Winifred Ward (1884-1975) was a pioneer in the field of children’s drama, developing an early children’s theater program for Evanston schools that became a model worldwide. Ward believed that young children could greatly benefit from seeing and doing “creative dramatics” — engaging their imaginations and energy through drama. Ward taught at Northwestern from 1920 until her retirement in 1950 and was the author of numerous books that are still standards in the field.
Winifred Louise Ward, a longtime Evanston resident, was a pioneer in the Children’s Theater movement. A professor at Northwestern and founder of the Children’s Theater of Evanston, she also organized the first meeting of the Children’s Theater Conference (CTC) at Northwestern. The conference later became a branch of the American Alliance for Theater and Education. Ward was born in Washington, D.C. but grew up in Eldora, Iowa. She attended Cumnock School of Oratory in Evanston for two years, then returned to Eldora to teach declamation for two years. After this, she returned to Cumnock for a year before teaching in Adrian, Michigan for 8 years. In 1916, Ward returned to attend the University of Chicago, where she received her Ph.B. She returned to teaching at the Cumnock School of Oratory, which in 1920 became the School of Speech at Northwestern University. In 1924, a resolution passed adding dramatics to Evanston’s elementary school curriculum, which she was appointed to run as well as teach at Northwestern. In the new position, Ward launched “creative dramatics” where children take part in all forms of improvised dramas without an outside audience. She also emphasized Children’s Theater, where children were the audiences of dramas. In 1925, along with Northwestern colleagues, Ward founded the Children’s Theater of Evanston. Between 1925 and 1950, she directed seventy-six plays and involved 118,000 people in the Theater. After retirement in 1950, Ward wrote essays, gave speeches, and was a representative of Children’s Theater at UNESCO, as well as receiving Northwestern’s Alumni Medal for Distinguished Service. She also developed a course on religious drama at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and wrote essays on drama for religious publications. She also received honorary degrees of Doctor of Humane Letters from Adelphi University, Garden City, New York; Western College for Women, Oxford, Ohio; and Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan. On August 16, 1975 Ward died in Evanston.