The Margaret Chase Smith Recipes Research Collaborative is an interdisciplinary group of faculty, students, and staff at the University of Maine. Members represent a wide range of disciplines including history, sociology, folklore, anthropology, public policy, food science, and business. Senator Smith was a trailblazer, passionate about bringing people together through civil discourse, often over a home-cooked meal. She was a proud homemaker throughout her thirty-three years in office, and she maintained an extensive recipe collection, using recipes from her collection to entertain fellow policymakers in Washington and at home in Maine. The collaborative formed to support students and faculty interested in issues of food, recipes, politics, history, and their intersections.
This post is part of a series of student research projects exploring a recipe from Smith’s collection from an Honors tutorial taught by Dr. Rachel Snell in Spring 2019. Combined the students’ insights provide a new window into Sen. Smith’s private and public persona as well as the cultural, social, and scientific context of her lifetime.
Margaret Chase Smith’s recipe collection includes a recipe for Vegetable Soup credited to “Liz Hart.” Research reveals the recipe contributor was accomplished sculptor and artist from Dallas, Texas, Mary Elizabeth “Liz” Hart. Her obituary credits Hart with the creation of statues designed for the Boy Scouts Headquarters, the rotunda of A. Webb Roberts University, and figures for Sea World Texas. Her most well-known piece is a bust of Margaret Chase Smith in the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. Her recipe in Smith’s collection preserves their relationship. More than just artist and subject, Liz Hart and Margaret Chase Smith were good friends.
The two women exchanged letters throughout the time that they worked together. The letters, kept in the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan, Maine, discuss the progress of the bust and details about their personal lives. Because Hart lived in Dallas, Texas, she was unable to see her subject regularly but managed to create a piece that truly captured the essence of Margaret Chase Smith. In a letter that Hart wrote to Smith, she said that “portrait sculptors throughout the ages have had different philosophies concerning their work. Mine lies somewhere in-between the Romans who pursued with fierce honesty the naturalistic notation of personal character, ‘warts and all’, and Michelangelo who observed, with respect to his idealized figure of Guiliano de Medici carved for the Medici Chapel in Florence, that likeness was unimportant in commemorating an individual, since a thousand years in the future, who would value the resemblance?” Her rendering of Smith captures her philosophy.
The bust has her signature curly hair and wrinkles that show her age at the time. It accurately resembles Margaret Chase Smith, but its position is the most powerful. Her bust looks upwards as if she is looking forward to the possibilities. She is a powerful woman, and the bust represents her well. Liz Hart was aware of Smith’s strong personality, and the bust needed to symbolize her achievements. Hart described the image of Smith that she wanted to create in a letter to Smith saying, “I have been trying to capture your personality as I see it, alert, brilliant, self-assured, determined, yet very, very feminine….. I have not, nor will I show every wrinkle, hair, etc.” Smith was aware of her appearance, and Hart did her best to create an image of Smith that pleased the subject. Smith was impressed by the sculpture because of its resemblance and Hart’s expertise.
During the presentation of the bust, Smith said, “The subject for a work of art is seldom pleased with what she sees, thus, my reluctance from the beginning to be the subject; but with the patience and expertise of Liz Hart, and her love and admiration for me, I did my best and was rewarded by what I believe to be a true likeness of me. Not a detail was missed; and after hearing so many oohs and aahs by friends and strangers and on close examination myself, I have come to believe that it is a true work of art.” Images of Smith standing next to her bust showcase Hart’s talent and attention to detail. Hart captured all of Smith’s prominent features and simultaneously replicated her determined personality. The original bust’s home in the Smithsonian, “is a testament to her importance. She inspired generations of women, especially in the mid-twentieth century when many women were expected to only serve in domestic roles, and her dedication to the public will forever be remembered through Liz Hart’s bronze bust of her” (Portraits of Women in the Western World).
The relationship between Hart and Smith was more than professional. The two had become good friends, and Hart gave Smith a recipe, Vegetable Soup, to keep in her collection. According to Angie Stockwell, a collection specialist at the Margaret Chase Smith Library, Senator Smith never made the recipe. Mrs. Stockwell speculates, “I suspect she might have had her housekeeper make it for her, as by the time Senator Smith met Liz, she would have been older and perhaps not too inclined to cook.” With many ingredients and an enormous yield, the recipe seems poorly suited to Smith’s lifestyle during her final years. However, for Liz Hart, as an artist with a family who worked from home, the long-simmering soup may have ideally suited her work and family’s needs. The recipe may have served as a reminder of a dear friend rather than practical instructions in Smith’s collection.
Nikki Yutuc is a fourth-year Finance and Management double-major and member of the Honors College at the University of Maine.
- “Elizabeth Hart Sight and Sound Sculpture.” 20c Design, http://20cdesign.com/product/elizabeth-hart-sight-and-sound-sculpture/
- “Elizabeth Hart Wall Sculpture – Entendons Nous.” At 1stdibs, www.1stdibs.com/furniture/wall-decorations/contemporary-art/elizabeth-hart-wall-sculpture-entendons-nous/id-f_383654/.
- “Margaret Chase Smith.” Smithsonian Institution, www.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.84.160?destination=sisearch%3Fedan_q%3Delizabeth%252Bhart&width=85%25&height=85%25&iframe=true.
- Halliday, Robin Rominger. “View Mary Hart’s Obituary on DallasNews.com and Share Memories.” Mary Hart Obituary – Dallas, TX | Dallas Morning News, https://obits.dallasnews.com/obituaries/dallasmorningnews/obituary.aspx?n=mary-elizabeth-hart-liz&pid=104222734.
- “Portraits of Women in the Western World.” 24, engl10524spring2017exhibitions.web.unc.edu/portraits-of-women-in-the-western-world/
- Stockwell, A. (2019). Email. Margaret Chase Smith Library