Margaret Chase Smith
(1897 - 1995)
Margaret Chase Smith is remembered as one of Maine's signature politicians of the twentieth century. Smith entered politics on the coattails of her husband, Clyde Smith, who was a popular Skowhegan politician. She served as his assistant until his death in 1940, and was chosen to replace him on the U.S. House of Representatives. Though it was assumed Smith would step down after serving out her husband's term, she did not. She kept her seat in the House for another eight years before leaving--to become the country's first woman senator. Smith fought to create permanent positions for women in the military, rather than simply the emergency positions created for women during World War II. She spoke out strongly against Senator Joseph McCarthy and his anti-Communist smear campaign in her famous "Declaration of Conscience" in 1950. Though many members of her party criticized her for being disloyal, she maintained her popularity, and even won a presidential nomination in 1964.
Smith held her seat in the Senate for twenty-four years. She earned a reputation as a moderate Republican and an independent thinker. Finally, at the age of seventy-four, Smith lost her first election. Though she left politics, she lived another twenty three years, and remained in the public eye until her death in 1995. Her Skowhegan home was made into a library and archives commemorating her life and career.
Source: Finding Katahdin: An Exploration of Maine's Past, by Amy Hassinger. Orono: University of Maine Press, 2000. Image courtesy Maine Historical Society.