Margaret L. Chamberlin Smith was born in Shelby County, Illinois, on 24 June 1919, to a postal carrier and a homemaker. She was raised in nearby Charleston, and attended Eastern Illinois University’s grade school and high school. She graduated from the university in 1942 with a major in business education.
After graduation Smith attended radio code training for six months at St. Louis University and then taught Morse code at Scott Air Force Base near Belleville, Illinois. While she was teaching, Smith began taking flying lessons. Smith joined the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) and in April 1944 went to training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, as part of class 44-9-T. She left in August 1944 when it became apparent the WASP would be disbanded.
Smith returned to Charleston, Illinois, and began flying lessons to become a commercial pilot. While there she met and married Don Smith. She stopped flying and they raised a family in southern Illinois. Smith taught school for almost thirty years, primarily high school business education.