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District of Columbia
In the summer of 1921, while getting ready to enter the Junior Class of Western High School, Margaret Gorman's picture was one of approximately one thousand photos entered into a popularity contest held by the Washington Herald. Six remaining finalists were escorted around the city throughout the summer and Margaret Gorman was chosen as the first "Miss Washington, D. C." The prize for the winner was a trip to the Second Annual Atlantic City Pageant as an honored guest.
Margaret, along with other "Inter-City Beauties," arrived in Atlantic City and entered a new event: The "Inter-City Beauty" Contest. It was judged in stylish afternoon attire by the judges, but and the public alike, who shared in 50 percent of the final score. Undoubtedly personality played a large role in the voting as masses of people surrounded each entrant to get to know her better and throw questions at them throughout the event. Later, the entrants were escorted and presented on the stage of the Keith Theatre on the Garden Pier.
The amateur prize, the Watkins Trophy, was awarded to Margaret Gorman, Miss South Jersey, Kathryn M. Gearon placed second, receiving $100 in gold. A special professional prize, the Endicott Trophy, was awarded to Miss New York, silent film actress Virginia Lee.
An immediate hit with the crowds, the "Inter-City Beauties" were later judged head-to-head against two other "Beauty" winners in selected classes of the now famous Bather's Revue: an "amateur winner" from over two hundred local women and tourists, and a "professional winner," which included a field of eleven professional models and actresses. In this extravagant and much-hyped final event, Margaret Gorman won the Grand Prize: the Golden Mermaid trophy.
After much celebration, it was back to Western High School for Margaret.
Upon her return to Atlantic City the following year, Margaret was expected to defend her positions. However, with the Washington Herald having selected a new "Miss Washington, D.C.1922," Atlantic City Pageant officials didn't know what new title to award Margaret. Since both titles she won in 1921 were a little awkward ("Inter-City Beauty, Amateur" and "The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America"), it was decided to call her "Miss America".
She is the only Miss America to receive a crown at the conclusion of her year.
Margaret did compete in succeeding years unsuccessfully, but she always remained a favorite of Atlantic City crowds. In the mid-twenties, she married Victor Cahill, who was a real estate man. She enjoyed a happy marriage until his passing in 1957. She remained a life-long resident of Washington D.C. but enjoyed traveling as a favorite hobby. Near the end of her life, she said, "I've lived a charmed life. I've been very lucky. God has been very kind to me." Leaving behind several nieces and nephews who have fond and loving memories of Margaret, she passed away in early October 1995 at age 90.