The first woman to win election to both houses of Congress, Margaret Chase Smith was known for her rugged political independence and the red rose she wore daily. Born in Skowhegan, Maine, in 1897, she attended local schools and worked as a grade school teacher, telephone operator, newspaper circulation manager, and business manager of a textile mill. In 1925 she became president of the Maine Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs. When she married Clyde H. Smith in 1930, she turned her attention to public service and became a member of the Republican state committee. When her husband was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1936 as a Republican, she became his secretary, office manager, and political confidante. After Congressman Smith died of a heart attack in 1940, Margaret Chase Smith won a special election to succeed him and remained in the House for four terms. During World War II, she introduced legislation to give women permanent status in the military.
Smith won a U.S. Senate seat in 1948. During her 24-year Senate career, she became an expert in military affairs and aeronautics and served as the ranking Republican on both the Armed Services Committee and the Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee. One NASA director commented that if it were not for Margaret Chase Smith, we never would have placed a man on the Moon.
Smith became the first woman elected to a leadership post in the Senate: chair of the Senate Republican Conference. She also set a record for casting the largest number of consecutive roll call votes—2,941—which ended when she missed a vote because of back surgery.
Despite these many achievements, Smith's most enduring legacy was her courageous "Declaration of Conscience" against the politics of "fear, ignorance, bigotry, and smear" that she attributed to Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy. "If I am to be remembered in history," she later declared, "it will not be because of legislative accomplishments but for an act I took as a legislator in the United States Senate when on June 1, 1950 I spoke in the Senate in condemnation of McCarthyism...." 
The rose that Smith wore daily in her lapel was emblematic of her long crusade to have the rose declared the official flower of the United States. Her efforts were initially thwarted by Senate Republican Leader Everett M. Dirksen, who supported the marigold. It was not until 1987, long after Senator Smith's retirement, that Congress finally designated the rose as the national flower.
In 1964 Smith declared her candidacy for the presidency. She entered several Republican primaries and became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination at a major party convention. Smith continued in the Senate until 1973 and having been defeated for reelection, retired to Skowhegan. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989 and died in 1995 at the age of 98.
1. Robert C. Byrd, The Senate, 1789-1989, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1991), 522.