Correspondence of Mary Augusta Ward [Mrs. Humphrey Ward]

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 UCC/2/36
  • Former Reference
      GB 133 C1(46)
  • Dates of Creation
      Jan 1890 - Aug 1890
  • Physical Description
      13 items

Scope and Content

Letters to W. Copeland Bowie respecting University Hall settlement.

Administrative / Biographical History

Mary Augusta Ward (better known as Mrs Humphrey Ward), was born on 11 June 1851 at Hobart Town, Van Damien's Land, where her father was an inspector of schools. Her father's conversion to Catholicism necessitated his leaving his post, and the family moved to England in 1856. Between 1858 and 1864 Mary was educated at a variety of boarding schools including Anne Jemima Clough's school at Ambleside, and Rock Terrace School for Young Ladies at Shifnal, Shropshire. Living in Oxford from 1867, she was able to obtain a pass to the Bodleian Library where she studied Spanish history and literature. Mary's became a best selling novelist following the success of her novel Robert Elsmere; in all she produced twenty-five novels. She was also a scholarly writer, journalist and translator, and religious, social and political concerns were central to her writing.

She was well known for her philanthropic activities: in 1873, she helped to set up the Lectures for Women Committee, which led to the establishment of Somerville Hall (later College); she set up a 'settlement' for working people in St. Pancras: University Hall, and was influential in the establishment of children's play centres and schools for handicapped children. Surprisingly for such a prominent woman campaigner, she was opposed to the campaign for women to be allowed the vote in Parliamentary elections, and in 1908 became the head of the Women's Anti-Suffrage Association. Despite this, she was in favour of women being active at the local level as voters and councillors. She was awarded a CBE in 1919, and in 1920 became a magistrate and was awarded an honorary degree by Edinburgh University.

Although never formally committed to Unitarianism, her relationship to Unitarians and Unitarianism was a close one: she attended services, lectured at churches and reflected on the nature of their faith. She was strongly influenced by the Oxford philosopher T.H. Green, who she knew personally.

She married Humphrey Ward on 6 April 1872. He was to become a leader writer and art correspondent forThe Times. They had three children. She died in London on 24 March 1920.


John Sutherland, 'Ward, Mary Augusta [Mrs Humphrey Ward] (1851-1920)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Timothy Sprigge, 'Mrs. Humphrey Ward' Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography.