Partner Hazel V. Easton
Northwestern University, 1801 Hinman Ave, Evanston, IL 60208
Graceland Cemetery Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Winifred Louise Ward (October 29, 1884–August 16, 1975) was a professor at Northwestern University most notable for having done significant work in the field of children's theatre and pioneering the idea of creative dramatics. In the 1940 census, Ward is listed as living with Hazel V. Easton, who is recorded as "partner". Easton was Ward's colleague at Northwestern University and housemate for over 50 years.
Winifred Louise Ward was born October 29, 1884 in Eldora, Iowa, the youngest daughter of Frances Allena Dimmick and George W. Ward, a prominent Eldora lawyer. While growing up, she spent many summers in Washington, D.C., where she was afforded the opportunity to watch theatrical performances that influenced her throughout her career. She received her bachelor's degree in 1905 from Northwestern University, under the guidance of Robert McClean Cumnock. She then returned to her hometown where she directed plays until becoming a teacher of reading, drama and physical education in the public schools of Adrian, Michigan from 1908 to 1916. In 1918, after receiving her Ph.D. in Education from the University of Chicago, Ward accepted an appointment to the faculty of Northwestern’s School of Oratory (Communications). She remained at Northwestern for the rest of her long and distinguished career.
Ward founded the field of Creative Drama, a classroom teaching method that places a heavy emphasis on self-expression, literature appreciation, and proficiency in spoken English. It is noted for having a complete lack of scripts. In her own words, "instead of memorizing set speeches and acting parts in the way the teacher directs, the children develop plays out of their own thoughts and imaginations and emotions". When Winifred Ward first started working with Creative Drama, she used the phrase "Creative Dramatics" which is now less often used.
Winifred Ward is often dubbed the mother of creative drama; the “systematic approach to dramatic activity and learning.”
In 1924, Ward was appointed supervisor of the newly created creative dramatics curricula of the Evanston Public Schools. The next year Ward founded The Children’s Theatre of Evanston, created with “double purpose of providing a worthy service to Evanston and giving the Speech students a laboratory in the study of theater for youth.”
In 1944 she organized the first national Children’s Theater Conference, which later became the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE).
Ward retired as an assistant professor from Northwestern in 1950. For the next twenty years, she wrote, taught drama workshops around the country, and participated in numerous conferences and conventions related to her field. She died in Evanston, Illinois on August 16, 1975.
Rooted in the progressive education movement of the 1930s, Ward sought to educate the whole child, with the notion that, “the child could achieve an understanding of self and society.” Ward’s method emphasizes storytelling that grows from nonverbal movement and pantomime, eventually becoming dialogue and characterization and ultimately an integrated drama. Stories told from literature, popular culture, poems, and fairy tales are a hallmark of Ward’s work. Ward emphasized the study of characters as a vital phase for understanding multiple perspectives both in drama and in life. Her workshops often culminated in informal performances for invited guests. Ward believed that creative drama was one way to create productive members of a democratic society.
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