Frederica Chase Dodd, teacher, suffragist, and social worker, was born on November 3, 1893, to Frederic K. and Fannie L. (Hall) Chase in Dallas, Texas. Her father, a civic leader, attorney, and Dallas mayoral candidate in early 1893, died two months before Frederica was born. Before her father died, he bought his family a home, where Frederica lived most of her life, on North Pearl Street in North Dallas (also called Freedmantown). Her mother, a teacher, remarried, but the marriage soon ended divorce. Frederica graduated from the Dallas Colored School No. 2 (later called Booker T. Washington High School) in 1910, then began her collegiate studies at Howard University, a historically Black university in Washington, D.C.
On January 13, 1913, Frederica and fellow Texans Zephyr Chisom Carter, Myra Davis Hemmings, and Jessie McGuire Dent with eighteen other Howard University women established the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which grew into a prominent international service organization with over 300,000 members in 2021. She served as the first sergeant-at-arms of the sorority’s Alpha Chapter. As their first political act, Frederica Chase and her sorority sisters marched in the woman suffrage parade in Washington, D.C., with encouragement of national civil rights leader Mary Church Terrell on March 3, 1913. She was also president of the Y. W. C. A. branch at Howard University. After she graduated with honors from Howard University in 1914, she returned to her childhood home in Dallas and taught English at the same segregated high school she had attended. (see EDUCATION FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS)
On June 20, 1920, Frederica Chase married John Horace Dodd, a Dallas physician, Howard University Medical School graduate, and president of the Lone Star Medical Association, in Dallas. The couple lived with her mother on North Pearl Street. Frederica stopped teaching after she married, which was a common custom among the Black middle class and often required of teachers by urban school boards. She was an active member of the National Association of Colored Women and various local organizations including the Recreation Club, the Kant Agree Club, the Reading Circle, and the Priscilla Art Club, for which she served as president in 1921 and 1922. She also helped establish a YWCA branch, which initially began as an after-school group and eventually expanded into the Maria Morgan Branch. In 1924 she co-founded the Dallas Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, which became the first Greek letter organization in the city of Dallas, and she served as the chapter’s first president. The chapter was originally known as the Eta Beta Chapter.
Dodd attended Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) School of Social Work in Atlanta, Georgia, and began a new career in social work in Dallas during the Great Depression. Her husband, who had a debilitating illness, could no longer work, and by 1933, was admitted to the Terrell State Hospital, where he stayed until his death in 1945. In early 1931 she worked for the Dallas Welfare Bureau to assist unemployed African Americans to receive food and clothing donations. She worked out of the Knights of Pythias Temple at 2547 Elm Street, and her salary was paid for by the United Charities Community Chest. With higher rates of unemployment among African Americans, need quickly outpaced donations. Within a few months, she became the director of the Negro Community Welfare Agency, which was also based in the Pythian Temple and served as an employment bureau. She worked with Claudius William Rice, then president of the Texas Negro Business and Laboring Men’s Association and member of Governor Ross Sterling’s committee on unemployment relief. Under Governor Miriam Ferguson, she worked in the same capacity but with the Texas Relief Commission. In 1936 Dodd became a counselor for the Family Service of Dallas and worked there until her retirement in 1961. She also served as an officer in the Dallas Conference on Church and Social Work. Her career in social work made her one of the first Black social workers in Texas.
Dodd remained active in the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority throughout her life. She remained particularly close to her sorority sister, Jessie McGuire Dent of Galveston. Since neither had living heirs, the two women made a “survivor’s will,” which meant whichever sister died first left her estate to the other. Dent died in 1948 and left her estate to Dodd, who also served as the informant on Dent’s death certificate.
Dodd lived with her mother on North Pearl Street in the family home until her mother died in 1946. She then moved to 5116 Terry Street in East Dallas and rented out the family home to supplement her income. In 1964 Dodd sold the North Pearl property to the city, and her family home was demolished to build the Woodall Rodgers Freeway. Frederica Chase Dodd died in Dallas on January 21, 1972. Her funeral service was held at New Hope Baptist Church. She was buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Dallas.
In honor of her lifetime of work, the Dallas Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta established the Frederica Chase Dodd Scholarship, which is offered to Dallas County Public School African American women in the top 25 percent of their class. The chapter also established the Frederica Chase Dodd Life Development Center south of downtown Dallas. In January 2013 both houses of the U.S. Congress marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., with resolutions that recognized its founders, including Dodd, and the organization’s century of service. In January 2021, state legislator Toni Rose introduced a resolution in the Texas House of Representatives to recognize the role of Dent, Carter, Hemmings, and Dodd as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., founders as well as other prominent sorors Barbara Jordan and Ruth Jones McClendon and the organization’s contributions to the betterment of the state, the United States, and other nation.