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U.S. House of Representatives Historical Office

Margaret Chase Smith (1897–1995)

Author of Declaration of Conscience

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Short biography
Margaret Chase Smith, born Margaret Madeline Chase, came from a working class family in Maine. She attended public schools and began working part-time at age 12. After graduation from Skowhegan High School, she briefly taught school and had jobs as circulation manager for a local newspaper and as an office worker in a textile mill. She was involved in local business and women's organizations. In 1930, she married Clyde H. Smith, a businessman 21 years her senior. Soon afterwards, she was elected to the Maine Republican State Committee, on which she served from 1930 to 1936. When her husband was elected to Congress in 1937, she became his secretary and helped write his speeches. Margaret Chase Smith became the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine in 1940, filling the seat left vacant by the death of her husband. She was reelected four more times. In 1949, she ran for and won a seat in the Senate, making her the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress. She came to national attention as one of the first to condemn the demagogery of Senator Joseph McCarthy. At the 1964 Republican National Convention, she became the first woman to be placed in nomination for the presidency at a major party convention. Ms. Smith served four terms in the Senate and a total of 32 years in Congress. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989.
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