A room on Capitol Hill now bears the name of Maine’s trailblazing former U.S. senator Margaret Chase Smith.
She was one of two female senators — the other was Barbara Mikulski of Maryland — to receive the honor on Wednesday. Only two rooms out of more than 540 on Capitol Hill are named after women.
Despite belonging to different parties — Smith was a Republican and Mikulski a Democrat — they respected and were civil to those with different views, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said during the dedication ceremony.
“They were both women of towering stature in integrity and courage. Their legacies are, above all, a reminder of the obligation we have to uphold the values and ideals of our nation in service to the American people. May all who serve in these rooms keep that obligation today and for years to come,” Collins said.
U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, praised Smith as an “unparalleled trailblazer” and “extraordinary lawmaker.”
“Throughout her long career, Senator Smith was a champion for Maine and an advocate for all our people. She brought the Maine values of service over party and patriotism to Washington, including in her Declaration of Conscience — one of the greatest and most important speeches in American history. There is no one more deserving of this honor, and I look forward to seeing her legacy live on in our nation’s Capitol through this room,” he said.
Smith, who was the first woman to serve in the U.S. House and Senate, is best known for repudiating the fear-mongering and red-baiting of Republican U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin of her 1950 “Declaration of Conscience” speech on the Senate floor, cautioning her party against embracing a philosophy without “political integrity” and “intellectual honesty.”
Smith represented Maine in Washington from 1940 to 1973 after she was unseated by Democrat William Hathaway.
Mikulski is the longest-serving female senator and the first woman to serve as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Collins and King co-sponsored the legislation to dedicate the rooms to Smith and Mikulski, and it passed the Senate unanimously in December 2020.
Collins and King were joined Wednesday by Mikulski; Jonathan Rubin, an economics professor at the University of Maine and the director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the Orono campus; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky; U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota; U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri; U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland; and U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland.