Barbara Ward, Not to Be Forgotten
December 1993By Vincent J. Horkan
Msgr. Vincent J. Horkan is a senior priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and on the University Advancement staff at Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan.
On May 31, 1981, Barbara Ward (Lady Jackson) died in her native England. We need to keep the memory of her legacy green. She was without doubt one of the most eloquent Catholic voices in the English-speaking world of the 20th century. She was a moving orator and lecturer, an influential economist with wide-ranging interests, and a true scholar.
Ward's competencies in economics and the liberal arts were the rich endowment of her college years at Oxford, where she graduated with first-class honors in 1935. Following graduation she traveled and studied on the Continent, notably at the Sorbonne. Her first published book, The International Shareout (1938), a treatise on colonial problems, won the attention of Geoffrey Crowther, editor of The Economist. At his invitation she joined its staff in 1939. First as foreign editor and then as a contributing editor, she wrote for it for almost the rest of her life.
In her major books -- Faith and Freedom, The West at Bay, The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations, Spaceship Earth -- Ward dealt brilliantly with the problems that beset the world in her lifetime. It was a life that spanned two world wars, the rebuilding of Europe, the post-colonial era during which the Third World nations emerged, and the Second Vatican Council, in whose implementation she directly participated. The Cold War, which was a preoccupation of hers, still chilled the air at her death.
When she died, the Jesuit weekly America saluted her as an "intellectual and global apostle." The same journal recalled Ward's role in an elaborate conference on education and religion at Columbia University's observance of its bicentennial in 1953. Ward was invited to summarize the proceedings. Henry VanDusen, president of Columbia's neighbor on Morningside Heights, Union Theological Seminary, recorded her impact:
She delivered ex-tempore a 45-minute "summary" that brought several hundred jaded scholars to their feet in thunderous and prolonged applause. However divided they may have been on the issues in dispute, they were of one mind that this was as brilliant an intellectual and oratorical "tour de force" as any ever heard.Robert McNamara, then President of the World Bank, also paid homage to her influence. He recalled his first meeting with her at a Kennedy Administration seminar she conducted "where she held me and my fellow cabinet officers spellbound for hours." In his office at the World Bank she shared with him her compassion for the newly born and terribly poor nations. She involved him in her campaign for what came to be known as "basic needs" and especially for that simplest but often rare gift of nature -- a supply of pure water. His testimony: "Her intellectual support and criticism" have been "more influential on my thinking than that of any other person I have known."
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