Margaret Chase Smith – Political Pioneer [VIDEO]
All this week, I’m paying tribute to strong women who have excelled in fields formerly dominated by men, in support of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Bangor’s Women’s Build Week. Today’s woman of strength – Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith.
Margaret Madeline Chase was born in Skowhegan in 1897, the daughter of the town barber. Her mother held several positions over the years, including as a waitress and a shoe factory worker.
Margaret started working at the age of 12 in a five and dime store, and even bought a life insurance policy at that young age. She was captain of the girls’ basketball team at Skowhegan High School. And in her senior year, worked as a telephone operator which is where she met her future husband Clyde Smith. The two were married in 1930.
Her involvement with the Republican party began around that time and she served on the Maine Republican State Committee from 1930 to 1936, and moved to Washington D.C. in 1937 when Clyde was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
When Clyde fell seriously ill after suffering a heart attack he asked Margaret to run in his place in the September election. But when Clyde died in April, a special election was held in June and Margaret beat out her opponent to serve in his stead.
It was a long and successful career for Mrs. Smith. She served as a U.S. Representative from 1940 to 1949, and a U.S. Senator from 1949 to 1973. She was the first woman to serve in both houses of the United States Congress and the first woman from Maine in either.
Smith was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination in the 1964 Presidential campaign but was the first woman to be placed in nomination at a major party’s convention. When she retired from politics in 1973, she was the longest-serving female Senator in history. A record that wasn’t broken until 2011 by Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.
This week’s celebration of strong women is a way to show support for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Bangor’s Women’s Build Week, an event that encourages and empowers women to get involved in construction. It also earns HFHGB a $5,000 Lowe’s gift card to be used on a future build! A special painting and DIY workshop will be held at Lowe’s in Bangor this Friday. And I’ll be joining female volunteers this Saturday in a rehab project at an existing Habitat House on Fifth Street in Bangor that’s being spruced up for a new family. I hope you’ll join us!