Early life and education
Margaret Chase was born in Skowhegan in central Maine, to George Emery and Carrie Matilda (née Murray) Chase. She was the oldest of six children, two of whom did not survive to adulthood. Her father was of English ancestry, a descendant of immigrants to the United States in the 17th century; her great-great grandfather commanded an artillery company during the War of 1812, and her grandfather served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Her mother's family was French Canadian, having immigrated from Quebec in the middle of the 19th century; her grandfather Lambert Morin changed his name to John Murray to avoid anti-French Canadian and anti-Catholic prejudice. Her father was the town barber, and her mother worked as a waitress, store clerk, and shoe factory worker.
She received her early education at Lincoln and Garfield Elementary Schools. At age 12, she went to work at a local five-and-dime store and even bought herself a life insurance policy. She also shaved her father's customers when he was busy or away from the shop. She attended Skowhegan High School, graduating in 1916. During high school, she played on the girls' basketball team, of which she was captain in her senior year. She also worked as a substitute operator with a telephone company during this time. In that position she met Clyde Smith, a prominent local politician, who arranged a job for her as a part-time assistant to the tax assessor.