Margaret Chase Smith

(b. 1897)

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(b. Skowhegan, Maine, 14 Dec. 1897; d. Skowhegan, Maine, 29 May 1995)

US; member of the US House of Representatives 1940–8, US Senator 1949–73 The daughter of the town barber, Smith received only a high school education before working as a teacher, telephonist, newspaperwoman, and office manager. In 1930 she married Clyde Harold Smith and became his secretary in 1937 when he was elected a Republican congressman. The sudden death of her husband in 1940 propelled Smith into a political career and transformed her into a role model for the present generation of American women politicians. That year she won a special election to complete her husband's unexpired term in the House. She went on to serve four full terms in her own right before, in 1948, gaining election to the Senate where she also served four full terms, until losing her seat in 1972.

Within a year of her Senate debut Smith gained national prominence with her ‘Declaration of Conscience’ (1950) in which she denounced fellow Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy for his crusade against Communists. Throughout her long career in the Senate she continued to demonstrate that she was a Republican of independent mind.

Smith has been described as ‘an inspiration’ and ‘a political trail-blazer’. She was the first woman elected to the Senate in her own right, the first woman to be elected to both the House of Representatives and to the Senate, and, in 1964, the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for President by either major political party.

After leaving the Senate in 1973, Smith spent the next twenty years lecturing in politics at dozens of universities and colleges across America. She was proud of her thirty-two years of public service and requested that her epitaph read: ‘She served people.’

Smith published numerous papers and articles. She received ninety-five honorary degrees and in 1989 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Subjects: Politics.

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