Edna Woolman Chase

Biography of Edna Woolman Chase

Edna Woolman Chase (1877–1957) was editor in chief of Vogue magazine from 1914-1952. During her years at Vogue, Chase made many contributions to the magazine. She saw Vogue through prosperous times and hard times of war and losing colleagues. Chase was born and raised in Asbury Park, New Jersey, but moved to New York as a young woman. This is where Chase's career began.

Rather than having a real desire or training to work with fashion, Edna starting working at Vogue simply by chance. While living in New York, Chase struggled to find a job. After searching, her friend mentioned there was a position open at Vogue. The job was not exactly the jet-set fashion job that might come to mind when you hear "Vogue". However, her first job at Vogue was working in the mail room. Though this was a very entry-level job, Chase quickly began her move to the top. To move up quickly she out-did everyone else in the mail room so she would advance. Her hard work wasn’t just to make more money. Chase truly enjoyed her job. Even when she was just working in the mail room she loved working there. She was always excited and ready to go in the morning and never wanted to leave when work was over. She had a great interest in Vogue as a whole. Mr. Turner, the editor at the time, saw how much effort she put in and would ask for her opinions on layouts and things of that nature. Chase's determination and hard work is really what got her to the top of the fashion magazine. Soon Turner was asking Chase to do entire layouts on her own.

In the midst of a the great collaboration between Turner and Chase, Mr. Turner had died. The magazine was in danger of closing, and Chase took it upon herself to make sure Vogue was kept alive. Chase went on the road to persuade people to keep reading the magazine. Shortly after Turner's death, Condé Nast took over Vogue in 1909. He immediately saw how driven and talented Chase was and brought her up in the Vogue chain. Edna became managing editor in 1911 which gave her complete control. And by 1914 she was named editor in chief.
One major contribution to fashion Chase made the same year she was named editor in chief, was putting on the first fashion show. As a result of World War I, the clothing makers closed their rooms in Paris. Since most of the clothes featured in Vogue were from Paris, Edna decided to take matters into her own hands. She called dressmakers in New York and had them make clothing to be featured in a show. This idea was the beginning of something big. Other manufacturers started making clothes in the United States and selling them at moderate prices.

Another major contribution she made to fashion was the Fashion Group International. In 1928 Edna gathered a group of 17 women together for lunch. All 17 women had things in common including high status in the fashion world. The Fashion Group International was formed on that day but didn’t officially become an organization until 1930. Their goal was to find a way to express American fashion to the public and have an awareness of it. And to give light to women's business roles in fashion. The Fashion Group International is still in business today.

Chase retired as editor in chief of Vogue in 1952. She then took on chairmanship of the editorial board. She wrote her autobiography, Always in Vogue in 1954 with her daughter Ilka. She died only a few years later in 1957, at the age of 80, of a heart attack.

Chase transformed Vogue from a small fashion newspaper to the huge success it still is today. She pulled Vogue through wars and hard times with a positive attitude and confidence the magazine would succeed. She won multiple awards for her work including the medal of Legion of Honor and was named "Key Woman of the Year" by the Federation of Jewish Philanthropists among other awards she received throughout her editorship.

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