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Remembering the life of former Miss America Jo-Carroll Dennison

In the winter of 1923, Elizabeth and Harry Dennison were driving from Texas to California when they were forced to stop in Florence, Arizona, when the very-pregnant Elizabeth began to experience labor pains.

The only medical facility available in the area was the Arizona Men’s State Prison infirmary, and that is where Jo-Carroll Dennison began her storied life.

Jo-Carroll Dennison’s time was marked with the experiences of an extraordinary life — a childhood spent performing for pennies and selling snake-oil miracle elixirs in her parent’s traveling medicine show, a reign as Miss America that was punctuated by defiance and as an actor who challenged the misogynistic Hollywood system during the industry's Golden Age.

Dennison passed away at the age of 97 in October. She was the oldest living Miss America winner.

To learn more about her life, The Show spoke with Evan Mills, a personal friend of hers and editor of her memoir, “Finding My Little Red Hat: From Medicine Show, to Miss America, to Mountaintop.” Mills talked about Dennison’s childhood travelling with the “Dennison’s Vaudeville Show."

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.