Margaret Chase Smith, 1897 - 1995

portrait of Margaret Chase Smith
US House of Representatives photo (1943)
Margaret Chase Smith signature
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Born: 14 December 1897, Skowhegan, Maine
Died: 29 May 1995, Skowhegan, Maine

Margaret Chase was born at Skowhegan, Maine on this day in 1897, the eldest of six children of the local barber. At age twelve she worked in a five-and-dime store and shaved customers in her dad's shop. At Skowhegan High School she was the captain of the girls basketball team, graduating in 1916, and went to work at the local phone company as an operator where she met Clyde Smith, a local politician who got her a job as an assistant to the tax assessor. From 1919 to 1928 she was circulation manager for Smith's weekly paper and became active in local Republican politics. In 1930 she married him, then followed him to Washington City when he was elected to congress, managing the office and helping write speeches. Ten years later he had a heart attack and urged her to replace him. She won the election to fill out his term, making her the first woman from Maine in the House, she won reelection four times, then ran for the senate in 1948, making her the first Maine woman in the Senate and the first woman to ever be elected to both houses. In the house she served on the Armed Services Committee, made a 25,000-mile tour of South Pacific naval bases, was the only civilian woman to sail on a navy ship during the war, and was known as the "Mother of the WAVES" after she sponsored legislation to create the group. She is best known for a brilliant speech attacking Senator Joseph McCarthy's unsupported charges of Communist activity. She lost only one election, ending her Senate career in 1972. In 1964 she was the first woman ever nominated by a major party for president, denying Barry Goldwater a unanimous victory when she refused to withdraw. After leaving the Senate she was a visiting professor at several colleges, then returned to Skowhegan where she died eight days after a stroke left her in a coma.

Biography from Wikipedia and US Senate

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