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

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

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

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

Excerpt

I first went to see Margaret Chase Smith on a crisp fall day in 1986, turning north from the urban density and studied quaintness of lower New England toward the farmlands and scattered hamlets of interior Maine. Then in her eighty-eighth year, Senator Smith still lived and worked within a mile of her birthplace, the small mill town of Skowhegan. Hours from the fabled Maine of rockbound coasts and solitary lighthouses, Skowhegan flanks the Kennebec River, a major tributary bisecting pine forest and gently rolling hills, at the crossroads of two major highways--one leading from Portland to Quebec City, the other from New Hampshire to Bangor and Bar Harbor. Tourists stop for food and gas as they pass through on their way elsewhere.

I crossed the Kennebec where it divides around a small island and drove over the two "Margaret Chase Smith" bridges into downtown. Most of the buildings on the short main street had been constructed in the early 1900s, during the zenith of town prosperity, changing only owners and awnings since then. I paused for a sandwich, served on a pink placemat embossed with a single red rose and the proud words: "Welcome to Skowhegan, the home of Senator Margaret Chase Smith," then headed up the hill beside the river to the Margaret Chase Smith Library Center.

A mixture of museum and archive, the Library is housed in an annex wrapped around Smith's home, filled with the artifacts of a public life. Colorful hoods from each of her ninety-five honorary degrees hang from pegs near the ceiling; glass cases display photographs, speech notes . . .

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