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Mary Ellen Chase literary manuscripts

 Collection
Identifier: MRBC-MS-00033

Scope and Contents

The Mary Ellen Chase Literary Manuscripts consist of 3 linear feet of material, dating from 1937 to 1968. The bulk of the collection consists of manuscripts of her novels, memoirs, biblical studies, articles, and book reviews, as well as a few miscellaneous personal items. The majority of the collection came to the Rare Book Room directly from Chase over a period of time, including items that were part of her estate. The manuscript of Dawn in Lyonnesse was given to the collection by Raymond P. Putman in memory of Natalie Starr Putman (Smith College Class of 1933). There are additional items that were donated by Eleanor Duckett and Esther C. Dunn. The letters of Mary Ellen Chase to Grace Cooper were given to the Library by Ann Gilbert McDonald.

The majority of Chase's literary manuscripts are located in other repositories. See the section entitled "Related Material" for assistance in finding other literary manuscripts. The Smith College Archives has files related to Chase's teaching career in the English Department of Smith College.

Dates of Materials

  • 1937-1968

Creator

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscripts are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Mortimer Rare Book Room without any additional restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

The Mary Ellen Chase Literary Manuscripts are the physical property of the Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors of the works or their legal representatives.

Biographical / Historical

(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.

Extent

7 boxes (3 linear feet)

Overview

The bulk of the collection consists of manuscripts of novels, children's books, memoirs, biblical studies, articles, and book reviews.

Arrangement

This collection is organized into four series:
  1. I. PERSONAL PAPERS (1947-1968)
  2. II. BOOKS (1937-1968)
  3. III. ARTICLES AND OTHER WRITINGS (1933-1966)
  4. IV. BOOK REVIEWS BY MARY ELLEN CHASE (1954-1966)
  5. V. OVERSIZE

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The majority of the collection came to the Rare Book Room directly from Chase over a period of time, including items that were part of her estate. The manuscript of Dawn in Lyonnesse was given to the collection by Raymond P. Putman in memory of Natalie Starr Putman (Smith College Class of 1933). There are additional items that were donated by Eleanor Duckett and Esther C. Dunn. The letters of Mary Ellen Chase to Grace Cooper were given to the Library by Ann Gilbert McDonald.

Related Material

Researchers should also view:

In Georgetown University Libraries. Special Collections. The Joseph G. E. Hopkins Papers contains letters from MEC.

In Indiana University. Lilly Library. Sylvia Plath Manuscripts, 1932-1977 contains letters from MEC.

In The Massachusetts Historical Society. Ellery Sedgwick Papers, 1898-1969 contains letters from MEC.

In Rockefeller Archive Center. Rockefeller Family Archives. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Papers, 1858-1957 contains correspondence between John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and MEC in regards to Chase's biography of Abby.

In Smith College Archives. RG 42 Mary Ellen Chase Papers, 1893-1995.

In Smith College Libraries. Mortimer Rare Book Room. MS 25 Hampshire Bookshop records, 1916-1971. (Contains letters from Mary Ellen Chase to Marion Dodd and others, as well as autograph manuscripts and typescripts.)

In the University of Minnesota Libraries. Manuscripts Division. Mary Ellen Chase Manuscript 01. Contains a partial manuscript of The Prophets for the Common Reader, plus two letters.

In the University of New England Libraries, Maine Women Writers Collection

In the Folger Library, University of Maine, Orono, Maine
Title
Mary Ellen Chase literary manuscripts
Subtitle
Finding Aid
Author
Melvin Carlson, Jr.
Date
2006
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (https://github.com/harvard-library/archivesspace-preprocessor)

Repository Details

Part of the Mortimer Rare Book Collection Repository

Contact:
Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063