Illustrations © David McPhail

Margaret Chase SmithA Woman for President
A Timeline Biography

by Lynn Plourde Illustrated by David McPhail Charlesbridge, 2008

She couldn’t become President of the United States. She was a she!
Only a man could be elected president . . . right?
Maybe not.

In 1964 Senator Margaret Chase Smith made an announcement.
She began her speech by explaining why she should not run for
president: she didn’t have enough money, most thought there was
no chance she could win, plus some people said a woman wouldn’t
have the energy for a national campaign.

She concluded, “Because of these very impelling reasons against
my running, I have decided that I shall. . . .”

What a President she would have been, a surprising one.

Margaret Chase Smith, born in a small Maine town before women in the U.S. could vote, lived a surprising life filled with innumerable accomplishments. She came from a poor family, only had a high school education, yet she went on to become one of the most influential women of the twentieth century. She was the first woman in U.S. history to be elected to both houses of Congress. She gave a history-making “Declaration of Conscience” speech against McCarthyism. Her work as a member of the Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee led the head of NASA to say, “If it were not for a woman, Margaret Chase Smith, we would never have placed a man on the moon.” In 1964 she was the first woman from a major political party (a Republican) to run for President of the United States.  She set records with her 13-year Congressional roll-call votes and as the longest-serving female senator (1949-1973).  Smith was one of the first women inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. Hillary Clinton claims Smith as an inspiration and one of her heroes.

Margaret Chase Smith: A Woman for President details the Senator’s 97-year life including the lessons she learned as a child from her younger brothers’ deaths and from her grandfather’s frugality up to her death on Memorial Day in 1995. Numerous timelines (i.e. important dates in the right to vote, US women in Congress, women in the military, important flight and space exploration dates) are included throughout the book providing a historical perspective for Smith’s life.

Honors

NCSS Notable Trade Book (National Council for the Social Studies), 2008

American Library Association's Amelia Bloomer List of Recommended Feminist Books for Youth, 2009


Reviews

A homage to Smith and an inspiration for girls everywhere.
Bangor Daily News

The book is impeccably organized, with an enormous amount of information packed into its 32 pages without compromising its open and appealing feel . . .  As an added feature, Plourde also includes a series of a dozen timelines, from dates and facts highlighting women in U.S. politics to an extensive timeline of Smith’s life (perfect for young researchers!).  The book closes with a four page in-depth biography of Smith written for adults and older readers, making it a book that extends to middle schools. Highly recommended.
LM_NET

This excellent book not only tells the story of Margaret Chase Smith’s life in an engaging way, but it also supplies the reader with lots of additional information. At the bottom of every double page spread there are timeline tables which show readers how the U.S. life expectancy has changed over time, who were the first women congresswomen, who set records in Congress, what took place in the Cold War, and more. In addition there is a “More About Margaret Chase Smith” section at the end of the book where readers can learn more about this exceptional woman.
Through the Looking Glass

Plourde and McPhail have created a very accessible and instructive look at the life of Margaret C. Smith, the first woman in U. S. history to have been elected to both houses of Congress . . . This biography is a fine addition to the many that have been done with younger readers in mind—a picture book packed with the real life of a remarkable woman.
Children’s Literature

Each spread includes a tag line of sorts — graceful, pithy commentaries about the many personal and political roles and successes of her life: “What a sister she was—a compassionate and responsible one” and “What a wife she was—one who was valued as a political partner.” McPhail’s warm, soft-focus illustrations are restrained, reverent. This would be an excellent addition to the biography sections of public and elementary (and even middle) school libraries.
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Plourde keeps the text brief and interesting, while an informative afterword fleshes out the biography.
Booklist

Clear, well-paced writing traces her eventful 97 years chronologically with two or three paragraphs of text per spread. Opposite each page of text, McPhail's warm pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations feature Smith prominently and provide appealing visual references to the various stages of her life . . . Each page of text ends with a laudatory sentence highlighting one of her many roles: "What a leader she was—one who dared to speak the truth." Time lines along the bottom of each spread offer brief notes on related topics. A life expectancy time line, for example, provides perspective on the early deaths of Margaret's brothers, and a Cold War chronology complements the description of her famous "Declaration of Conscience" speech. A solid addition to biography shelves.
School Library Journal