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Senate Unveils Portrait of Margaret Chase Smith

Margaret Chase Smith by Ronald Frontin

The U.S. Senate Commission on Art unveiled a new painting of Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) at a ceremony in the historic Old Senate Chamber of the U.S. Capitol.  The portrait was painted by Maine artist Ronald Frontin.

Born in Skowhegan, Maine in 1897, Margaret Chase gained a practical education by teaching and working at a local newspaper.  When her husband, Congressman Clyde Smith, died in 1940, Margaret Chase Smith won his seat in the subsequent special election.  She moved to the Senate on January 3, 1949.  At a time when it remained unusual for women to have congressional careers, the Maine Republican earned the distinction of being the first woman to have served in both houses of Congress. During her 24-year Senate career, Smith rose to leadership positions on the Senate Armed Services and Appropriations committees, and she chaired the Senate Republican Conference. She became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency at a major political party’s national convention.

An independent woman, Smith was not afraid to defy party leaders or take on controversial issues. During the Second World War, she helped establish the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services) and fought for equal treatment for women in the military. When Senator Joseph McCarthy charged high-ranking public officials with Communist subversion in 1950, Smith took to the Senate floor to deliver her "Declaration of Conscience" speech in which she defended every American's "right to criticize . . . right to hold unpopular beliefs . . . right to protest."  She died in 1995 at her home in Skowhegan, Maine.

Artist Ronald Frontin is a native of Camden, Maine.  He has devoted his career to rendering Maine landscapes and genre scenes.  “I travel throughout the state painting the people and places that I know best,” he explains. After attending the Philadelphia College of Art, he apprenticed with noted realist painter Nelson Shanks.

To create this vibrant image of Senator Smith, Ronald Frontin interviewed the senator’s  friends and colleagues to gain a better understanding of her personality and character.  He sought to portray a powerful image of the senator, and depicted her at the height of her career, with her signature pearls and red rose.