A Senator, a Delegate, and a lifelong advocate for the interests of the elderly; Senator Margaret “Peg” Schweinhaut received the Maryland First Citizen Award in 1993. The purpose of the First Citizen award, established by Senator Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. in 1992, was and continues to be to recognize those who have been dedicated and effective participants in the process of making government work for the benefit of all.
Born in Washington D.C. in 1903, Schweinhaut would graduate from George Washington University and attend classes at the National University School of Law. She would marry a lawyer, Henry Schweinhaut (who would later become a federal judge), in 1928 and move from the District of Columbia to suburban Chevy Chase in 1941. In 1958, Margaret and Henry would move to Kensington. In the process, the couple would welcome two daughters and grow to become fixtures in their community. Here in Montgomery County, Margaret would build a life based on service to those most in need.
When her daughters would leave for college in the mid-1950s, Margaret decided that she had to do more for her community. Always interested in the political process, but never wanting to be the center of attention, Margaret would choose to seek elected office in 1954 and subsequently take office upon her election to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1955. She would serve as a State Delegate until 1961 then pursue a new opportunity in the Maryland State Senate. A State Senator from 1961-1963 and then again from 1967-1991, Shweinhaut would serve her state as a legislator for over 30 years. During those years, she would become known not only for her commitment to the issues of the aging but also for her staunch advocacy for both environmental causes and public safety.
In addition to her terms as a legislator, Schweinhaut would dually work to advocate for the interests of senior citizens for some twenty-four years as the Director of the Maryland Commission on Aging (she would serve as the Director of the organization from its inception in 1959 until 1983). As a result of her leadership, the panel would study nursing home practices and promote the passage of some eleven state laws that would improve the quality of care for vulnerable Marylanders.
Always a principled advocate, Schweinhaut was a true champion of the issues that she held dear and particularly for the issues of the elderly. She worked to ensure the well-being of older Marylanders through her promotion of a myriad of social programs including senior meal plans, recreation centers, and rent assistance for the impoverished. Because of her decades of dedication to the causes of senior citizens, the Margaret Schweinhaut Senior Center (which opened in 1972) in Silver Spring is dedicated in her honor.
Margaret Schweinhaut passed away in 1997 at the age of 93. She passed having truly been an example of the term “public servant” and left behind a clear legacy of service to all Marylanders.