An accomplished American modernist pioneering female architect who practiced primarily in Washington, D.C., Smith earned her undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Oregon (1932) and a master's degree in architecture from Washington University, St. Louis (1933). Following graduation, Smith moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked for the Federal Housing Authority, Rental Housing Division, 1935-1939.
Smith took a professorship at the Universidad Mayor de San Andres, La Paz, Bolivia (1942–44) and prepared a Master Plan for the Municipal Council of Quito, Ecuador in 1945. She returned to Washington, D.C., and worked at Berla & Abel architects.
In 1951, Smith formed Keyes, Smith, Satterlee & Lethbridge (1951-1956) and in 1963, Chloethiel Woodard Smith & Associates, which in 1971 became the largest female-run architectural practice in the United States. Among her many accomplishments, she served on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts from 1967 to 1976.
Smith’s projects encompassed commercial buildings, housing complexes, master plans and urban highway structures and pedestrian boulevards. She worked closely with landscape architects and urban planners. During the 1950s, her work focused on the federally funded redevelopment of Washington's Southwest quadrant. She prepared an overall master plan with Louis Justement in 1951. Her firm later won competitions for several housing projects in southwest: Capitol Park and Harbour Square with landscape architect Dan Kiley, and Waterside Mall. She developed a proposal for a European inspired bridge with shops and restaurants spanning the Washington Channel and prepared designs for the Southwest Freeway and the E Street Expressway (between 23rd and 19th Streets NW) and the F Street pedestrian promenade downtown. Other projects include the National Airport Metro station and the Waterview Townhouses in Reston, Virginia. Smith designed three of the four office buildings at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and L Street, N.W.
Smith retired from practice in 1982. She died on December 30, 1992, at The Georgetown, a senior citizens facility where she resided.