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Timeline: Miss America

1848 - 1900 | 1901 - 1950 | 1951 - 2001

Timeline key: Tiara - Miss America History, Female Symbol - Women's History


Women's History entry

The National Women's Trade Union League is formed.

  Women's History entry

November: McClure's Magazine publishes the first installment of muckraker Ida Tarbell's exposé, The History of the Standard Oil Company.


Miss America entry

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.



World War I poster 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.


Women's History entry

Meter readers 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.



prohibition January: The Eighteenth Amendment makes the sale, manufacture, and transportation of intoxicating liquors illegal.

  Women's History entry

August: The Nineteenth Amendment is ratified, giving women the right to vote. The National League of Women Voters is organized.


Miss America entry

Margaret Gorman with other contestants 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.


Miss America entry

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.

  Miss America entry

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.


Miss America entry

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.


Miss America entry

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.


Unemployment lines 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.


Women's History entry

Female nurse 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..."

  Miss America entry

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.


Miss America entry

Sometime in the 1930s a pageant rule is established requiring contestants to be of the white race.

  Women's History entry

Union membership among women in the U.S. increases threefold, to almost 20% of the female workforce.



Franklin Roosevelt President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is inaugurated.


Miss America entry

- 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.


Miss America entry

Winner Bette Cooper changes her mind about being Miss America, and flees Atlantic City.



Farmer Dust Bowl farmers in the Great Plains suffer the effects of severe dust storms as well as economic hard times.


Miss America entry

A "society matron" chaperone system is enacted, to keep pageant contestants away from scandal.

  Miss America entry

A talent competition is added as part of the scoring process.

  Miss America entry

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.


Miss America entry

September: The pageant is officially dubbed the Miss America Pageant and moves into Atlantic City's Convention Hall.



Pearl Harbor 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 History entry

Women working for war effort Women's employment rises dramatically as women take on new wartime jobs.


Miss America entry

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 History entry

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.

  Miss America entry

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.

  Miss America entry

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.


Miss America entry

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.


Miss America entry

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.


Miss America entry

Lee Meriwether September: For the last time, Miss America is crowned in a bathing suit. Afterwards, winners are crowned in evening gowns.


Women's History entry

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.



Korean woman and child June: North Korea invades South Korea. President Truman commits U.S. troops.

  Miss America entry

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.

Timeline key: Tiara - Miss America History, Female Symbol - Women's History

1848 - 1900 | 1901 - 1950 | 1951 - 2001

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