Miss Chases’ Civic Involvement
Even though she was born to a life of privilege, Edith Chase did not lose touch with the daily realities of life for others. She strived to make things better for others and involved herself in civic projects and organizations to enhance the quality of life for those in the community where she lived.
She was a religious person, and one of the first responsibilities she accepted was teaching Sunday school at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Waterbury. She taught one or two classes every Sunday during the school year for over 20 years.
In addition, Miss Edith participated in civic organizations such as the League of Women Voters, Red Cross, Community Chest, Junior League, YWCA, Visiting Nurses, Children’s Health, Mental Hygiene, and birth control. She served on the boards of Waterbury Hospital, The Mattatuck Museum, Riverside Cemetery, the H. S. Chase Foundation and the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. From a business standpoint, she also served on the board of the Waterbury National Bank until it was acquired by Bridgeport Trust Company.
During World War Two, Miss Edith did not just sit back. She joined the Motor Board, Civilian Defense, and the Rationing Board. She served in bond drives, the warming hut in Waterbury, and volunteered at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington during the summer months while at Topsmead.
There were three areas where she undertook a much greater involvement. The first was the Chase Dispensary. This was started by her father and it provided medical care for poor people in Waterbury. She funded its activities and was involved in many decisions regarding its operation. The second was in 1921, when the Chase Family funded the renovation of Library Park in Waterbury. Miss Edith represented the family and was involved with the Olmstead brothers for landscaping and the well-known architect Cass Gilbert regarding design details. The third thing was also that same year, when Miss Edith joined with a group of local civic minded individuals to begin discussing the possibility of establishing a foundation in Waterbury which would contribute funds to local worthwhile projects. As a result, in 1923, the Waterbury Foundation was established, which has evolved into the current Connecticut Community Foundation.
By 1962, the Chase Brass and Copper Co. was a division of Kennecott Copper and Brass Company. Kennecott decided to sell the Chase office building on Grand St. in Waterbury which Miss Edith’s father had hired Cass Gilbert to design. Miss Edith brought together a group of local leaders who formed a corporation to ensure the building would be sold to a responsible party. Finally in 1966, the City of Waterbury purchased the building as an annex to its city hall.
These are only some examples that show how Edith Chase was a woman committed to her community, and deeply engaged in trying to help others to make society a bit better.
These conversations were conducted between Bob Orintas and Jenny Riggs.