Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Ella May (Mrs. George M.) Chase, 1875-1963
By: Agnelli Bruno, Lanise Paige and Avia Yossefi, SUNY College at Old Westbury, with support from Christa DeVirgilio, reference librarian. Faculty sponsor, Prof. Carol Quirke.
Chairman, Maine, Committee of Arrangements (1920); Recording Secretary, Maine, Woman's Suffrage Association
Mrs. George M. Chase was born Ella May (née Miller) Chase on August 29, 1875, in Wichita, Kansas to Ellen J. (née Sherman) Miller and Albert L. Miller, according to the Bates College "General Catalog." Ella May Miller graduated from Fairmont College in 1899 and her intended occupation was teaching. A year later, she became the principal of Parker College in Winnebago City, Minnesota, where she worked until 1901. Her college education indicates an affluent background that allowed her this opportunity. That same year she moved East, and the following year, in 1900, Miller graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Her future husband, George Millett Chase also graduated from Bates College. He was born April 17, 1873 in Lewiston, Maine and died November 14, 1938 in Lewiston. He became a professor of Greek and Latin studies (1930 Census); his father, George C. Chase, was a professor of English who served as Bates College's second president. On August 14, 1901, she married Chase in her home state. They resided at 20 Frye Street, next door to their in-laws. After their marriage she served as the principal of Alfred High School located in Maine, though the U.S. Census indicates she no longer worked after having children. The Chases had two daughters: Helen Sherman Chase (1903 - 1968) and Elizabeth M. Chase (1908 - 1966). Elizabeth was a poet. Ella May Chase died at the age of 88 on October 7th, 1963, in Lewiston, Maine.
Chase was active in women's issues and in the community. In 1900 she was elected one of the Directors of the Lewiston and Auburn Literary Union, one of Maine's primary women's organizations. The Union was established to advance members and community intellectually, culturally and educationally. The goal was making the 20th century woman more prominent outside the home and in the community. Chase was also involved in the Auburn and Lewiston Equal Suffrage Campaign, a college-based suffrage organization. She also participated in suffrage organizations such as the Maine State Suffrage Campaign Committee (MSSCC) along with her father-in-law. Chase was elected to be the Recording Secretary in the 37th Convention of the Maine's Woman's Suffrage Association, in 1917, according to The Woman Citizen. She was also the recording secretary of Maine Federation of Women's Clubs. Chase's role as the recording secretary was to keep meetings organized, make sure they stayed within their time limit, and maintain organizational records such as voting and petitioning etc. After the vote was won Chase became the Chairman of the Committee of Arrangements for the School for Citizenship, held at Bates College in August of 1920, according to Ida Harper's The History of Woman Suffrage. Efforts such as these were organized once the franchise was achieved to support women in making the vote be meaningful. Chase also chaired the Americanization Committee of the Maine Federation of Women's Clubs. Both her father-in-law, George C. Chase and husband, George M. Chase shared Chase's support of equal suffrage; her father-in-law served on the state suffrage campaign board, according to the Woman Citizen.
Chase engaged in other forms of community work, speaking on "The Value of the Association to College Girls" with seniors at the Y.W.C.A reception honoring the girls of the class of 1911. In 1916, she was listed as being President of Hayes Home for Young Women in Lewiston, a nonprofit organization that provided a reading room, library, and Christian home for young working women. Well into her seventies she remained active in the Maine Federation of Women's Clubs, offering a report to the statewide federation on its Education Loan Fund, and also in planning events for the Women's Literary Union, according to the Portland Press Herald in 1949.
The Chases had an active social life, often traveled abroad to Norway, where they had a second home. They also often boarded instructors at their home, as indicated in the 1910 and 1940 U.S. Censuses.
"Auburn Art Club," Portland Press Herald, December 11, 1949, 75.
Bates Student, v. 40, 1911, 54.
Blackwell, Alice Stone, "Applicable to Maine Women," The Woman Citizen September 1, 1917).
Blackwell, Alice Stone, "Suffrage," The Woman Citizen (October 6, 1917), 356.
"Elaborate Program Planned by State Federation of Women's Clubs," Portland Press Herald, 22 May 1949, 3.
Harper, Ida Husted. The History of Woman Suffrage, v 6, National American Women's Suffrage Association, 1922, 247.
"Report of the President," Bates College, 1903-1904.
Report of the State Board of Charities and Corrections, vol. 2 "Hayes Home for Young Women," Lewiston, Maine, 1916, 186-7.
Commerce Department, U.S. Census, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, available on Ancestry.com.
U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1937-2007, Ancestry.com database.
"Women's Clubs in Maine," Official Register and Directory of Women's Clubs in the United States, v. 23, 1921: 25.