Women and leadership: more fresh entries in “Run Like a Girl” series at Nursing Clio

Margaret Chase Smith

Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) during her presidential run, 1964

I’ve fallen behind! Remember a few weeks back when I directed your attention to Nursing Clio’s important new series on women who have run for president of the United States, Run Like a Girl? There are two more entries I haven’t posted about!

If you recall, the first in the series featured (naturally!) the first woman ever to run for president, Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927), who ran in 1872.  Last week, Sarah Handley-Cousins wrote about Belva Lockwood (1830-1917), a badass single mother and attorney who was one of the first women to argue before the Supreme Court.  She became the National Equal Rights Party’s nominee in 1884 and again in 1888.

This week, Run like a Girl moves into the twentieth century with Laura M. Ansley’s discussion of the political career of Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1995.)  A working-class girl from Skowhegan, Maine, Smith was the daughter of the town barber and a waitress from a French-Canadian family.  Only a high school graduate, she is exemplary of most American women in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century who came to hold prominent public offices:  she ran for her late husband’s office and won in 1940, and then went on to run for the senate in 1948 (and win), and for president in 1964 (but lost!)  

Smith was the first woman to run for a major party’s nomination.  Just imagine how different the 1964 Republican campaign, and perhaps the last fifty years of Republican party history might have been had she won the nod instead of Barry Goldwater.  Counterfactual history enthusiasts, let that one sit with you a bit.  I could see where a President Smith might have led her party to embrace the Civil Rights Movement in cooperation with a rump of northern, urban Democrats, countering the old FDR emerging coalition and limiting the Democratic party once again the party of white nationalism in the Solid South.  (Laura Ansley, what do you think? What about you other Clio Nurses out there?)

dumpsterfireNow put that in your pipe and smoke it while you have a good long think on the scandalous state of our national political conversation this election year.  I don’t know if I can take another three months of this.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll have a few lessons about women and leadership from my research on the life and career of Esther Wheelwright, another simple girl born in Maine who rose to the heights of political leadership in early Québec–and she did it without a husband at all!  And in the eighteenth century too! Amazing.

11 thoughts on “Women and leadership: more fresh entries in “Run Like a Girl” series at Nursing Clio

    • I’m up for a drinking game, but we’ll have to limit it to teeny shots or we’ll all die of alcohol poisoning.

      In my young days as a voter I voted for a decent number of Republicans, including one of Michigan’s better governors, Bill Milliken. Some days I feel like a dinosaur.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know a reasonable number of people (mostly at church) who were Republicans in their younger days, and still identify to varying degrees as such (more fiscally than socially conservative). Though I haven’t polled them directly, I can’t imagine that a single one will be voting for Trump. Most will probably vote for Clinton; a few may resort to ballots blank at the top or write-ins.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I met Margaret Chase Smith when she was 91 and still as sharp as a tack – she recounted, amongst other things, the exchange with McCarthy just prior to her ‘Declaration of Conscience’ speech. I like to think that the current cowardice in the Republican Party, not the least from Senator Collins, has her rolling over in her grave.

    A link to matter off-discussed here: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/08/hillary-clinton-2016-feminist-214133

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, what’s up with Collins? I’m sure she could repudiate Trump and pay no political price whatsoever. She could lead the way for someone like Kelly Ayotte, who’s going to get trounced if she doesn’t ditch her “support” for Trump. Mainers respect independent thinkers.

      Ah, well: look at me! I’d prefer that Maggie Hassan get elected this year anyway, so keep it up, Ayotte! That Trumpstain will be a bitch to remove.


    • Collins has me sufficiently worked up that I have repeatedly written her and called her office. . .the only way her stance makes sense in any manner is if she is expecting a Trump presidency.

      As an aside, my favorite mid-century counterfactual is a Eisenhower-Smith ticket in 1952 and 1956 (considered seriously enough in 1952 that Smith was pestered by reporters on the matter, and following the question “What would you do if you woke up in the White House one morning”, quipped “I’d go straight to Mrs. Truman and apologize. Then I’d go home.”) followed by a Kennedy-Smith 1960 presidential election.

      Liked by 2 people

      • That’s something I hadn’t really considered (because I guess I’m an optimist at heart — generally and in terms of believing in the good sense of the American people, though both are currently being tested). Given Trump’s behavior so far, there’s every reason to believe he will give those who opposed him a very hard time. I’m not sure how effectively he can do that (the presidency involves more limited power than I think he realizes, and he only has so much money — probably less than he wants us to think — to throw around), but I can understand how someone who watched the Republican primaries believing that he couldn’t possibly win would now be very scared, or at least cautious.


  2. Would love to hear more about what Wheelright’s experience can teach us about the present situation (really, I’ll take any distraction, but that sounds fascinating).

    Also,I meant to point out in the comments to the initial column that there’s a good recent collection of Woodhull’s writings, but, rather than burying it at this point, I’ll leave it here: https://www.amazon.com/Selected-Writings-Victoria-Woodhull-Nineteenth-Century/dp/0803216475 .


    • I don’t know if there’s anything Wheelwright’s career can teach us about our crazy political moment. Is this how Federalists/Whigs felt when Andrew Jackson ran for President? But he had served in Congress and in the Senate before running, so he at least had some track record and experience in Washington.

      I’ll mull over a post about EW. I think it will me more along the lines of “how to succeed in convent politics,” but IDK.


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