In 1872 Mary Augusta Arnold married Thomas Humphry Ward, a fellow and tutor of Brasenose College, Oxford, and became a writer under the name Mrs Humphry Ward. In 1892, the family moved to Aldbury.
Ward wrote numerous articles, reviews, translation and works of fiction and at one point in time was the highest earning novelist in England. Her best-known novel Robert Elsmere, published in 1888, sold an estimated one million copies, netting her the unprecedented sum of £4,000 in royalties.
While her writings are now almost forgotten her social works live on. Ward launched the ‘lectures for women’ programme, which was the stepping stone to university entrance for women. In 1897 she was the prime instigator of the Passmore Edwards Settlement near St. Pancras, London, an initiative which provided classes, concerts, and clubs to working class adults and after school recreation and instruction to poor children.
Whilst radical in some regards, she was paradoxically staunchly conservative in others. In 1908 she became the founding president of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League and was responsible for creating and editing the Anti-Suffrage Review.
Two of her novels, The Testing of Diana Mallory and Delia Blanchflower expressed her anti-suffragette stance. Ward disagreed with the militancy of the movement and felt that as men were the ones who sacrificed their lives for their country, they alone, should be allowed the vote.