Ward, Winifred Louise (1884-1975)

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Ward, Winifred Louise (1884–1975)

American children's theater specialist . Born on October 29, 1884, in Eldora, Iowa; died following a stroke on August 16, 1975, in Evanston, Illinois; daughter of George Ward (a lawyer and city official) and Frances Allena (Dimmick) Ward; graduated from Cumnock School of Oratory in Evanston, Illinois, 1905; University of Chicago, Ph.B. in English, 1918; never married.

Winifred Louise Ward was born in 1884 in Eldora, Iowa, the third of four children and the youngest daughter of George Ward and Frances Dimmick Ward . Her father served as mayor and school board member as well as county attorney. Her mother devoted her energies to raising the family and participating in civic activities whenever possible. Fond of her father's dramatic readings and her mother's cultivated tastes in music, Ward entered the Cumnock School of Oratory in Evanston, Illinois, after completing her public school education in Eldora in 1902. She finished the diploma course in oratory in 1905 and directed plays for two years. She then returned to Cumnock to complete postgraduate studies in oratory. Ward moved to Adrian, Michigan, where she taught in the public schools for eight years before entering the University of Chicago in 1916, where she earned a Ph.B. in English.

Upon completing her graduate work in 1918, Ward joined the faculty of the Cumnock School, which became the Northwestern University School of Speech in 1920. With assistance and support from the dean, Ward strengthened the speech education curriculum at the school during her first decade there. Extending study to 12 courses, she also negotiated with the Evanston public school system to field-test her theories regarding story dramatization with children. This partnership with the Evanston schools led to her appointment as the supervisor of dramatics. In 1925, with the sponsorship of Northwestern University, she co-founded the Children's Theater of Evanston, which provided a venue for students to develop their technical skills and their proficiency in acting, directing, and producing. The theater, which Ward directed until 1950, was a joint project between the university and the community. According to Notable American Women, the theater was unique in that it utilized college students for all adult roles and children from the public schools for all juvenile parts.

In 1930, Ward produced her first book, Creative Dramatics, which advocated a chil-dcentered approach to instruction. She carefully distinguished between drama "with" children and drama "for" children. Drama "with" children focused on the process of creating, while drama "for" children focused on the end product. Her second book, Theatre for Children (1939), expanded upon these ideas. Her third book, Playmaking With Children, completed in 1947, was aimed at young people interested in the dramatic arts, not the trained specialist. Considered one of the most comprehensive manuals available for inexperienced creative dramatics leaders, it became a standard text in its field. In 1952, Ward published her last book, Stories to Dramatize, a compilation of stories suitable for dramatization with children. It, too, is considered a standard text in its field.

Ward was an active participant in numerous professional organizations, including the American Educational Theater Association, which requested her to chair a committee on children's theater in 1936. It was through her work in this capacity that she founded the influential Children's Theater Conference at Northwestern University in 1944. For more than 50 years, Ward lived with her closest friend and colleague at Northwestern, Hazel Easton . In 1975, Ward died of a stroke in Evanston.


Sicherman, Barbara, and Carol Hurd Green, eds. Notable American Women: The Modern Period. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1980.

Judith C. Reveal , freelance writer, Greensboro, Maryland