrawing support for the Miss America Pageant.
June 2: Queen Elizabeth II is crowned in England.
ABC approaches the pageant about televising the event. Fearful of losing the Atlantic City audience to TV, pageant officials say no. Movie star Eddie Fisher hosts the pageant.
September: Alfred Kinsey's report, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, challenges many myths about sexual behavior in American society.
December: Playboy, a men's magazine featuring photographs of nude women, publishes its inaugural issue, featuring Marilyn Monroe on the cover.
May 17: The "separate but equal" doctrine established by Plessy v. Fergusson in 1892 is overruled in Brown v. Board of Education. The Supreme Court unanimously rules that segregation in schools is unconstitutional.
Philco Television Sets purchases 1954 television broadcast rights to the pageant for $10,000 and contracts with ABC for the broadcast.
September 11: Twenty-seven million people tune in to see Lee Ann Meriwether crowned Miss America. Grace Kelly is a judge and Bess Myerson reports from backstage. The scholarship award is $10,000.
Bert Parks is hired as the pageant's emcee. He introduces a theme song, There She Is , written by Bernie Wayne.
Every state in the nation is at last represented at the pageant.
Women are major participants in the civil rights and anti-war movements.
The President's Commission on the Status of Women is established, chaired by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The commission will take two years to publish its Peterson Report, documenting workplace discrimination against women and making recommendations for child care, maternity leave, and equal opportunity for working women.
Betty Freidan publishes The Feminine Mystique, reflecting a groundswell of dissatisfaction with women's social status, and it is a best seller. Gloria Steinem's magazine article, "I Was a Playboy Bunny," details the author's undercover investigation of the New York Playboy Club.
August 28: Martin Luther King leads a March on Washington to urge support for pending civil rights legislation. He delivers his famous "I have a dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
November 22: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act includes a key provision for women. Title VII outlaws discrimination in public accommodations or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. At the last minute the word "sex" is added by a Southern congressman, thinking it will kill the entire bill. Instead, it passes.
The Immigration Act abolishes a quota system that had restricted immigration.
The first American troops arrive in Vietnam.
The Miss America Pageant is televised in color in its first year on NBC.
October: The National Organization for Women is formed.
The women's liberation movement begins to grow. In Berkeley, California, women gather to raise consciousness about feminist issues.
Lenora Slaughter, the pageant's director, retires.
April 4: Martin Luther King is assassinated. Rioting occurs in 100 American cities.
June 6: Senator Robert Kennedy is assassinated.
August: Protesters disrupt the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
September 7: Judi Ford is crowned Miss America 1969. Feminists get national media attention for their protest on the Atlantic City boardwalk, where they crown a sheep and throw products like lipstick and hair curlers into a "Freedom Trash Can." The same day, the first Miss Black America Contest is held in Atlantic City in protest of the "white" Miss America Pageant.
Pepsi Cola withdraws its 11-year sponsorship, claiming the pageant no longer represents the changing values of American society.
Shirley Chisholm is the first African American woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Feminist protesters return to Atlantic City, claiming the pageant treats women as sex objects. Protesters will return every year well into the 1970s.
May 4: National Guardsmen kill four students at anti-war demonstrations at Ohio's Kent State University.
Rules barring non-whites have finally changed. The first black contestant to make it to Atlantic City is Cheryl Brown, Miss Iowa.
Pam Eldred, Miss America 1970, has to be evacuated to safety while entertaining soldiers in Vietnam.
A prototype of Ms. Magazine is published.
March 22: The Equal Rights Amendment passes Congress and is sent to the states for ratification. The amendment will be defeated, after a lengthy battle, in 1982.
Title IX of the Higher Education Act bans exclusion on the basis of sex from programs or activities in universities receiving federal financial assistance, marking a turning point for women's access to athletics programs.
June 17: Five men are arrested for breaking into Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate apartment and office complex in Washington, D.C.
January 22: In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court grants women the right to legal abortions.
March 29: The last American troops leave Vietnam.
Rebecca King is chosen Miss America 1974. She is the first winner to use her scholarship award for professional education, studying to become a lawyer.
Little League Baseball votes to allow girls on its teams.
August 9: President Nixon resigns.
March 28: The nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania has a meltdown at its core, in America's worst nuclear accident.
November 4: Militant Islamic students seize hostages at the American Embassy in Teheran, Iran. Fifty-two hostages will be detained for 444 days -- over 14 months.
Miss Alabama, Lencola Sullivan, is the first African American to make the pageant's top five finalists.
Only 27% of the nation's households conform to traditional ideas of a family with a male breadwinner and female housewife. Two-income families or female-headed households are rapidly replacing the older pattern.
Ronald Reagan is elected president.
Bert Parks is fired. He is considered too old, too corny, and too sexist for the times. Talk show host Johnny Carson initiates a protest that is unsuccessful. Ron Ely and then Gary Collins replace Parks.
September 25: Sandra Day O'Connor becomes the U.S. Supreme Court's first female judge.
June 18: The first woman astronaut, Sally K. Ride, travels into space aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger.
Vanessa Williams is crowned Miss America 1984 and is the first black woman to hold the title. Two months before the end of her reign, Penthouse magazine will publish nude photos of her taken when she was 17. Pageant officials will force her to resign.
The Democratic Party nominates Geraldine Ferraro for the vice presidency, the first time a major party has nominated a woman.
Albert Marks retires as Chairman of the Board of the Miss America Organization after 27 years. The first paid CEO, Leonard Horn, is hired.
Miss America Kaye Lani Rae Rafko devotes her year to advocacy of care for the terminally ill, becoming the first winner to dedicate her reign to a social issue.
The social issue platform, where contestants commit to advocating for a cause if they become Miss America, becomes part of the pageant's requirements.
The Berlin Wall falls, marking the end of the Cold War.
Persian Gulf War. The U.S. leads a multi-national coalition against Iraq after that country invades Kuwait; Iraq surrenders.
Anita Hill, a law professor, testifies before a U.S. Senate committee that the conservative Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas, engaged in sexual harassment. Issues of race and gender are debated across the country.
Kim Aiken, Miss America 1993, is the fifth African American Miss America. She uses her year to promote the cause of the homeless.
Alabama's Heather Whitestone wins the swimsuit and talent competitions and is crowned Miss America 1995. She is deaf and becomes the first Miss America with a physical handicap.
Record low TV ratings prompt NBC to drop the Miss America Pageant after 30 years. ABC picks up broadcast rights.
The swimsuit competition is modified. Contestants can wear any style, including two piece and bikini.
The swimsuit rules are again modified, barring string bikinis and thong swimsuits.
In the year 2000, the first Asian American Miss America is crowned. Angela Perez Baraquio of Hawaii is Miss America 2001.
September 11: Terrorists from the Middle East highjack four airplanes. Two crash into New York's World Trade Center, destroying both towers and killing thousands. One crashes into the Pentagon, also causing extensive damage and loss of life. The fourth plane crashes in a field in Pennsylvania, killing all passengers.
The United States commits to a war on terrorism.
September 26: Katie Harman, Miss America 2002, rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, along with several New York firefighters.