Looking for Miss America: Dreamers, Dissidents, Flappers, and Feminists—A Pageant’s 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood

Margot Mifflin. Counterpoint, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-64009-223-5
Mifflin (Bodies of Subversion), an English professor at Lehman College, intertwines the histories of the Miss America pageant and American feminism in this vigorously researched and wryly humorous account. Over the past century, Mifflin contends, the pageant—which began in Atlantic City in 1921—has exemplified social tensions over gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. She notes that one early contestant was arrested on the beach for wearing the same “sea togs” she’d worn on stage the day before; that African-American women were officially excluded from the competition until the 1950s; and that only one Jewish woman has ever won. As the contest evolved from crowning “the girl next door” to anointing the “biggest glampots,” Mifflin writes, the addition of a scholarship program tried to “cover the skin show with the fig leaf of a diploma.” Mifflin profiles famous contestants (Bess Myerson, Gretchen Carlson, and Vanessa Williams) in depth, but also allows less-familiar names, including Yolande Betbeze, whose refusal to participate in the swimsuit portion of the contest led to the creation of the rival Miss USA pageant, to take center stage. This incisive and entertaining history deserves the spotlight. Agent: Linda Chester, the Linda Chester Literary Agency, (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 03/30/2020
Release date: 08/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 978-1-64009-224-2
MP3 CD - 978-1-7135-5123-2
Compact Disc - 978-1-7135-5122-5
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