Chase, Mary Ellen, 1887-1973

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1887-02-24
Death 1973-07-28
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Smith College, Professor, English, 1926-1955. University of Maine, A.B., 1909. University of Minnesota, M.A., 1918; Ph. D., 1922.

From the description of Mary Ellen Chase papers, 1893-1995. (Smith College). WorldCat record id: 51183526

Maine-born American regional novelist, critic, and memoirist.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Northampton, Mass., to Edward Wagenknecht, [no year] Jan. 8. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270863385

Mary Ellen Chase was an American educator and writer. She was born in Blue Hill, Maine and graduated from the University of Maine in 1909. Many of her works were set in Maine and include a biography, novels, biblical studies, and children’s books.

From the guide to the The prophets for the common reader (manuscript), 1962, (University of Minnesota Libraries. Literary Manuscripts Collections, Manuscripts Division [mss])

Smith College, Professor, English, 1926-1955. University of Maine, A.B., 1909. University of Minnesota, M.A., 1918; Ph. D., 1922. Novelist, essayist and writer on Biblical topics.

From the description of Mary Ellen Chase literary manuscripts, 1937-ca. 1970. (Smith College). WorldCat record id: 53462970

Mary Ellen Chase was an American educator and writer. She was born in Blue Hill, Maine and graduated from the University of Maine in 1909. Many of her works were set in Maine and include a biography, novels, biblical studies, and children's books.

From the description of The prophets for the common reader (manuscript) 1962. (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis). WorldCat record id: 63300586

Mary Ellen Chase was an author, novelist, and juvenile writer. Graduated from University of Maine, Orono in 1909, Professor of English at Smith College (1926-196?). Born in Blue Hill, Maine, resided in North Hampton, Mass.

From the description of [Papers] 1900-1973. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 778701352

American author.

From the description of Mary Ellen Chase collection, 1932-1965. (Boston University). WorldCat record id: 70965365

(The biographical note was written by Elizabeth Kates in 1999 for the Smith College Archives collection of Professor Chase's papers located in that collection.)

Mary Ellen Chase was born on February 24, 1887 in Blue Hill, Maine. Her parents were deeply religious Protestants and Mary Ellen was one of eight children who received a thorough biblical education as well as an academic one. She began writing at the age of sixteen and by her death on July 28, 1973, had published more than thirty essays, novels, and biographies.

At the age of nineteen, Chase took a leave from the University of Maine, where she was enrolled as an undergraduate, in order to teach in a one-room school in Buck's Harbor, Maine. Following her graduation, she taught for three years in Wisconsin at a coeducational boarding school and later for two years at a private girl's school in Chicago, Illinois. At that point in time, Chase fell ill and was advised by her doctor that a move to Montana would improve her health. During her time there, Chase taught public school and wrote two novels.

Upon full recovery, Chase took a teaching position at the University of Minnesota where she also studied and earned her MA in 1918 and later her Ph.D. in 1922. In 1926 she was hired by Smith College where she taught courses on the English novel and the King James Version of the Bible. During her time at Smith, Chase became a respected colleague, teacher, and friend to many. Her courses, taken by English majors and non-English majors alike, were some of the most popular on campus. In addition, Chase's home on Paradise Road became a favorite place for her students to go for good conversation and cookies. Despite her success as an author, teaching remained her true love throughout her career. She viewed teaching as the main source of meaning in her life. An extremely dedicated professor, Chase believed that "the personality of the teacher is more important than her intellectual attainments" and that "if the teacher has no enthusiasm for teaching and for subject matter, her students will learn little." She was very excited about her field of expertise and hoped to similarly inspire her students.

Mary Ellen Chase has come to be known as one of the great American novelists. Much of her work was inspired by her childhood in Maine and several of her novels are autobiographical. The Goodly Heritage (1932) and A Goodly Fellowship (1939) are about her childhood and how she became a teacher, respectively. Chase also wrote several books for children and more than one of her novels became best-sellers. Chase's popularity and skill at public speaking earned her many invitations to lecture around the country. She was awarded honorary degrees at the University of Maine, Bowdoin, and Colby Colleges, Smith College, and Northeastern University. Her work was also acknowledged by the Women's National Book Association in 1956 when she was awarded the Constance Lindsay Skinner Award.

