Portrait of Julia Ward

Portrait of Julia Ward.
Hand writing reads as follows:
“With Gratitude & Love to Mother Mary Joseph dearest. Fondly, Julia”

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Maryknoll Mission Archives! There are many ways to celebrate this special day, and many types of love to celebrate. In preparation for the holiday, we’re sharing our love and gratitude for one of Maryknoll’s original benefactors and Mother Mary Joseph’s dear friend: Miss Julia L. Ward.

At first, it seemed like Julia’s story wanted to remain hidden. Searching through the Archives revealed large gaps in our knowledge about her.

“We find very little information in our archives about the early life of Julia Ward. However, her name is held in grateful remembrance by all of us. She is spoken of with affection by the Sisters who were here in the early days. She is considered a dear friend and benefactor of our Congregation.”

Sr. Mary Colman Coleman (Archivist) to Fr. Robert E. Sheridan, December 6, 1979

When I discovered Sr. Coleman’s letter to Fr. Sheridan, I read it as a challenge. Could I find more information about Julia Ward, Maryknoll’s beloved benefactress? Thanks to advances in modern technology and public records access, I was able to create a more thorough biography of this incredible woman. Julia’s life is defined by her immense charity in spite of the suffering and hardships she endured.

Miss Julia L. Ward – The Early Years

Julia L. Ward was born on November 6, 1868 in New York City, NY. She was the daughter of Irish immigrants, Michael Ward and Mary Brady. Growing up in the United States following the Irish Famine, Julia and her family would have experienced anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment firsthand.

Based on records I have found, Julia was one of at least seven children. Unfortunately, I have only been able to locate four of the Ward children; Julia, Mary M., Sarah, and Michael (listed here in birth order). Michael is noted as his mother’s seventh child on his birth record from 1874. Julia’s missing siblings may not have survived to adulthood, though we don’t know for sure.

US Federal Census Record, New York City, 1880

Excerpt from the 1880 US Federal Census record which shows Mrs. Mary Ward living with her children, Julia, Mary M., and Michael, and her mother, Julia Brady.

The Ward family appears to have experienced death and hardship frequently within their household. Their father passed away while the Ward children were still very young. By the 1880 US Census, Mrs. Mary Ward was a widow living with three children (Julia, Mary M., and Michael) and her mother, Julia Brady. Our young Julia Ward, only 13 years old, is the single family member listed with an occupation outside their home.

Becoming a financial provider as a child is a heavy burden to carry. As with many children living in poverty, we can safely assume Julia wasn’t able to complete her education. This theory is supported by Mother Mary Joseph herself. In a talk on Maryknoll History given on January 21, 1948, she states that Julia “was not an educated woman in the sense that she had much schooling” (Coleman).

That did not stop her from building a successful life and career for herself. New York City Business Directories from the 1890’s list Miss Julia Ward as a dressmaker.

Illustrated fashion catalogue, Summer 1890

Illustrated fashion catalogue, Summer 1890

Fashion featured in Tissus et nouveauts, 1900

Fashion featured in Tissus et nouveauts, 1900

Julia Ward – Dressmaker to the Stars

By the 1900 US Census, we find Julia living with her sister Mary M. (now Mrs. Mary M. Logan), her brother-in-law James A. Logan, and her two nephews, Arthur Ward Logan and Edwin Francis Logan. Julia never married; instead she devoted herself to her career and caring for her extended family. By this time, she had firmly established herself as an experienced fashion designer, best known for her dresses. In the words of Mother Mary Joseph:

“Miss Ward had been a dressmaker in New York and a very successful one. She amassed quite a large fortune, and had invested wisely. She did a great deal of work for the actresses, especially Maude Adams. The name “Ward” on a theatre program meant something… she had very wide interests, and had traveled much in her dressmaking business through Europe” (Coleman).

