Elizabeth Buffum Chace, the first woman to be memorialized with a statue in the Rhode Island State House, was an antislavery activist and a pioneering advocate for women’s suffrage. The daughter of abolitionist leader Arnold Buffum, she married fellow Quaker Samuel Chace, a Fall River textile manufacturer. The Chaces had ten children; tragically the oldest five died of ilnesses before the second five were born.
Chace first became publicly active in the cause of abolition in 1835 when she and two sisters helped to organize the Fall River Female Anti-Slavery Society, which was allied with the radical wing of the antislavery movement led by William Lloyd Garrison. After moving to the Valley Falls section of Cumberland in 1840, Chace continued her reform efforts. She organized antislavery meetings and brought illustrious abolitionists to address them including Garrison, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Abbey Kelley, and Wendell Phillips. She also made her home a station on the Underground Railroad. She detailed these activities in an 1891 book entitled Antislavery Reminiscences.
After the Civil War ended slavery, Chace joined with Paulina Wright Davis to found the Rhode Island Women’s Suffrage Association in 1868. Chace used her position as president of this organization to address the needs of Rhode Island’s disadvantaged women and children. She led the successful drive for the creation of the state Home and School for Dependent Children. In her later years, Chace became a temperance advocate and urged reforms to benefit factory workers, prisoners, and other deprived groups. She was notable for her willingness to take unpopular stands on controversial issues and to fight unceasingly for the causes in which she believed.
A full, though dated, account of Chace’s public life, which spanned over sixty years, is Elizabeth Buffum Chace, 1806-1899: Her Life and Letters (2 volumes, 1914) written by her daughter Lillie Buffum Chace Wyman and her grandson Arthur Crawford Wyman.