After her retirement in 1955 at the age of sixty-eight, Chase continued to live on-campus with her long-time companion, Eleanor Duckett, and her dog, Gregory. She spent summers in Maine at her home, "Windswept," and journeyed to England where she took Hebrew classes at Cambridge in order to better understand the Old Testament. She also taught two adult education seminars on the Bible at Radcliffe College. In 1968, Smith College acknowledged her dedication to the students and the College with a new dormitory, the Mary Ellen Chase House.

From the guide to the Mary Ellen Chase Literary Manuscripts MS 33., 1937-1968, (Mortimer Rare Book Room)

Mary Ellen Chase was born on February 24, 1887 in Blue Hill, Maine. Her parents were deeply religious Protestants and Mary Ellen was one of eight children who received a thorough biblical education as well as an academic one. She began writing at the age of sixteen and by her death on July 28, 1973, had published more than thirty essays, novels, and biographies.

At the age of nineteen, Chase took a leave from the University of Maine, where she was enrolled as an undergraduate, in order to teach in a one-room school in Buck's Harbor, Maine. Following her graduation, she taught for three years in Wisconsin at a coeducational boarding school and later for two years at a private girls school in Chicago, Illinois. At that point in time, Chase fell ill and was advised by her doctor that a move to Montana would improve her health. During her time there, Chase taught public school and wrote two novels.

Upon full recovery, Chase took a teaching position at the University of Minnesota where she also studied and earned her MA in 1918 and later her Ph.D. in 1922. In 1926 she was hired by Smith College where she taught courses on the English novel and the King James version of the Bible. During her time at Smith, Chase became respected colleague, teacher, and friend to many. Her courses, taken by English majors and non-English majors alike, were some of the most popular on campus. In addition, Chase's home on Paradise Road became a favorite place for her students to go for good conversation and cookies.

Despite her success as an author, teaching remained her true love throughout her career. She viewed teaching as the main source of meaning in her life. An extremely dedicated professor, Chase believed that "the personality of the teacher is more important than her intellectual attainments" and that "if the teacher has no enthusiasm for teaching and for subject matter, her students will learn little." She was very excited about her field of expertise and hoped to similarly inspire her students.

Mary Ellen Chase has come to be known as one of the great American novelists. Much of her work was inspired by her childhood in Maine and several of her novels are autobiographical. The Goodly Heritage (1932) and A Goodly Fellowship (1939) are about her childhood and how she became a teacher, respectively. Chase also wrote several books for children and more than one of her novels became best-sellers.

Chase's popularity and skill at public speaking earned her many invitations to lecture around the country. She was awarded honorary degrees at the University of Maine, Bowdoin and Colby Colleges, Smith College, and Northeastern University. Her work was also acknowledged by the Women's National Book Association in 1956 when she was awarded the Constance Lindsay Skinner Award.

After her retirement in 1955 at the age of sixty-eight, Chase continued to live on-campus with her long-time companion, Eleanor Duckett, and her dog, Gregory. She spent summers in Maine at her home, "Windswept," and journeyed to England where she took Hebrew classes at Cambridge in order to better understand the Old Testament. She also taught two adult education seminars on the Bible at Radcliffe College. In 1968, Smith College acknowledged her dedication to the students and the College with a new dormitory, The Mary Ellen Chase House.

