Before there was Diana Vreeland, before there was Anna Wintour, there was Edna Woolman Chase (1877–1957), editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine from 1914 to 1952.
Chase began her career at Vogue working in the mail room. After coming to the attention of Arthur Turnure, founding editor of the magazine, he helped guide her ascent up the corporate ladder. He made her a consultant regarding the direction of the magazine, eventually giving Chase control over Vogue’s layout.
When Turnure died, the magazine was in danger of closing. Chase went on the road to persuade women to keep reading the magazine. Condé Montrose Nast took over Vogue in 1909, and he made Chase managing editor in 1911 which gave her complete control. By 1914, she was named editor-in-chief.
An important contribution to fashion made by Chase the same year she was named editor-in-chief was putting on the first fashion show, more or less inventing the catwalk. Because of World War I, designers closed their rooms in Paris. Since most of the clothes featured in Vogue were from Paris, Chase called dressmakers in New York and had them make clothing to be featured in a show. This prompted other manufacturers to start making clothes in the USA and selling them at moderate prices. By creating catwalks and boosting sections of the magazine such as More Taste Than Money she firmly introduced the notion that it was elegance and style which mattered over snootiness.
In 1928, Chase brought together 17 women from the fashion world, and formed the Fashion Group International which promoted the role of women in the industry. The Fashion Group International is still in business today.