Mary Ellen Chase papers, 1902-1973
Collection Scope and Content
This collection consists primarily of manuscript material highlighting Chase’s writing process and publications. It focuses on three of the author’s novels; early unpublished essays (1904-1909); extensive correspondence with family members, publishers, professors, statespersons, and other authors; and includes a small collection of photographs, both formal portraits and informal snapshots. The collection also holds exceptional personal scrapbooks created by the author, each one devoted to a particular novel. The scrapbooks include fan mail, reviews and criticisms, newspaper clippings, and speaking engagements.
Mary Ellen Chase was born February 24, 1887 in Blue Hill, Maine. When she was eleven, her father, Edward Chase, took her to hear a reading from Captain January by author Laura Richards. A year later, Chase saw Richards read again in South Berwick. At that meeting, Laura Richards asked Mary Ellen Chase what she wanted to be when she grew up. “I want to write books as you do,” Chase answered. In 1909, after graduating from the University of Maine, Chase went to the Midwest to teach, where she contracted tuberculosis. Upon the advice of a doctor, Chase moved to Montana to recover. There she wrote her first successful novel, The Girl from the Big Horn Country.
In 1917, Mary Ellen Chase enrolled in graduate school at the University of Minnesota, where she taught for eight years before moving on to become an English professor at Smith College. There Chase met student Anne Morrow and the two corresponded after Morrow’s graduation and her subsequent marriage to Charles Lindbergh. Chase also encouraged another aspiring writer and student, Sylvia Plath. While at Smith, Chase met fellow professor Eleanor Shipley Duckett, who would become her partner of over forty years. It was during her time at Smith that Chase wrote three Maine novels that would solidify her popularity: Mary Peters, Silas Crockett, and Windswept. With the success of Windswept, Chase was able to travel the world with Duckett, including a sail to England aboard the Queen Elizabeth. In 1955, Chase retired from Smith and continued to write. Her writings include novels, biblical commentary, books about writing and literature, and other non-fiction works, many with a focus on Maine. Chase died in 1973 in Northampton, Massachusetts.