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American Experience

Miss America (#1405)

Tracking the country's oldest beauty contest -- from its inception in 1921 as a local seaside pageant to its heyday as one of the country's most popular events -- this program paints a picture of an institution that has come to reveal much about a changing nation. The pageant itself is about commercialism and sexual politics, about big business and small towns. But beyond the symbolism lies a human story -- at once moving, inspiring, infuriating, funny and poignant. Using interviews with former contestants and behind-the-scenes footage and photographs, the film reveals why some women took part in the fledgling event and why others shunned it -- how the pageant became a battleground and a barometer of the changing position of women in society. [102 minutes] Closed Captioning

This episode has not aired in the past few months on Iowa Public Television.

PBS Video

Series Description: As television's longest-running, most-watched history series, American Experience brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that helped form this nation.

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