Georgetowner Was First Miss America

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Left: Miss America, Margaret Gorman, a Georgetowner, in Washington in 1922. Right: Miss D.C. Allison Farris in Chinatown for her sendoff to the Miss America pageant on Sunday, Sept. 2. Public domain; photo by Patrick G. Ryan.

This Sunday, Sept. 9, Allison Farris, a Microsoft software developer and classical pianist, will represent the District of Columbia in the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The pageant has turned ugly recently, with reports of internal strife, and bucked tradition by jettisoning its swimsuit competition. But, love it or hate it, it’s still a part of American culture and continues to give out scholarships to inspiring young women.

One of those young women — the first Miss America, in fact — was a Georgetowner. While a student at Western High School (and a sweet 16), Margaret Gorman won a photo contest at the Washington Herald and was named “Miss District of Columbia.”

In Atlantic City, Gorman was crowned “Miss America” in 1921. She also snagged a less politically correct title, “The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl,” for her turn at the “Bather’s Revue.”

Although she kept the chiffon dress that helped her earn her pageant victory as a treasured artifact, Gorman expressed indifference about her place in American history.

“I never cared to be Miss America. It wasn’t my idea. I am so bored by it all. I really want to forget the whole thing,” she was quoted.

What’s more, she rebuked the Miss America organization as “cheap” for not reimbursing her traveling expenses to a pageant reunion in 1960, according to her obituary.

One thing Gorman did love was being a Washingtonian. She lived in the Washington area until her death in 1995 at the age of 90.

Miss America, Margaret Gorman, a Georgetowner, in Washington in 1922. Miss D.C. Allison Farris in Chinatown for her sendoff to the Miss America pageant on Sunday. Public domain; photo by Patrick G. Ryan.
Margaret Gorman in front of her family home on the 3000 block of Cambridge Place NW in Georgetown in 1921.
Miss District of Columbia Allison Farris at her sendoff party in Chinatown. Her fortune reads: “You will be awarded some great honor.” Photo by Patrick G. Ryan.
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