In the late 19th century, Martha Jenks Chase started making dolls for her seven children, wanting toys that looked and felt natural but would also be more durable than the popular bisque head dolls available. Her dolls became quite popular and in 1901 she began hiring staff to help produce them in larger quantities under the company name of M.J. Chase.
As her dolls gained an international following, they also caught the attention of Ms. Lauder Sutherland, principal of the Hartford Training School for Nurses in Connecticut. Sutherland had long believed that mannequins could be used for teaching purposes and had been using homemade straw filled dummies. She was impressed by the Chase doll’s durability and in 1911 she reached out to the M.J. Chase Co. to ask them to build her a life-size mannequin. Martha’s father, brother, and husband were all physicians, giving her the background knowledge to devise a 5’4″ doll with jointed limbs.
This doll, affectionately called ‘Mrs. Chase,’ was used to train nurses how to dress a patient, turn them over, and transfer them from bed to bed. In 1914, an improved version included an arm injection site and an internal reservoir for treatments.