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Oral History Project

Olympia J. SnoweU.S. Senator from Maine (1995–2013)

Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME)

Maine Republican Olympia J. Snowe won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1994 after serving eight terms in the House of Representatives. During her three Senate terms (1995–2013), she became the first woman to chair the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and also served on the Committees on Armed Services, Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Foreign Relations. She worked to build bipartisan support for a number of legislative initiatives, including expanding health care access, balancing budgets, and addressing sexual harassment in the military.

In this interview Snowe describes her early role models and meeting Maine’s first woman senator, trailblazer Margaret Chase Smith (1949–1973). Snowe considered herself a pragmatic lawmaker with a passion and penchant for public service. She discusses the differences between serving in the House and Senate, the role of women in lawmaking, the importance of the Senate’s bipartisan women’s monthly dinners, and the significance of placing the Portrait Monument (a statue dedicated to women’s suffrage leaders) in the Capitol Rotunda. At times during her Senate career, Snowe took political positions that were at odds with her own party conference, and she explains how and why she defended those positions.

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Scholarly citation: "Olympia J. Snowe, U.S. Senator from Maine, 1995–2013," Oral History Interview, May 10, 2017, Senate Historical Office, Washington, D.C.

Disclaimer: The Senate Historical Office has a strong commitment to oral history as an important part of its efforts to document institutional change over time. Oral histories are a natural component to historical research and enhance the archival holdings of the Senate and its members. Oral histories represent the personal recollections and opinions of the interviewees, however, and should not be considered as the official views or opinions of the U.S. Senate, of the Senate Historical Office, or of other senators and/or staff members. The transcripts of these oral histories are made available by the Senate Historical Office as a public service.