Agnes Chase Appointed Assistant in Systematic Agrostology


Creator: Hitchcock, A. S (Albert Spear) 1865-1935


Date: 1907


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  • [Mary] Agnes Chase (1869-1963) is appointed Assistant in Systematic Agrostology, Bureau of Plant Industry, United States Department of Agriculture, stationed at the Smithsonian Castle working with the U.S. National Herbarium. She is also a honorary custodian of the grass collection for the Smithsonian's National Museum. She advances to Assistant Botanist in 1923, Associate Botanist in 1925 and Senior Botanist in 1936. She becomes the world's expert on grasses which she said are "what holds the earth together." She retired from the USDA in 1939, but continued as Honorary Custodian at the National Museum until her death in 1963.
  • Chase was one of a very small number of professional women employees at the Smithsonian until the second half of the 20th century. Chase was also a member of the radical Women's Party advocating suffrage in the 1910s. Her mentor, Albert Spear Hitchcock, refused to fire her for "conduct unbecoming a government employee." Other social activism included the Socialist Party, National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples, and Women's Christian Temperance Union.


  • Chase, Agnes 1869-1963
  • Hitchcock, A. S (Albert Spear) 1865-1935
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)
  • United States National Museum
  • United States Dept. of Agriculture Bureau of Plant Industry
  • United States Dept. of Agriculture
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.) Dept. of Botany
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • United States National Herbarium
  • United States National Museum Dept. of Botany


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Although Chase was paid by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, her work station was in the U.S. National Herbarium in the Smithsonian Castle caring for the economically important grasses in the national collections.
  • The photograph of Chase is from Smithsonian Archives negative # SIA-MAH-45234.
  • Henson, Pamela M. "'What holds the earth together': Agnes Chase and American agrostology." Journal of the History of Biology. 36 (3)(2003): 437-460. doi:10.1023/b:hist.0000004568.11609.2d

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Women
  • Suffrage
  • Personnel management
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Agrostology
  • Employees
  • Museums
  • Grasses
  • Women Scientists
  • History
  • Museum curators
  • Women--Employees
  • Women--History
  • Smithsonian Institution--Employees
  • Women--Suffrage

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