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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ward, Elizabeth Jane (1842–1908)

by Judith Godden

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Elizabeth Jane Ward (1842-1908), milliner and philanthropist, was born on 27 March 1842 in Sydney, daughter of William Garland, farrier, and his wife Sarah, née Jenks, both Parramatta born. Baptized with Anglican rites, she was educated at Mrs Chandler's ladies' seminary in Liverpool Street. Having worked as a milliner from the age of 15, she claimed to have become head milliner at Farmer & Co.'s store. On 18 July 1863 she married with Wesleyan forms Charles Ward, a house-painter from Shrewsbury, England; they were to have seven sons. She managed millinery businesses in King Street and later Oxford Street.

An active, voluntary parishworker for the Church of England, Mrs Ward was a leading member of a women's network of evangelical activists after she moved to Surry Hills in 1883. As a founder and secretary of the Sydney Women's Prayer Union, she advocated sabbatarianism and public prayers. She was an executive-member of the Surry Hills branches of the Exhibition of Women's Industries and Centenary Fair (1888) and of the Girls' Friendly Society. With members of the Young Women's Christian Association of Sydney, she conducted gospel services at the Church Rescue Home for the Intemperate and Fallen [Women].

She worked for the Sydney Ladies' United Evangelistic Association and for the committees of G. E. Ardill's Jubilee Home and Registry Office for Young Women, the Queen's Jubilee Fund and the third Australasian Conference on Charity (1891-92); she also joined the National Council of Women of New South Wales. A member of the Women's Federal League, she wrote letters to the newspapers advocating Federation.

Gentle but resolute, Elizabeth was a 'most indefatigable worker'. Having helped to found the ladies' committee of the Sydney City Mission, she organized midnight suppers for prostitutes and distributed cards inviting them to call on her when 'in need of advice or sympathy'. As superintendent of the mission's biblewoman for the Rocks district, she publicized the 'terrible reality' of sweating and the poor's need for material as well as spiritual succour. After 1901 she assisted the elderly to apply for old-age pensions.

Ward was a member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of New South Wales from 1884; she was later a vice-president and life member. From 1889 she campaigned for, and wrote pamphlets on, female suffrage as a Christian duty and a means to temperance. Joining the short-lived Women's Suffrage League of New South Wales in 1890, she became colonial superintendent of the W.C.T.U.'s franchise department in 1892; in addition, she took charge of the evangelistic and press departments.

Her autobiography, Out of Weakness Made Strong (1903), revealed her conviction of divine direction. She believed that women had 'a distinct and separate point of view', with 'their own homes to protect, and special wrongs to right'. Her work was motivated by a belief in the spiritual sisterhood of all women.

Survived by four sons, Elizabeth Ward died of heart disease on 29 May 1908 at Watsons Bay and was buried in the Anglican section of Waverley cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Mrs J. Williams and Mrs A. Holliday (eds), Golden Records (Syd, 1926)
  • Syd City Mission, Annual Report, 1886-95
  • Sydney City Mission Herald, 15 Jan 1903, 1 July 1908
  • J. Godden, Philanthropy and the Woman's Sphere, Sydney, 1870-c1900 (Ph.D. thesis, Macquarie University, 1983)
  • Sydney City Mission minutes, 1894-96 (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Judith Godden, 'Ward, Elizabeth Jane (1842–1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 28 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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