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Chase, Edna Woolman (1877–1957)

Chase, Edna Woolman (1877–1957)

American editor of Vogue magazine. Born on March 14, 1877, in Asbury Park, New Jersey; died of a heart attack on March 20, 1957, in Sarasota, Florida; daughter of Franklyn Alloway and Laura (Woolman) Alloway; married Francis Dane Chase, in 1904 (divorced); married Richard T. Newton (an English automotive engineer and inventor), in 1921 (died 1950); children: (first marriage) Ilka Chase (1905–1978). Editor of Vogue magazine (1914–52).

America's "high priestess of fashion" for most of the first half of the 20th century, Edna Woolman Chase was born in 1877 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. After her parents divorced, she was raised in the country by her Quaker grandparents but maintained a relationship with her mother, who lived in New York City with a second husband and visited often. As a teenager, Edna moved in with her mother in New York, where, through newspapers, she voraciously tracked every detail of the lives of high-society debutantes.

In 1895, Vogue was a small but refined weekly society magazine, and Edna was 18 and in need of Christmas money. A friend who worked at the magazine got her a temporary job there addressing envelopes. A diligent and eager worker, Edna quickly grasped the mechanisms of the publishing business as well as Vogue's editorial approach. She was soon noticed by the magazine's founder and publisher, Arthur Baldwin Turnure, who came to depend on her bright mind and conscientious work ethic. In 1904, she married Francis Chase and they had a daughter, Ilka, in 1905. Francis had trouble supporting his family, and eventually Edna Chase divorced him; she would marry once more in 1921.

After Turnure died in 1906, Chase developed a bond with her new boss, Condé Nast, and continued accepting ever-greater responsibilities from the magazine's editor, Marie Harrison . Chase also began displaying a keen instinct for delighting and influencing Vogue readers. In 1914, she easily slid into the editor's chair when Harrison retired. While Nast expanded the Vogue empire by acquiring and establishing international editions, Chase elevated its reputation and riches with her inventive ideas and hustle.

In 1929, Chase became editor-in-chief of all Vogue editions and controlled virtually every aspect of the magazine. A perfectionist, she brought in only the most talented artists and editors to help Vogue achieve its goal of being the high-society authority on matters of style and elegance. She balanced all the demands of running a large, influential fashion publication: artistic, financial, topical, and even political. She was fiercely loyal to the magazine and never apologized for its openly snobbish, and to some, frivolous nature. During her tenure, her pronouncements on fashion were a powerful force in the fashion industry worldwide.

In 1952, at 75, Chase retired from active editorship, and two years later co-wrote her autobiography, Always in Vogue, with her actress daughter Ilka. Edna Chase was always proud of having made Vogue a training ground that helped young women launch successful careers in a time when their professional options were limited. She died of a heart attack while on vacation in Florida in 1957.


"Chase, Edna Woolman," in Current Biography 1940. Edited by Maxine Block. NY: H.W. Wilson, p. 160.

suggested reading:

Chase, Edna Woolman, and Ilka Chase. Always in Vogue. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1954.

Jacquie Maurice , Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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