Sunday, 6 October 2013

Mrs Mary Humphrey Ward (1851 - 1920)

The novelist/philanthropist Mary Augusta Ward was born Mary Augusta Arnold in Hobart, Tasmania - her father Thomas was a brother of Matthew Arnold the poet/critic.   The family returned to England and Mary was brought up in Oxford.

She met Thomas Humphrey Ward a fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford and they married in 1872.  During their time in Oxford, Mary spent her mornings in the Bodleian Library and her evenings writing.

Thomas and Mary moved to London in 1881 when Thomas went to work for "The Times".   Mary continued writing novels.  She was also involved in charitable works and founded the Passmore Edwards Settlement in Tavistock Place, London, which was an education centre for working class men and women.  This included a play centre for children - a forerunner of after-school care centres.

Mary was a very successful and renowned writer and by 1914 she was the best-known Englishwoman in America.   The American Government approached Mary with a request that she write about the War from the British perspective.   Mary agreed and became the first woman journalist to visit the trenches of the Western Front and was afforded special facilities by the War Office to this end.   Mary wrote two books about what she saw - "England's Effort (1916) and "Towards the Goal (1917).

Mary died in 1920 but her memory lives on in The Mary Ward Centre for adult education in London -

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