ALL THAT ZAZZ
By Mary N. DiZazzo
"Here She Comes, Miss America."
It all started in 1920 as "The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America." Women's roles in society transformed with rich expanding cultural, political, and social events as America developed from the Victorian age to the modern age. A new image for women started its trend symbolizing the changing times.
The media broke the barriers of the newly defined modern woman as strong and energetic. She ate well and exercised regularly. Truly a victory for women over the past emphasis on delicacy and fragility.
"Miss America" represented 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," said Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce president, Frederick Hickman, more than 75 years ago.
The winner of the first pageant in Atlantic City in 1921 was Margaret Gorman --A Mary Pickford look-alike who reflected the type of womanhood America embraced. A runner-up in 1921 was Annette Kellerman, a woman famous for her scandalous 1907 arrest for indecent exposure. She tried to popularize the one-piece swimsuit with tights instead of the standard bloomers.
Miss America 1926 was criticized for her $100,000 income (higher than Babe Ruth or the President of the U.S.) In 1928 religious groups won by canceling the famed Atlantic City pageant. It resumed in 1929.
During the 1940s the Miss America Organization created a most important tribute --its scholarship program.
The first TV broadcast of the pageant was in 1954. A record-breaking 27 million Americans viewed it from coast to coast.
Betty Lee Ray, better known to all her dear friends now as Betty Pease (Mrs.), was a runner-up in the Miss Massachusetts pageant in 1965. Mrs. Pease recalls her exhilaration when, as Miss Brookline, she walked down the runway in the competition at the Somerset Hotel in Boston that May 27th.
Recently, over a cup of tea, she commented to me on her wonderful experience just participating in the pageant. The training in make-up, walking, and posing, as I can see for myself, has remained with her and followed her graciously 'til today.
Stay tuned for the upcoming Miss America Pageant 2005!