The Miss America Organization celebrates its 100th birthday this month. What started as a local event meant to extend the tourism season past Labor Day turned into a heralded nationwide pageant and scholarship program that has survived its own history of sexism and misogyny. Washington Post writer Amy Argetsinger’s retrospective book “There She Was: A Secret History of Miss America” takes readers on a journey through American feminist history, sexism, racism, politics, the end of the swimsuit competition and the pageant’s recent steep decline in viewership.

Highlights

When asked whether she thinks the Miss America pageant is still relevant in today’s society, Amy Argetsinger, author of "There She Was: The Secret History of Miss America,” said the better question is whether the pageant still has a “market share” anymore. “I think after a pretty sensational century, it’s hard to say that it does. It’s losing viewership dramatically. It’s plunged in participation by contestants...I think it’s very hard to say that it does fit in anymore.” (Washington Post Live)
The #MeToo movement had a huge impact on the Miss America Organization, including former Miss America Gretchen Carlson becoming the leader of the organization and removing the swimsuit competition as a part of an aggressive rebranding. "There She Was: The Secret History of Miss America” author Amy Argetsinger says the decision was applauded by the public, but there was some backlash within the Miss America community. “They were offended by the idea, some of them, that the swimsuit competition was demeaning, so there was a backlash within the org that perhaps 30 years ago they would’ve had an easier time working out.” (Washington Post Live)

Amy Argetsinger

Provided by Amy Argetsinger.

Amy Argetsinger is an editor for The Washington Post’s Style section, where she has overseen coverage of popular culture, politics, society, and currently the team covering the media industry. A staff writer since 1995, she reported local communities, higher education and the West Coast before authoring the paper’s signature Reliable Source column for eight years. You can follow her on Twitter @amyargetsinger or on her website at amyargetsinger.com.