Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Caroline Chase, 1811-1898

By Chelsea Lundquist-Wentz, independent historian

Caroline Chase was born in Washington, D.C. around 1811, to unknown parents. The first 30 years of her life are undocumented, but by the 1840 Census she is listed as a free black woman and head of a household with three young children.

For the next twenty years, Chase lived and worked in the northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C. In records, she is listed as living in the Blagden Alley area, where her family would have been in a cluster of black families living in a mostly white-owned area. Chase worked in mostly domestic capacities, listed in records as a washerwoman and seamstress. Chase's children lived with her; she had two sons, Andrew and Arthur, and her eldest child was a daughter named Elizabeth. By 1860, Chase had amassed a personal estate of $75 and her three children were working adults. Even so, Chase was the recipient of funds from the Freedman's Bureau Special Relief Commission, established in 1867 by Assistant Commissioner O.O. Howard to provide food, clothing and other essentials to poor black and white residents of Washington, D.C. Chase appears twice in these Commission registers, both times receiving $3 in cash for groceries and listed alongside neighbors receiving similar relief.

By the mid-1870s, Chase relocated from the northwest quadrant of the District to the southeastern Barry Farm subdivision, where she joined daughter Elizabeth, who had purchased a lot on the corner of Stanton and Elvans Avenues. Chase's plot of land was located on Elvans Avenue four lots down from her daughter's. Both Elizabeth and Caroline Chase were first wave settlers of Barry Farm, a planned settlement created by the Freedmen's Bureau to relieve a housing strain in the city. African Americans, including newly liberated people, were provided loans to purchase 1-acre lots, typically to be paid back in monthly $10 installments. The subdivision was known first as Barry Farm or Potomac City, though the residents moved to change the name to Hillsdale in 1874.

The engaged citizenry of Hillsdale was notable, their doings appearing often in Frederick Douglass's newspapers and the writings of Solomon G. Brown. Brown was Chase's neighbor across the street, the first African American Smithsonian employee and an influential community organizer. It was likely Brown who organized the April 1874 lecture by Augustus Straker before Hillsdale's Pioneer Lyceum; Straker spoke on the obligation of African American citizens to act in favor of women's suffrage. In 1877, Hillsdale's prominent black residents, including Chase and her daughter, petitioned Congress in favor of women's right to vote. Caroline and Elizabeth Chase were two of 15 black female citizens to sign their names on the document. Eighteen Black men also signed the petition. Frederick Douglass, Jr. and Rosetta Douglass Sprague and their spouses were the lead petition signers. Though the petitioners refer to themselves as colored citizens of Uniontown, a nearby white neighborhood, more than a third of them were first wave settlers of Barry Farm, including Solomon G. Brown, Ignatius and Julia Dorsey, Frederick Douglass, Jr. and the Chase women.

Caroline Chase and her daughter signed a second woman suffrage petition circulated by Frederick Douglass, Jr. and his wife Virginia Hewlett Douglass in 1880.There were other repeat signers of this second petition, including Solomon G. Brown and Ignatius and Julia Dorsey.

Caroline Chase spent the rest of her life in Hillsdale in her Elvans Avenue home. She died of heart failure on October 30, 1898 and was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery.


AMOS, ALCIONE M., and PATRICIA BROWN SAVAGE. “Frances Eliza Hall: Postbellum Teacher in Washington, D.C.” Washington History, vol. 29, no. 1, 2017, pp. 42–54.,

Hillsdale, District of Columbia. Page 3 of The Bee. (Washington, D.C.), 10 Nov. 1883. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Blagden Alley/Naylor Court Historic District National Register Application. 1990. Accessed online:

Death Certificate for Caroline Chase, 30 October 1898, Record No. 121690, District of Columbia Health Department

District of Columbia. Office of the Surveyor, et al. Map of the division of the north half of a tract of land called "St. Elisabeth," situated on the east side of the Anacostia River in the county of Washington, D.C.: surveyed into one acre lots for sale to freedmen. 1867. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

Frederick Douglass Jr. and Other Residents of the District of Columbia. "Petition for Woman Suffrage." Petitions and Memorials, 1813-1968. Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1789-2011, Record Group 233, National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

"Two Petitions of Citizens of the District of Columbia," 16 February 1880, SEN 46A-H11.2, Box 179.

History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, “Petition for Woman Suffrage,”

Hutchinson, Louise Daniel. List of First Settlers of Barry Farm/Hillsdale 1867-1871. 1981. History of Place research files, Anacostia Community Museum, Washington, D.C.

“Records of the Field Offices for the District of Columbia, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1870” (

Straker, D. Augustus. Citizenship, its rights and duties--woman suffrage; a lecture delivered by D. Augustus Straker, esq., at the Israel A.M.E. Church, and before the Pioneer Lyceum, at Hillsdale, Washington, D.C., April 13 & 14. Washington, New National Era Print, 1874. Pdf. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, African American Pamphlet Collection

"United States Census, 1840," database with images, FamilySearch( : 7 September 2017), Caroline Chase, Washington, Washington, District of Columbia, United States; citing p. 55, NARA microfilm publication M704, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 35; FHL microfilm 6,700.

"United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch( : 12 April 2016), Caroline Chase, Washington, ward 2, Washington, District of Columbia, United States; citing family 1047, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

"United States Census, 1860", database with images, FamilySearch( : 13 December 2017), Elizabeth Chase in entry for Caroline Chase, 1860.

"United States, Freedmen's Bureau Ration Records, 1865-1872," database with images, FamilySearch( : 17 March 2018), Caroline Chase, 1865-1872; citing Residence, District of Columbia, United States, NARA microfilm publications M1055. Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1861 - 1880, RG 105. (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1969-1980); roll 16; FHL microfilm 1,605,551.

"United States, Freedmen's Bureau, Records of the Assistant Commissioner, 1865-1872," images, FamilySearch ( : 23 March 2017), District of Columbia > Roll 16, Records relating to the relief of destitute freedmen, weekly reports of operations of the special relief commission, 1866-1868 > image 277 of 715; citing multiple NARA microfilm publications; Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1861 - 1880, RG 105; (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1969-1980).

Washington, District of Columbia, City Directory, 1875. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

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