She was elected deputy party leader in 1994, and succeeded to the leadership two years later upon the death of L. Frederick Wade. Smith led her party to victory in parliamentary elections in November 1998, in which the United Bermuda Party, which had dominated elections since autonomy was gained in 1968, suffered an unprecedented defeat. She was replaced by Alex Scott, but then was elected as Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly.
Smith was born in 1947 in Bermuda, the daughter of a bartender.
She exhibited an interest in art from an early age, and later enrolled at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, from which she earned an Associate degree in 1970. Upon returning to Bermuda, she began work as a political reporter and editor for the Bermuda Recorder newspaper.
Smith was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005.