From the guide to the Mary Ellen Chase Papers RG 42., 1893-1995, (Smith College Archives)

Mary Ellen Chase (1887-1973), novelist, teacher, and public speaker, was born on February 24, 1887, in Blue Hill, Maine. After graduating from Blue Hill Academy, she earned her B.A. from the University of Maine in 1909 and continued her education at the University of Minnesota where she earned her M.A. in 1918 and later a Ph.D. in 1922. In between the completion of her degrees, she had taught in a one-room school in Buck’s Harbor, Maine, as well as schools in Chicago, Illinois, and Montana. She also fulfilled her passion for fiction writing by publishing two books. In 1926, she was hired by Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she taught popular courses on the English novel and the King James Version of the Bible for the next thirty years. Due to Chase’s popularity as a novelist and a teacher, she was often invited to lecture around the country. Throughout her lifetime, Mary Ellen Chases published more than thirty essays, novels, and biographies and was awarded honorary degrees from the University of Maine, Bowdoin College, Colby College, Smith College, and Northeastern University. In 1956, she was acknowledged by the Women’s National Book Association and was awarded their Constance Lindsay Skinner Award. Mary Ellen Chase died on July 28, 1973, in Northampton, Massachusetts at the age of eighty six.

From the guide to the Mary Ellen Chase letter, Chase (Mary Ellen) letter, 1942, (Redwood Library and Athenaeum)

Mary Ellen Chase was born in Blue Hill, Maine on February 24, 1887 to Edward Everett Chase and Edith Lord Chase. Chase received a B.S. degree from the University of Maine in 1909. Following graduation, Mary Ellen Chase worked as a teacher in Wisconsin and Chicago but fell ill with tuberculosis. Chase then spent two years recovering in Montana before enrolling at the University of Minnesota where she received an M.A. in1918 and a Ph.D. in 1922 in English literature. Chase then taught in the University of Minnesota's English Department for eight years. She first served as an instructor (1918-22) and later served as an assistant professor (1922-26).

Chase's years in Minnesota were notable for two reasons. They marked the beginning of Chase's career as a writer and also documented her attempt to financially assist her family. Much of Chase's early writings served as a means of supporting her family who struggled financially following the death of Everett Chase. Edith Lord Chase and the three youngest Chase children joined Mary Ellen in Minneapolis following Everett Chase’s death.

In order to financially assist her family Mary Ellen Chase contributed short stories, essays, and reviews to numerous magazines including Harper’s Weekly, Scribner’s Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly and The Yale Review . Chase also wrote numerous novels. Her more memorable novels include A Goodly Heritage (1932) and A Goodly Fellowship (1939) which together recount her childhood in Maine and early adulthood. During the 1940s Chase also wrote several volumes that discussed the Bible as literature. Chase's most significant literary contributions rest with her textbooks which include Constructive Theme Writing (1929) and The Art of Narration which Chase wrote with Frances Del Plaine (1931). Despite her success as an author, Chase always identified herself as a professional educator. Chase was an enthusiastic teacher and inspired generations of students with her encyclopedic knowledge of English literature and her ability to intellectually engage her students.

In 1926 Chase moved to Northampton, Massachusetts to teach at Smith College. Shortly after arriving in Massachusetts, Chase met Eleanor Duckett, a history and classics professor at Smith. The two became life-companions. Chase taught at Smith for almost 30 years and was eventually named the head of the English Department. Following her retirement in 1955, she served as professor emeritus at Smith until her death in 1973.

Mary Ellen Chase was a member of the Modern Language Association of America, the American Association of University Professors, Cosmopolitan Club (New York City, NY), P.E.N. Club and Phi Beta Kappa. She was awarded The Women’s National Book Association's Constance Lindsay Skinner Award in 1956. Chase was also the recipient of numerous honorary degrees from institutions such as the University of Maine, Bowdoin College, Smith College and Northeastern University.

From the guide to the Mary Ellen Chase Papers, 1936-1967, (University of Minnesota Libraries. University Archives [uarc])

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Subjects:

  • Bible--Introductions
  • Bible--Criticism, interpretation, etc
  • Bible. O.T. Prophets--Criticism, interpretation, etc
  • American literature--Women authors
  • Bible as literature
  • American literature--History and criticism--Sources
  • Authors, American
  • American literature--20th century

Occupations:

  • Women authors, American

Places:

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