A new life of Mary Ward was published in England around Christmas 2021. It was not commissioned by either of the two Mary Ward institutes but was entirely the work of a hitherto unknown admirer of Mary Ward. The author’s name is Sydney Thorne and he lives close to Osbaldwick in York. However, it was not this proximity that drew him to spend eight years researching the Mary Ward story, and then producing a new and original biography on her. Rather, as a modern linguist with a degree from Oxford University Sydney taught at the University of Augsburg and began to wonder who these prolific Englische Fräulein were. The more he researched her life the more fascinated he became and was drawn ever deeper into the narrative of this remarkable English woman.
I began to read his book a little suspicious of the sub-title ‘First Sister of Feminism’ on the grounds that the word feminism is a modern concept which did not exist at the time of Mary Ward. It suggested to me that Mary Ward was motivated by the sole determination to demonstrate what women could do in a male society. Although Mary Ward did believe totally in the ability of women to lead and be independent of the customary male dominance of her time, she had other goals – the ‘greater glory of God’ rather than her own glory as a pioneer of feminism. As I read into the book, however, I began to see Mary Ward ever more deeply as a woman called by God to dedicate herself to Him and to do what she could to promote Catholicism within the needs of her time.
Sydney Thorne’s book is extremely well researched, written in a style that is both easy to read and holds the attention of the reader, and demonstrates a wide and excellent understanding of the social, political and religious context of the time. Half-way through the book I forgot my antipathy to the concept of ‘feminism’ and was carried along by the narrative. This book comes highly recommended.
‘Mary Ward, First Sister of Feminism’ by Sydney Thorne is published by ‘Pen and Sword Books’. It retails at £19.99 (US $34.95) and can be ordered from: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sr. Frances Orchard CJ