Book Excerpt

The Unfavored Daughter: When Margaret Chase Smith Ran in the New Hampshire Primary

Full excerpt as published in  The New Yorker

Full excerpt as published in The New Yorker

In mid-November of 1963, a week before he left for his fateful campaign trip to Dallas, Texas, John F. Kennedy held the last press conference of his Presidency, where he fielded a question about the upcoming 1964 Presidential race. “Would you comment on the possible candidacy of Margaret Chase Smith, and specifically what effect that would have on the New Hampshire primary?” a reporter asked. The question alone provoked merriment among the largely male press corps. The prospect of a female Presidential contender clearly seemed preposterous to many. But Kennedy was prepared. Since August, rumors had swirled that Maine’s three-term Republican senator might enter the Presidential race. In fact, the arch-conservative Dallas Morning News had prominently featured stories in late August and September speculating admiringly about a Smith run. One of those reports asked whether Senator “Margaret Chase Smith, a wide-awake Maine Republican,” might actually “be the sleeper of the 1964 campaign.” Kennedy parried the question gracefully: “I would think if I were a Republican candidate, I would not look forward to campaigning against Margaret Chase Smith in New Hampshire, or as a possible candidate for President.” The gathered reporters laughed heartily. “I think she is very formidable, if that is the appropriate word to use about a very fine lady,” Kennedy continued. “She is a very formidable political figure.”

Read the full excerpt in The New Yorker.

additional Praise for
The Highest Glass Ceiling

“Women’s quest for the U.S. presidency has been long and arduous—and Ellen Fitzpatrick, a superb scholar and writer, is the perfect author for this fascinating and overdue history. This book is a triumph, and an inspiration.”

—Theda Skocpol, Harvard University


“Ellen Fitzpatrick’s wise and winning The Highest Glass Ceiling is destined to become the Profiles in Courage of the 2016 Presidential election, situating this year’s presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton in a historic field of bold female contenders, with special focus on the three who previously came closest—Victoria Woodhull, Margaret Chase Smith, and Shirley Chisholm. What enabled these women to ‘step out of context and into history,’ as a Los Angeles Times reporter wrote of Smith, to ‘shake it up, make it change,’ as Chisholm aimed to do? Fitzpatrick’s compelling portraits supply not just the how and when, but also the why, teaching valuable lessons that everyone who cares about American Presidential politics will be grateful to learn.”

Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life


“Editors' Choice”

—Editor's Choice, New York Times Book Review

“Reading The Highest Glass Ceiling . . . makes clear that so little has changed in the national political arena; Clinton is still on the receiving end of incredible levels of sexism, routinely receiving public judgments that would never be leveled at a male candidate. However, like her predecessors Woodhull, Chase Smith, and Chisholm, she has also remained fairly unswayed. Perhaps we will someday get to a point where the level of strength and conviction exhibited by these women won’t be requisite for women candidates for president. For the past century and a half, though, the fire, resilience, and determination that marked all of these women’s political lives have remained much needed. And, I might add, they do make for a great story.”

—Gwendolyn Beetham, Inside Higher Ed


“Just in time for Super Tuesday primaries, a lucid and informative look at three women who made serious bids for the presidency.”

Literary Hub


“Disrupting the Old Boys Network: Is Hillary Clinton Too Establishment to Become the First Female President?”

—Susan Milligan, US News and World Report