Avis Chase: A Woman Whose Legacy Endures
The Avis Chase Women’s Association honors the memory of Avis Chase, whose life “spanned two widely separate identities” in Chatham, MA and Philadelphia, PA.
The best record we have of Avis Chase appears in “A Cape Cod Legacy” by Antionette Adams.
Described as “a prime example of New England reserve,” Avis Agusta Morgan Young was born on January 4, 1867 in Chatham, MA to Mary Agusta Young and Selucius Morton Young, a seaman who died 4 months after her birth.
Mary ‘Gusta owned and operated a Dry Goods store in what is now the Old Village in Chatham. She and Avis remained close their entire lives.
In 1889, at the age of 22, Avis married Silmon G. Chase, a local seaman and childhood friend. They came to Philadelphia when Silmon was hired by George D. Widener, son of capitalist and philanthropist Peter A.B. Widener, as Captain of his yachts, most probably The Eleanor, and later The Josephine. Perhaps under George’s guidance, Captain Chase became a successful businessman and investor. Tragically, G. Widener died on the Titanic in 1912. Captain Chase died 3 years later, having acquired great wealth.
For many years Avis divided her time between Philadelphia and Chatham, summering in the house in Chatham now known as Porches.
Her description as beautiful, tall, and stately is reflected in her portrait that hangs in the living room of Porches. Her beauty was also displayed in her “public-spirited” demeanor the effects of which is still being felt today.
On the death of her husband, she bequeathed $5,000 (over $140,000 in 2022 dollars) to Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia for a free bed, in perpetuity. Later in her husband’s memory, she would bequeath 31/2 acres of land for a public park in Chatham and a $25,000 fund (over $250,00 in today’s dollars) for maintenance costs. She is also remembered on a plaque of influential contributors to Chatham’s Eldridge Library.
Avis died on October 19, 1953. Perhaps influenced by the women who frequented the Y.W.C.A that was then located near her Philadelphia home, her will provided for a program of rest and recreation for working women who were members of the Philadelphia Y.W.C.A. Her three Chatham properties, henceforth to be known as Chase Cottages, would be the site of the program.
It is her spirit of public giving that guides the Avis Chase Women’s Association today.