Skip to main content

May Williams Ward papers

Call Number: RH MS 21


This collection includes May Williams Wards' correspondence, manuscripts of several of her poems, photographs, news clippings, reviews, and other materials relaed to Ward's career as a poet and to her personal life.


  • Creation: 1920 - 1968


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of May Williams Ward (1882-1975)

Mary Esma Williams, who went by May, was born in January 1882 in Holden, Missouri. When she was 7 years old, the Williams family moved to Osawatomie, Miami County, Kansas, May's mother's home town. After graduating from Osawatomie High School in 1898, May Williams earned a degree in mathematics from the University of Kansas in 1905. She married Merle Ward, who worked in the grain elevator business, in 1908.

Merle and May Ward moved where Merle's business took them, including towns in both Colorado and Kansas. When the Great Depression adversely affected Merle's business, they moved to Wellington, Sumner County, Kansas, where the Ward family owned a hotel. Merle and May Ward remained in Wellington the rest of their lives.

Ward began publishing poems in the 1920s, her works appearing in national magazines that included Life, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and others, as well as in newspapers that included the New York Sun and Kansas City Star. In 1925 she was invited to spend a month at the MacDowell writing colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and in 1926 she became editor of The Harp, a national poetry magazine published out of Larned, Kansas. Ward began creating wood block prints to accompany her poems. She was also involved in KFKU's "Women of Kansas" radio series that ran in 1947.

Ward published several books of poetry, including Seesaw (1929), Double Rhythm (self-published in 1929), and In That Day (1969). She won several awards for her works, including two from the Poetry Society of America.

May Williams Ward died in 1975.

[Information retrieved from "May Williams Ward," Map of Kansas Literature, accessed 28 May 2020,,Wellington%2C%20Map%20of%20Kansas%20Literature&text=Mary%20Esma%20Williams%2C%20always%20called,the%20expanding%20Missouri%20Pacific%20Railroad.]


1 Linear Feet (700 items in 2 document cases + 6 volumes)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

RH MS 21

Physical Location

RH MS D105

Physical Location

RH MS D106

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, May Williams Ward, 1954, 1961; Virginia Graves, 1974; Nancy Penland, 2016.


Guide to the May Williams Ward Collection
May Williams Ward papers
Finding aid prepared by kpz, August 1974. Finding aid encoded by mg, 2004. Finding aid revised by mwh, 2020, 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
May Williams Ward papers, Kansas Collection, RH MS 21, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States