Writer Elaborates on Moral Capital, Mary N. Chase, and Andover

Previous Beacon articles described Mary N. Chase

By Kent Hackmann

I frame my remarks below in the context of an opinion piece by David Brooks, the conservative writer for The New York Times. Writing in 2016, he defined moral capital as the “shared habits, norms, institutions and values that make common life possible.” Two weeks ago, when I came across Brooks’s essay, I realized that it gave me a fresh appreciation for Chase’s and the Town’s moral values.

In recent issues of The Beacon, I described Mary Chase as a “distinguished Andover resident.”  She lived here between 1899 and 1948 and had two major roles. The first was president of the New Hampshire Suffrage Association, 1902-1912; the second was her leadership in the New Hampshire Peace Society, 1915-1940. 

Chase’s values are clear in her speeches for woman suffrage. She campaigned “to secure equality and true liberty for one-half of the human race.” In a speech in 1903 she framed her “earnest plea for enfranchisement of women, the natural guardians and protectors of the home” on the principle that, it “will strengthen their minds and broaden their intellects and render them more fit for its government. . . . and until women join with men in exercising the sacred right of the franchise we cannot hope for the dawn of the kingdom of God on the earth.” Two years later, at the 1905 suffrage convention in Portland, Oregon, she spoke eloquently and convincingly that a “republic based on equal rights for all is not the dream of a fanatic but the only sane form of government.” The suffrage campaign culminated in the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.  The League of Women Voters carries on the work today.

From 1915 onward, Chase was a pioneer in promoting world peace through person-to-person contacts between secondary school and college students in New Hampshire and like-minded students in many countries, from Australia and New Zealand to the Netherlands and Switzerland. She fervently believed that, by cultivating good will and raising an awareness of the causes of war, the peace movement would counter belligerence and hostility. In 1945, the founding of the United Nations embodied on a grand scale Chase’s hope for international peace and cooperation among nations.

I suggest that Chase thrived in her projects because Andover in the first half of the 20th century had an abundance of moral capital. In countless ways, she had the support of friends in the town and at Proctor Academy. They appreciated her as a person who quietly commanded respect. As the Vermont Phoenix reported in 1905, she “has rare ability and holds closest attention by her convincing logic and graceful, womanly manners.” I infer from the evidence that I cite in my essay that civility, politeness, and generosity marked her public and private life.

As for Andover today, I believe that its moral capital remains strong. I see it in the way residents step forward to serve the town on its government, Conservation Commission, and 4th of July Committees. Others volunteer at the Hub and The Beacon. And I saw it two summers ago, when I was navigating my bike on the Rail Trail eastward through the narrow gate at Dyers Crossing. I lost my momentum and fell into heavy grass. A man in a truck saw me fall, stopped, and asked if I was okay, which I was. He drove off, only to return a few minutes later, as I picked up my bike, to make sure I was in fact unharmed. I appreciated his concern for a total stranger. Will you write to The Beacon with your own examples of moral capital in Andover?