Guest Curated by Brett Day Windham
A descendant of her city’s founder (Joseph Jenckes Jr., 1628-1717) entrepreneur and innovator Martha Jenkes Chase (12 February 1851 – 25 August 1925) lived her entire life in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The wife and daughter of doctors, she became deeply involved in social reform movements of the Progressive Era, using her privileged position to improve the lives of others. Progressive focus on child development, combined with her familial access to the latest advances in medical care, inspired her to make a soft-bodied doll with a molded face that was neither fragile nor difficult to clean.
Finding success, Mrs. Chase expanded. She employed local women, creating a cottage industry in her garage, fondly known as “The Doll House.” Her social position soon led to an invitation from Connecticut’s Hartford Nursing Hospital to create a training doll for student nurses. The very first hospital doll, affectionately named “Mrs. Chase,” changed medical care forever. Mrs. Chase went on to expand her universe to include character dolls based on beloved books and created multiple-sized play, sanitary, and hospital dolls with light-to-dark complexions. Her children carried on her company after her death, which stayed in operation through the 1970s. We are thrilled to celebrate this innovator and introduce her to a wider audience.