Guide to the Mary Ellen Chase Papers

Includes writings by and about Mary Ellen Chase.

Creator: Chase, Mary Ellen, 1887-1973
Title: Mary Ellen Chase Papers
Dates: 1918-1971 (Bulk, 1924-1942)
Quantity: 1.0 box

Language: English
Repository: Archives and Special Collections, St. Catherine University Library

About Mary Ellen Chase

Mary Ellen Chase (b. 24 Feb 1887, Blue Hill, ME; d. 31 Jul 1973, Northampton, MA) was a noted literature and composition teacher, writer, and lecturer. After completing a bachelor’s degree at the University of Maine (1909) and teaching for several years in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Montana, she came to Minnesota in the fall of 1917, enrolling as a master’s student at the state university in Minneapolis. Finishing her degree the following spring, Chase decided to pursue a doctorate, dividing her time between lecturing and graduate study. Through one of her classes, a seminar on the eighteenth-century novel, Chase met another graduate student, Sister Lioba O’Brien, CSJ, an instructor of English at the College of St. Catherine. A friendship developed, and Chase was soon invited to lecture on her “walking trip through England, covering the same territory once traversed by Hazlitt, Wordsworth, and Coleridge” (Ariston Summer 1922). According to Chase, she was: “delighted when in the autumn of 1923 Sister Antonia [McHugh, the President of the College of St. Catherine] asked me to join her staff as teacher of advanced composition for three hours weekly. I held this post for three years, and I have never enjoyed teaching more in any place” (A Goodly Fellowship 235).

Leaving Minnesota for Smith College in Northampton, MA in 1926, Chase continued her close relationship with the sisters at St. Catherine’s through frequent letters and visits, further expressing her gratitude and appreciation for the College in: several “sketches […] of St. Catherine’s, my Paradise” (letter dated 21 Oct 1929) included in The Golden Asse and Other Essays (1929); an acknowledgement of “the members of the English staff [ . . . ], who so gladly shared experiences in teaching and lent helpful suggestions” for Constructive Theme Writing for College Freshman (1929); and devoting an entire chapter of her experiences of St. Catherine’s in her memoir, A Goodly Fellowship (1939). She returned in the fall of 1942 for convocation and continued to keep abreast of the activities at St. Kate’s, frequently commenting on submissions to the college’s literary magazine Ariston or publications by faculty members.

She was included in the “The College of St. Catherine Centennial 100,” which was created to celebrate the women and men who shaped St. Kate’s during its first 100 years — 1905-2005. The online book features the 100 individuals who were considered to have the most significant impact on the development and success of St. Catherine.

Scope and Content

The Mary Ellen Chase Collection consists of letters, photographs, and typescripts and publications both by and about Chase. The bulk of the letters date from the early 1920’s through the 1930’s and were received by various Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet, most notably Sister Ste. Helene Guthrie and Mother Antonia McHugh. Full of information about her publications and lecture tours, the “on-the-road” expectations of Chase provide an interesting contrast to her chapter on lecturing in The Goodly Fellowship (1929). The typescripts and publications generally come from her earlier works, including her doctoral dissertation, but also includes “Whitby 106” (1934), the title referencing a classroom known as the “Miss Chase Room,” written by Sister Antonine O’Brien at the request of the editors of To Dragma, the journal of the women’s fraternity Alpha Omnicron Pi. Other publications about Chase’s visits and correspondence can also be found in the college publications Ariston, a literary journal, and La Concha, the year-book, which are available in the online Digital Collections.


The collection is organized into four series.

Series 1 — Correspondence
Series 2 — Typescripts and Publications
Series 3 — Publications about Chase
Series 4 — Photographs


Publication Information

Archives and Special Collections
2004 Randolph Ave
St. Paul, MN, 55105

See also, the files related to the Alexandrine Medal.

Mary Ellen Chase's correspondence with Mathilde Elliott can be found at the University of Minnesota Archives and Special Collections, Richard Maurice Elliott Papers Collection (Collection #964, Box 8)

Detailed Description


1924-1971 (Bulk, 1924-1942)
3.0 folders

Scope and Content

The bulk of the collection are letters from Chase, but there are some corresponding letters from Mother Antonia, Sister Mary William Brady and Sister Antonine O’Brien, which are kept with the correspondence "From Chase to others."

From Chase

2.0 folders

To Sister Ste. Helene Guthrie : 1924-1938 : 1.0 folders

To others : 1925-1968 : 1.0 folders

About Chase

1.0 folders

Scope and Content

These letters vary greatly by topic, ranging from responses to invitations to an inquiry to spend a summer at St. Catherine's as inspired by Chase's works. Also included is a visit by Sister Mary Alice to Northampton to present the award given to Chase in 1968 and a letter from Chase's sister, Virginia Chase Perkins.

Typescripts and Publications

3.0 folders

Scope and Content

Ph.D. Thesis : 1922 : 1.0 folders

Mary Christmas : 1926 : 1.0 folders

A Return to Constancy : 1918 : 1.0 folders

The Golden Asse and Other Essays : 1929 : 1.0 books

Publications about Chase

1.0 folders

Scope and Content

Includes "Whitby 106," about the "Miss Chase Room," by Sister Antonine O'Brien and an audio cassette of an interview with her about Chase, recorded 31 Oct 1978.


1.0 folders