Cover image for "There she is, Miss America" : the politics of sex, beauty, and race in America's most famous pageant
"There she is, Miss America" : the politics of sex, beauty, and race in America's most famous pageant
Watson, Elwood.
Publication Information:
New York : Palgrave Macmillan, [2004]

Physical Description:
viii, 205 pages; 24 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ1220.U5 T48 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



While some see the Miss American Pageant as hokey vestige of another era, many remain enthralled by the annual Atlantic City event. And whether you love it or hate it, no one can deny the impact the contest has had on American popular culture-indeed, many reality television shows seem to have taken cues from the pageant. Founded in 1921, the Miss America Pageant has provided a fascinating glimpse into how American standards of femininity have been defined, projected, maintained, and challenged. At various times, it has been praised as a positive role model for young American women, protested as degrading to women by feminists, and shamed by scandals, such as the one caused by the Penthouse photos of Vanessa Williams in 1984. In this first interdisciplinary anthology to examine this uniquely American event, scholars defend, critique, and reflect on the pageant, grappling with themes like beauty, race, the body, identity, kitsch, and consumerism. "There She Is, Miss America" provides a fascinating examination of an enduring American icon.

Author Notes

Elwood Watson is associate professor of history at East Tennessee State University. Darcy Martin teaches in the Women's Studies Department at East Tennessee State University.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

With this interdisciplinary anthology, editors Watson (history, East Tennessee State Univ.) and Martin (women's studies, East Tennessee State Univ.) examine the history and significance of beauty pageants from a cultural and sociological perspective. The first set of essays traces the history of the Miss America Pageant from its start in 1921, a year after women won the right to vote. During the war years and later, through televised showing, the pageant reinforced the concept of women as objects virginal and wholesome, with an oppressively narrow definition of beauty. A second set of essays addresses questions of racial identity and beauty. One essayist sees the history of black women as pageant participants as a metaphor for changes in race relations over the past 80 years, while another offers a thought-provoking chapter about the connection between the pageant and childhood princess fables. The final essays provide personal insights from pageant participants. Though too scholarly for public libraries, this worthwhile study would be a good addition to a women's studies or popular culture collection in an academic library. Cathy Carpenter, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib., Atlanta (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

These essays about the Miss America pageant draw on diverse academic fields--history, cultural studies, ethnic studies, and women's studies--and embody both the strengths and the weaknesses of this mixed approach. The book covers an interesting range of topics, including the conservative motivations of the original promoters and the role of race, ethnicity, and disability in legitimizing and modernizing the competition. On the other hand, the essays overlap often enough that the basic facts about the competition grow tedious. Most mention that 15-year-old Margaret Gorman was the first winner, in 1921; that Bess Meyerson became the first Jewish Miss America and Vanessa Williams the first African American one; and that beauty contests are inherently problematic for feminists. The strongest part of the collection involves personal encounters with "Miss America." One of the authors was a contestant in a "feeder pageant" and offers a firsthand interpretation of what the experience meant to her, while another's ruminations on taking his daughters to see Miss America in person is hilarious. This section is unique enough to lift the work as a whole out of ordinary cultural criticism. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Undergraduate and graduate collections. R. A. Standish University of Maryland University College

Table of Contents

Introduction: "There She Is, Miss America"Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin
Part One History
Bathing Suits and Backlash: The First Miss America Pageants, 1921-1927Kimberly A. Hamlin
Miss America, Rosie the Riveter, and World War IIMary Anne Schofield
Miss America, National Identity, and the Politics of WhitenessSara Banet-Weiser
Part Two Gender, Race, and Identity
Beauty, Femininity, and Black Bodies: Challenging the Paradigms of Race in the Miss America PageantValerie Felita Kinloch
Princess Literature and the Miss America PageantIset Anuakan
Wiregrass Country Pageant Competitions, or What's Beauty Got to Do with It?Jerrilyn McGregory
Part Three Personal Reflections
I Was Miss Meridian 1985: Sorophobia, Kitsch, and Local PageantryDonelle Ruwe
My Miss Americas: Pedagogy and Pageantry in the HeartlandMark Eaton
Waiting for Miss AmericaGerald Early