Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Vida Chase Webb, 1872-1962
By Sara Anoli and Brendan Devlin, Undergraduates, Saint Anselm College
Vida Chase is believed to have been born between 1872-1874; however, a passenger record from 1912 lists her birth date as May 20, 1872. While many of the details of her childhood are difficult to specify, records indicate she was the first child of William and Calphamia Chase. Just 16 months after the birth of Vida, the couple welcomed their second child, Walter. William and Calphamia raised their two children in Brooklyn, New York. Calphamia was the keeper of the house, and William worked as a clock manufacturer. Strongly motivated by her mother's presence at their house, Vida learned to read and write at a very young age, and went on to complete high school. On October 31, 1899, at the age of 27, Vida Chase married Benjamin Stanley Webb. Benjamin was the president of a manufacturing company named Electrical Works. They married in New Jersey but did not stay for long, as in 1900 Vida and Benjamin moved to Lisbon, New Hampshire. While Benjamin worked, Vida stayed home, while simultaneously developing a reputation as a national suffragist through public speaking and active participation in the local and national suffrage movement. Benjamin and Vida had two children, Martha in 1903, and David in 1905. From 1912-1935, passenger records show that Vida and Benjamin traveled to England, Costa Rica, and Bermuda.
In June of 1917, Vida Chase Webb appeared at the Windsor County Convention for Equal Suffrage in Springfield, Vermont. She spoke briefly at the convention and even appeared in an advertisement where she was described as a speaker with a “national reputation.” Arguably Vida's biggest achievement was her direct contribution at a special session called by the governor of New Hampshire, John Bartlett, in early September of 1919. The United States Congress had just passed the 19th amendment to the Constitution months before, yet New Hampshire still had to vote to pass it. Within the special session, Vida was one of four to speak in favor of passing the amendment for women's suffrage. Partly due to her contributions, New Hampshire passed the amendment shortly thereafter. She is mentioned in the famous, History of Woman Suffrage which solidifies her reputation as a nationally recognized suffragist.
In the March 29, 1919 edition of The Woman's Journal, Webb is the sole representative of the New Hampshire Equal Suffrage Association at the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention in Saint Louis, Missouri. She is described as a “member of the Advisory Council and Finance Chairman” within the New Hampshire Equal Suffrage Association, as well.
Even after the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, Vida Chase Webb continued advocating for the advancement of women's rights. This was specifically highlighted by her letter to the editor of the magazine The Bookman in June of 1926. Within it, Vida advocates for the use of a weekly periodical called The Woman Citizen. The Woman Citizen was an influential women's publication founded in 1917 that originally advocated for women's suffrage, but eventually shifted its focus to a wider range of women's movements. In Vida Chase Webb's message to the editor, she explicitly describes how she, “feel[s] you have overlooked ‘The Woman Citizen.' My husband who reads it much more carefully than I do, assures me that it presents the political news with less bias than any paper he knows of.” By supporting the use of The Woman Citizen, Vida is portraying the diversity of her intentions and motivations for the advancement of women. She does not solely focus on women's suffrage and continues her efforts far beyond the triumph in 1920.
Vida Chase Webb died in 1962 at the age of 90, having lived 22 years without her husband Benjamin who passed in 1940. She is buried alongside Benjamin in Lisbon, Grafton County, New Hampshire.
Information regarding Vida Chase Webb's personal life and death can be found on ancestry.com under “Dumdey-Bartelsen Family Tree” https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/82734389/person/48466232851/story?_phsrc=ner43&_phstart=successSource.
Information regarding Vida Chase Webb's participation in the Windsor County Convention for Equal Suffrage in Springfield, Vermont can be found on the advertisement for the Winsor County Convention for Equal Suffrage or at https://books.google.com/books?id=vulntgEACAAJ&dq=%22vida+chase+webb%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjLgJ7vn4zhAhXOhOAKHU8EA4oQ6AEIYjAJ. Mention of Webb's contributions at the special council meeting called by the New Hampshire Governor John Bartlett can be found on page 409 of The History of Woman Suffrage, published in 1922 [LINK]. A more detailed record of Webb's contribution to the meeting can be found on page 431 of the September 27, 1919 edition of The Woman Citizen or at https://books.google.com/books?id=qtYRAQAAMAAJ&pg=PT356&dq=Vida+Chase+Webb&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjyq66Jp9_gAhWMUt8KHRGeDyAQ6AEIVDAH#v=onepage&q=Vida%20Chase%20Webb&f=false.
Evidence of Webb's attendance at the National American Woman Suffrage Association meeting in Saint Louis, Missouri in March 1919, as well as information regarding her role in the New Hampshire Equal Suffrage Association can be found on pages 922-23 of Vol. III, Issue 44 of The Woman's Journal published March 29, 1919.
The sample of Webb's writing can be found published in a ‘Letter to the Editor' on page 502 of the June 1926 edition of The Bookman, or at http://www.unz.com/print/Bookman-1926jun-00502/, as well as on page 51 of the May 1927 edition of The Woman's Journal published out of Boston. Background information about The Woman Citizen can be found at Encyclopædia Britannica, or at https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Woman-Citizen.