Mary “Agnes” Chase (1869-1963) was a self-taught botanist and talented science illustrator. In 1903 she was hired as plant illustrator for the USDA Bureau of Plant Industry in Washington, D.C. In 1904. She collaborated with Albert Spear Hitchcock, a top scientist in agrostolgy (the study of grasses). Chase collected grasses from all over the United States between 1905-1912.
She was also a suffragist who picketed the White House as part of the Silent Sentinels. She risked her career at the USDA by protesting but she did it anyway. She took part in the “Watchfire Demonstrations” which burned speeches made by President Wilson wherein he spoke of “liberty” and “freedom” yet did not support women voting. She was arrested and jailed several times. She went on hunger strikes and was force fed.
Her book “First Book of Grasses”, which explained and illustrated basic grass structures, was published in 1922. She made trips to Brazil in 1913, 1924, and 1929-30 for grass specimens and encouraged Latin American students to study science. She continued to collect, identify, and illustrate grasses from all over the world for the rest of her life. In 1958, at age 89, she became an Honorary Fellow of the Smithsonian Institution and she received an honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Illinois.