In this same talk, Mother Mary Joseph also mentions that Miss Ward had “many relatives depending on her” (Coleman). Without knowing all the details here, my theory is that Julia’s dressmaking business was financially supporting her and the Logan family. Their multi-family living arrangement would have benefitted both parties, however. Julia’s frequent business trips across Europe would have left her New York City apartment dangerously empty. By living together, she would always have family waiting for her when she returned home. It also would have afforded her more time with her young nephews.

By 1910, Julia was living separately from the Logan family. The Logan’s had moved to Queens, while Julia continued to live in Manhattan with a housekeeper. We can speculate that Julia stopped traveling as frequently around this time, or that the Logan family needed more space for their growing teenage boys. What we do know from Mother Mary Joseph’s account is that Julia Ward retired from her highly successful career sometime between 1912 and 1914. This is around the time that Mother Mary Joseph and Julia first met.

Family Legacy – A Brief Side Story

When trying to reconstruct an individual’s life, we also research their family members, friends, associates, and neighbors in the process. The records of these unique individuals will provide different perspectives, and can unearth new and surprising facts. Researching Julia’s life was no exception to this rule.

Below is a replica of Julia Ward’s family tree, based on my research. While “Aunt Julia” never had any children of her own, she may have been a strong influence on her nephews. Her nephew Edwin Francis Logan married the hardworking and talented Ms. Ethel Drew in the 1920’s. Ethel Drew Logan, along with her mother Catherine, went on to establish the House of Logan, an iconic clothing store in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Owned and operated by several generations of the Logan family, the House of Logan continues to serve customers to this day. Talk about a fashionable family legacy!

Julia Ward's Family Tree

When Julia Met MMJ

Mother Mary Joseph recalls, “I first met her when we were in our little house at Hawthorne…She had taken a fancy to me for some reason or other, and used to ask my advice about her gifts, although I was very much younger than she” (Coleman). I like to imagine that, despite their different backgrounds, Julia saw a kindred spirit in Mother Mary Joseph; another woman of strong moral character who cared deeply for others.

Our records don’t state exactly how these women met, however, I have a theory. We know that the Maryknoll Sisters would visit the Cenacle of St. Regis in West Harlem. They were friendly with the Cenacle Sisters, and would occasionally retreat here for rest and rejuvenation. It wasn’t much of a surprise to discover that Julia Ward was also associated with the Cenacle Sisters. From Mother Mary Joseph:

“She was also interested in the Propagation of the Faith. She gave much to the Cenacle in New York City. When they bought their second house, she it was, who put in the new chapel with all its furnishings. She put roof gardens on schools and gave playgrounds” (Coleman).

I believe Mother Mary Joseph and Julia must have crossed paths here at the Cenacle, sometime between 1912 and 1913. Over time, their mutual friendship blossomed. This would lead to Julia visiting the Maryknoll Sisters at Hawthorne house, becoming involved with the Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, and supporting their joint international missions.

First Convent Hawthorne 1912

The Maryknoll Sisters’ First Convent, Hawthorne House, 1912

“No one but myself and her lawyer knew the extent of her charity.”

Mother Mary Joseph Rogers

January 21, 1948, Continuation of Talks on Maryknoll History

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, Maryknoll Motherhouse, 2000

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, Maryknoll Motherhouse. Miss Julia L. Ward helped fund its construction.

Habits from the early days of Maryknoll

Habits from the early days of Maryknoll. They were a collaborative design by Miss Julia Ward, Sr. Mary Ambrose, and other Maryknoll Sisters.


Since everyone involved is deceased, we will never know the full extent of Julia’s charity. I’m reminded of Matthew 6:3–4: “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret” (HistPhil). I believe Julia intended it this way. She gave purely for the sake of charity.

