#TBT: First Woman to Seek Major Party's Presidential Nomination

Before there was Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren, there was Margaret Chase Smith. This was the moment the first woman seeking a major party's presidential nomination announced her campaign — and it had a twist.

First woman to run for the primaries

In 1964, Margaret Chase Smith became the first woman to seek the presidential nomination of a major political party. Smith served in the Senate from 1949 to 1971, following a decade of service in the House of Representatives. The first woman to serve in both houses of Congress, Margaret Chase Smith emerged as one of the earliest critics of Wisconsin senator Joe McCarthy and the tactics that became known as "McCarthyism." On June 1, 1950, just three months after McCarthy rose to national prominence, Smith denounced his tactics with her Declaration of Conscience.

“What was really important was that through me for the first time the women of the United States had an opportunity to break the barrier against women being seriously considered for the presidency of the United States — to destroy any political bigotry against women on — this score just as the late John F. Kennedy had broken the political barrier on religion and destroyed once and for all such political bigotry. As gratifying as are the reasons advanced urging me to run, I find the reasons advanced against my running to be far more impelling. For if I were to run, it would be under severe limitations with respect to lack of money, lack of organization and lack of time because of the requirements to be on the job in Washington doing my elected duty instead of abandoning those duties to campaign—plus the very heavy odds against me,” tells a crowd during her campaign years ago.

For more than three decades, Margaret Chase Smith served as a role model for women aspiring to national politics. As the first woman to win election to both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, Smith cultivated a career as an independent and courageous legislator. Senator Smith bravely denounced McCarthyism at a time when others feared speaking out would ruin their careers. Though she believed firmly that women had a political role to assume, Smith refused to make an issue of her gender in seeking higher office according to the White House database.