The Miss America Organization, a 501(c)4 non-profit organization, is the nation’s leading advocate for women’s education and the largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women in the United States, awarding millions of dollars annually in cash awards and in-kind tuition waivers. MAO is comprised of 51 organizations, including all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Miss America contestants contribute tens of thousands of community service hours annually and have raised over $16 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Miss America scholarships since 2007.
Established in 1921 by local Atlantic City businessmen as a way to extend the summer season, The Miss America Organization has since grown to become one of the most recognizable household names in America.
Miss America is more than a title, it’s a movement of empowering young women everywhere to achieve their dreams by providing quality scholarship assistance and honoring their commitment to helping others.
Named by USA Today as one of the Top Ten pieces of true Americana remaining in our country today.
On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified, granting women in America the right to vote. The next year in September 1921, Margaret Gorman of Washington, D.C., made history as the inaugural Miss America. With every major milestone in our nation’s history, Miss America has evolved with our society, serving as a voice for women’s empowerment when it was uncommon for women to be vocal; promoting women’s education at a time when women were discouraged from joining the workforce; and serving as a champion for Civil Rights and HIV/AIDs awareness when each were deemed controversial. Time and time again, history has been made from the Miss America stage.
In 1943, Jean Bartel was crowned Miss America in Atlantic City; in the ensuing year, Jean raised $2.5 million in Series E war bonds (over $34 million in today’s dollars), more than any other private individual in the United States.
Two years later in 1945, the first Jewish Miss America, Bess Myerson, was crowned in Boardwalk Hall, winning the organization’s inaugural scholarship of $5,000. Ever since, scholarships have been paramount to The Miss America Organization.
In 1954, Lee Meriwether became the first Miss America to be crowned on live television with more than 27 million viewers or 39 percent of the television audience. Today, the Miss America telecast remains the fourth longest-running live event in television history, even surpassing the Super Bowl.
In 1960, Miss America 1959 Mary Ann Mobley and Miss America 1960 Lynda Lee Mead made history as the first back-to-back Miss Americas from the same state, the State of Mississippi.
On September 13, 1983, the first African-American Miss America, Vanessa Williams, was crowned in Atlantic City. Exactly 30 years later to the date, having also won the titles of both Miss Syracuse and Miss New York, Nina Davuluri became the first Indian-American to be crowned Miss America.
In 1989, Miss America 1988 Kaye Lani Rae Rafko’s community service efforts became the catalyst of the national platform for all contestants. MAO contestants annually contribute tens of thousands of community service hours to charitable and humanitarian causes around the world.
Miss America 1991 Marjorie Judith Vincent, the last Miss America to be serenaded by Bert Parks, addressed the plight of victims of domestic violence, and she currently serves as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida.
Heather French Henry, the Millennium Miss America and the first from Kentucky, highlighted the needs of our nation’s homeless veterans during her reign, and she now serves as the Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs.
Perhaps one of the biggest highlights of Miss America’s 95-year history occurred in 2015 when Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams made her historic return to the Miss America stage singing “Oh How the Years Go By.” Her performance concluded with a standing ovation, as Executive Chairman Sam Haskell joined Vanessa on stage and officially welcomed her back to the Miss America family.
Since its beginnings on the famed Atlantic City Boardwalk in 1921, The Miss America Organization remains today the nation’s largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women, awarding millions every year in cash awards and in-kind scholarships.