Tuesday, January 15, 2008

No Place for a Woman: A Life of Senator Margaret Chase Smith by Janann Sherman

With Senator Hillary Clinton running for the nomination for U.S. President, it is a good time to remember Senator Margaret Chase Smith. It would also be a good time for libraries to display No Place for a Woman: A Life of Senator Margaret Chase Smith by historian Janann Sherman.

In 1964, Smith, a moderate senator from Maine, ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. President. She was the first serious woman candidate for the high office. At that point, she had been in Congress twenty-four years, many as the only female senator. She was not expected to win the nomination, but there was serious discussion of her chances to be Barry Goldwater's running mate. The Arizona senator said that he would have no qualms about a female on the ticket, and she seemed to lean farther right in the period before the 1964 Republican Convention. In the end, it did not happen, and Smith was lukewarm in her support of the Goldwater-Miller campaign.

One of the great early stories of her life is how Smith had to borrow sixty dollars from her grandfather to go on the high school trip to Washington, D.C. She was inspired by seeing all the monuments and met some government officials. She had to pay her Yankee grandpa back with six per cent interest.

Though she was not a feminist, she hired mostly young women from her state for her staff and chastised her congressional colleagues for being bad boys when they acted out of self-interest or unethically. A widow, who said that she too busy with national affairs for a family, she faithfully sat at the bedside of her dying aide, Bill Lewis. Historian Janann Sherman's book is an admiring profile of a powerful woman who lived ninety-seven years, mostly in Maine.

I am putting No Place for Women in my book on biography.

I now need to find an updated biography of Shirley Chisholm.

Sherman, Janann. No Place for a Woman: A Life of Senator Margaret Chase Smith. Rutgers University Press, 2000. 298p. ISBN 0813527228.

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