"In this wildly entertaining journey into an American institution we see how beauty is quantified and calibrated. Surprisingly, some of the biggest disrupters, the people who want the crown to be about more than superficial beauty, are at the very heart of the country's most celebrated beauty pageant. I couldn't put this book down."
—Kate Andersen Brower, CNN contributor and #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Residence, First Women and Team of Five
"Assiduously researched and beautifully written, There She Was explores the pageant's history, its small-town roots and its glamorous allure with engaging reporting, wry humor and affection. In Argetsinger's capable hands, this is ultimately the story of women in this country."
—Robin Givhan, Pulitzer Prizewinning critic, Washington Post senior critic-at-large, and author of The Battle of Versailles
"Amy Argetsinger's There She Was: The Secret History of Miss America is a perfect marriage of author to subject. With a gimlet eye that has always marked her best work for the Washington Post, Argetsinger explores this 'crazy, lofty, dusty title' with energy and compassion. A sardonic and delightful book"
—Jonathan Coleman, New York Times bestselling author of Long Way to Go
“Absorbing...a timetravelly journey...There She Was delves into the pageant's many scandals and identity crises, its toxic culture and racist history...[and] swings through the glory boomer years of Phyllis George and on to the Vanessa Williams scandal and to the sad, snowy December 2019 pageant.”
“An earnest, gossip-fueled history of the Miss America pageant. An unabashed admirer of the pageant, Argetsinger details its origins in the 1920s as a promotion to draw tourists to Atlantic City during prohibition, and lovingly skewers such beauty pageant clichés as baton-twirling (no twirler has ever won the contest) and contestants’ calls for ‘world peace.’ Profiles of well-known winners . . . add color and insight, while Argetsinger keeps careful track of how political and cultural trends have affected the contest.”
“[Argetsinger’s] sympathetic ear brings forth candid, conflicted testimony from an array of former and almost Miss Americas, and she emphasizes the sisterhood and support that many of the women found—often years later—among other winners...Few have done such a lively, clear-eyed job at evoking [the pageant’s] pleasures.”
“[Argetsinger] looks at the pageant’s past and present, literally taking the reader backstage to meet the contestants vying for Miss Virginia (as suspenseful as any Agatha Christie plot), dissecting all the juiciest scandals, and examining the institution against the backdrop of the women’s liberation movement...It is her knack for detailing delicious drama that makes her book so much fun to read.”
—Washington Independent Review of Books