Margaret Gorman Cahill, 90; First Miss America
Margaret Gorman Cahill, who became the first Miss America in 1921 and later said, “I really want to forget the whole thing,” is dead at age 90.
Mrs. Cahill died Sunday of cardiac arrest and pneumonia at a nursing home in Bowie, Md., a Washington suburb.
“Life has been extremely, I say extremely, kind,” she said in a 1980 interview. But of her experience as a beauty queen, she said: “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.”
Mrs. Cahill was a Washington teen-ager when she was chosen as winner of the “Inter-City Beauty Contest” on the beach in Atlantic City, N.J., on Sept. 14, 1921. She competed again for the title in 1922 and 1923, but twice lost to a younger Mary Katherine Campbell of Columbus, Ohio.
She later married a Washington real estate developer and became a socialite of sorts, commanding newspaper headlines and photographs in the ‘20s and ‘30s. She made a few appearances as the first Miss America.
But Mrs. Cahill, a widow since 1957, shunned the Miss America Pageant in later years, calling it “cheap” for not reimbursing her $1,500 in expenses for a 1960 reunion in Atlantic City.
Pageant officials labeled her “inactive” when she refused to attend pageant functions, including a 1995 news conference of several Miss Americas in New York.
Still, Mrs. Cahill kept memories of the pageant. The sea green chiffon and sequined dress she wore when she competed in 1922 hung in her upstairs closet and a two-foot engraved “beauty urn” from the pageant often held arrangements of daisies in her living room.
Her grand prize, a three-foot-long golden mermaid, was given to relatives.
“Would I do it again? Oh, never in my life,” she said. “I don’t like publicity, good, bad or indifferent.”