Margaret Chase Smith Quotes

Margaret Chase Smith (December 14, 1897 - May 29, 1995)

Senator Margaret Chase Smith
Senator Margaret Chase Smith. Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Margaret Chase Smith served as a Republican Senator from Maine, the first woman elected to both the House of Representatives and the Senate. At the 1964 Republican National Convention, she became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for president at a major party's convention. She's also known for her opposition to Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigation tactics.

Born at the end of the 19th century, her life nearly spanned the 20th.

She was born in Maine, worked in typical women's jobs as a teacher and a switchboard operator. She married a newspaper owner who was elected to local then state and national office, and she had managed his Congressional office. Just before he died after a heart attack, he suggested that his wife be voted in as his successor.

She served in the United States Congress from 1940 until 1973. In 1964 she pursued a nomination for the presidency after having been touted as a possible vice presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956.

Early in her time in the Senate, where she was the first woman to serve there without having first been appointed, she criticized the "hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity" of the Joseph McCarthy hearings.  McCarthy supported a rival for her seat in the next primary, but she won with a huge margin of victory.

Selected Margaret Chase Smith Quotations

• When people keep telling you that you can't do a thing, you kind of like to try it.

• Every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration. Constructive criticism is not only to be expected but sought.

• Leadership is not manifested by coercion, even against the resented. Greatness is not manifested by unlimited pragmatism, which places such a high premium on the end justifying any means and any measures.

• My creed is that public service must be more than doing a job efficiently and honestly. It must be a complete dedication to the people and to the nation with full recognition that every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration, that constructive criticism is not only to be expected but sought, that smears are not only to be expected but fought, that honor is to be earned, not bought.

• One of the basic causes for all the trouble in the world today is that people talk too much and think too little. They act impulsively without thinking. I always try to think before I talk.

• My basic rule is to speak slowly and simply so that my audience has an opportunity to follow and think about what I am saying.

• We should not permit tolerance to degenerate into indifference.

• Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism: The right to criticize. The right to hold unpopular beliefs. The right to protest. The right of independent thought.

• I believe that in our constant search for security we can never gain any peace of mind until we are secure in our own soul.

• Moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk. The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.

• As a United States senator I'm not proud of the way in which the Senate has been made a publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism. (May 31, 1950 denunciation of Senator Joseph McCarthy)

• I don't want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny - Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.

• Smears are not only to be expected but fought. Honor is to be earned, not bought.

• The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.

• Citing beliefs that "no woman should ever dare to aspire to the White House -- that this is a man's world and that it should be kept that way" she said that was why she was running for president in 1964: ""Because of these very impelling reasons against my running, I have decided that I shall enter the New Hampshire preferential primary and the Illinois primary.

For I accept the reasons advanced against my running as challenges."

About Margaret Chase Smith

• Time Magazine, when she announced her run for president in 1964: "Many people shrug off the lady Senator's declaration as being something frivolously feminine. They don't know Maggie. Feminine she is, but not frivolous."

• John F. Kennedy was asked in 1963, at his last press conference before he was assassinated, wha the thought of the possibility of running against Smith for president in 1964. He described her as "very formidable, if that is the appropriate word to use about a very fine lady. She is very formidable as a political figure."

About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Citation information:
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Margaret Chase Smith Quotes." About Women's History. URL: . Date accessed: (today).