Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mary G. Ward, 1859-1937
By Scott Mahoney, librarian Metropolitan Community College, Omaha
Nebraska Recording Secretary, Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association
Mary Adele Gilligan was born May 1, 1859 on Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada, the daughter of Thomas and Margaret (Flynn) Gilligan, Irish-born immigrants. As a child she moved with her parents to Missouri where she received her education in the public schools. In 1874 the family settled in Johnson County, Nebraska. Mary attended college in Iowa then returned to Johnson County where she taught school until her marriage to Harvey Thompson Ward on June 22, 1881. The couple raised three sons in Tecumseh where Harvey operated a successful contracting business. Harvey passed away in 1926 while Mary died at the home of a son in Boulder, Colorado on October 8, 1937. Both are buried in the Tecumseh Cemetery.
Mary's obituary noted her interest in civic affairs. In September 1896, during William Jennings Bryan's first presidential campaign, she was elected president of the newly-formed Mary Bryan Silver League in Tecumseh. Four years later, when Bryan campaigned for a second time, she was chosen vice-president of another Bryan club. In 1905 she was selected by the Governor to attend the National Conference of Charities and Correction.
In 1902 the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association held its annual convention in Tecumseh. Mary G. Ward gave an address on behalf of the women's clubs. She was also elected recording secretary. Two years later the Association's state headquarters were moved to Tecumseh with Mary G. Ward in charge.
At the 1913 convention Mary Ward, described by one newspaper as "one of the pioneer suffragists of the convention," told of her success in resurrecting a defunct suffrage league in Tecumseh. She encouraged the delegates to ask men to sign their petitions. "They want to be on the winning side," she stated. Later that month delegates were chosen to represent Nebraska at the national convention in Washington, D.C. Mary Ward indicated that she could be counted on.
"$50,000 Needed for Suffrage Campaign," Lincoln Daily Star, November 7, 1913, p. 8, col. 2.
Harper, Ida Husted, et al. eds. The History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6, National Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, pp. 370-71. LINK.
"Harvey T. Ward is Called," Tecumseh Chieftain, February 13, 1926, p. 1, col. 1.
Johnson County Marriage Records, vol. 2, p. 226. Microfilm RG214, reel 1, frame 52. Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln, NE.
"Mary Bryan Silver League," Morning World-Herald (Omaha), September 24, 1896, p. 1, col. 5. "Noble Woman is Gone," Tecumseh Chieftain, October 14, 1937, p. 1, col. 1. "Official Headquarters are Located Here," Lincoln Daily Star, November 23, 1913, p. 2, col. 3.
"Organize a Bryan Club," Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln), September 5, 1900, p. 5, col. 3.
"Suffragists Close Their Convention," Morning World-Herald (Omaha), December 6, 1902, p. 3, col. 3.
"Tecumseh News Items," Morning World-Herald (Omaha), May 22, 1905, p. 7, col. 6.
"Women Suffragists Meet in Convention," (Omaha), December 3, 1902, p. 3, col. 5.