We can thank Miss Julia Ward for some of her gracious charity, however. Sisters’ diaries and letters document their deep gratitude for “Lady Bountiful”, “Our Fairy Princess”, and “Aunt Julia”. The following is a list of her known acts of charity:

  • Financial donations to the Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers
  • Financial donations to the Maryknoll Sisters
  • Purchased window screens for the Maryknoll Seminary & Hawthorne House
  • Funded various improvements to Hawthorne House, including new flooring and repainting
  • Sending food deliveries to Sisters during the Congregation’s formative years
  • Driving Fathers, Brothers, and Sisters to Doctors Appointments in NYC
  • Opening her home to Maryknollers visiting NYC
  • Sent winter coats and hats from Wanamaker’s for Maryknoll Sisters
  • Donated a statue of St. Anthony and materials to cover other statuaries
  • Donated a canopy for Holy Thursday
  • Paid to install screens for both porches and the sun parlor of Hawthorne House
  • Sent new clothes for Maryknoll Sisters
  • Brought Mother Mary Joseph on a pilgrimage to Lourdes (lasting approx. 6 weeks)
  • Gave various presents and materials to fulfill Sisters’ practical needs
  • Invited Sisters on joy rides in her car during her monthly visits
  • Donated a statue of St. Teresa
  • Worked with Sister Mary Ambrose Crawford to design the Maryknoll Sister’s first religious habit
  • Helped fund Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto shrine at the Motherhouse

Sometimes Stories Have Difficult Endings

Sadly, underpinning Miss Ward’s public story is a quieter narrative of illness and physical difficulties. From a short biography appearing in the Maryknoll Distaff, 1932-1941 we learn that Julia’s life was troubled by much ill health. In 1932, she experienced a crisis requiring surgery. This was followed by a long recovery period, from which she never fully recovered. The supporter was now in need of support. Mother Mary Joseph and the Maryknoll Sisters were there in Julia’s time of need. “Mother frequently visited her during her slow recovery. […] In August she came to the Motherhouse and stayed until the end of the year.”

In the summer of 1934, the time had come for Julia to leave Manhattan and she returned to the Motherhouse. “In August…she sold her building on 48th Street and sent her furniture to the Motherhouse. After disposition of her home, Miss Ward with Sr. Dominica as nurse, occupied our Chaplain Suite, where part of her furniture had been placed. Throughout our first decade in the Motherhouse and later, up to the time of her death, Miss Ward was frequently with us. It was a privilege to be able to extend hospitality to this noble woman who had done so much both for the Society and for our own Community, not only in the early days but down through the years.”

In January 1948, Mother Mary Joseph gave this update on her friend Julia:

“Miss Ward is still living. She has lost most of her fortune. She is an old lady in her 80’s, partly paralyzed. She lived with us for a while at Maryknoll, but now she has a companion, who looks after her. Certainly she will not go to God with empty hands. She won’t have anything to leave, but she gave lavishly while she had it, and could control it. You should pray for her once in a while and think of her great goodness to us” (Coleman).

Miss Julia Ward passed away on December 2, 1950 in Bayside, Long Island. She was a Dominican Tertiary at the time of her death, and was buried in a Dominican habit made by Sr. Mary Ambrose Crawford. Her final resting place is with her family in Calvary Cemetery, Woodside, NY.

Mother Mary Joseph and Julia Ward in Lourdes, France, 1914

Mother Mary Joseph and Julia Ward in Lourdes, France, 1914

Mother Mary Joseph and Julia Ward in Lourdes, France, 1914 (colorized)

Mother Mary Joseph and Julia Ward in Lourdes, France, 1914 (colorized)

Donors Attribution Plaque from the Grotto
Statue of Our Lady of Lourdes at the Lourdes Grotto, Maryknoll, NY

Interested in learning more about Maryknoll? Do you have a relative associated with Maryknoll?

Their records might also be in the Mission Archives. We would love to help you reconnect with your family’s history.

You can contact the Archives at:

Maryknoll Mission Archives
PO Box 305, Maryknoll, New York 10545
Phone: 914-941-7636
Office hours: 8:30 am-4:00 pm Monday-Friday
Email: archives@maryknoll.org
Website: www.maryknollmissionarchives.org


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