Margaret Chase Smith: A Free-Speech Crusader

Fourth of a five-part series

Sen. Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) in 1963, the year before she ran for president.

Sen. Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) in 1963, the year before she ran for president. Bettman/Corbis hide caption

itoggle caption Bettman/Corbis

Read An Essay

In the midst of 1950s McCarthyism, Smith recorded a statement for Edward R. Murrow's "This I Believe" program about the importance of free speech. Read her essay.

Margaret Chase Smith, called the "lady of Maine," was a tough hawk who took a keen interest in military affairs and free speech.

Her political career began when she worked as a secretary to her husband, Republican Rep. Clyde Smith. After his death in 1940, she won a special election to succeed him. In 1948, Smith won a U.S. Senate seat representing Maine.

Then, in 1964, she became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency by a major political party. She faced Barry Goldwater in the primary — and lost. But with 27 votes, Smith denied Goldwater the unanimous vote for nomination.

Radio Diaries talked with Janann Sherman, who wrote No Place for a Woman: A Life of Senator Margaret Chase Smith, and Merton Henry, who worked on her 1964 presidential campaign.

Says Sherman of Smith's bid for the White House: "She was always having to walk that tightrope between being strong enough and tough enough to be commander in chief, to run a country, but still feminine enough and ladylike enough ... because being feminine was absolutely essential. And so she tried to balance it the best way she knew how."

This story was produced by Joe Richman and Samara Freemark of Radio Diaries



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