Elizabeth Buffum Chase was born Eliza Ann Buffam to a Quaker family in Providence, Rhode Island that had been active in the anti-slavery movement for two generations. The family moved around New England frequently for her father's work. She attended the Friends Boarding School in Providence in 1822. In 1828, she married Samuel Buffington Chace, a textile mill owner. The first five of their 10 children died in infancy. Elizabeth became an active abolitionist and her home in Valley Falls was the main Rhode Island stop on the Underground Railroad. After the Civil War, she turned to the cause of women's rights, including higher education and the vote. She was influential in the founding of Pembroke, the women's college associated with Brown University. She was a co-founder of the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association in 1868, and served as its president from 1870 until her death. She also advocated for the rights of the indigent, prostitutes, prison inmates, and factory workers, especially woman and children.