E. Mae Smith, 90, who was office manager and "boss" of the National Press Club for 46 years when it was an all-male enclave, died of bronchial pneumonia Monday at a hospital in Gettysburg, Pa. She had lived in Thurmont, Md., for the last five years.
There were few members who did not stand in awe of Mrs. Smith, for in addition to keeping close tabs on the club's treasury, she kept a sharp eye on the behavior of its thousands of members, some of the oldtime club members recalled after learning of her death.
In a club newsletter printed at the time of her retirement in 1966 it was noted that Mrs. Smith's duties had included those of office manager, permanent assistant secretary and secretary to the board of governors. The newsletter said she also had been the club's "housemother, guardian and its financial conscience."
Mrs. Smith was born in Fulton county, N.Y. She came to Washington in 1920 and shortly thereafter answered a newspaper want ad to become the first woman employe of the National Press Club.
She was a stickler for the prompt payment of dues regardless of who might be in arrears. The story is told of how President Franklin D. Roosevelt once fell behind in 1943. Mrs. Smith not only sent him a reminder, but added a fine. Later, the president sent in his dues with a note asking that he be excused from paying the fine because he had been out of the country. Much later, it was learned that he had been meeting with Winston Churchill in Casablanca.
Mrs. Smith worked long hours, often staying beyond midnight to keep an eye on the goings-on at the club. She sat in on all meetings of the 12-member board of governors and was considered the 13th member of the board. When she left, she was replaced by a computer and three employes and "things never were the same from then on," a club member said yesterday.
Mrs. Smith's husband died many years ago.
She is survived by a daughter Doris Lee of Thurmont, two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.