MYRLE OLIVE WARD (1897-1992)


PAPERS, 1876-1992

(bulk 1930s-1940s)

1 linear foot




The papers (donor no. 134) were donated by Betty H. Victor in 1991.


The papers are open for research.


Copyright has been transferred to the University of Iowa.


In box 2.


Natalie Brody, 1992.




Myrle Olive Ward was born December 5, 1897, in Hamburg, Iowa, the fourth of eight children of Cyrus and Augusta Miller Ward. In 1908, at the age of eleven, she moved to Farragut, Iowa, to live with her maternal aunts, Izetta and Winnie Miller.  In 1915 she graduated from Farragut High School, and in 1919 she received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri.  For the following four years she taught English and Latin in high schools in Maywood, Missouri, and Farragut and Essex, Iowa.


For two years, from 1923 to 1925, she attended the College of Missions in Indianapolis, Indiana.  After her graduation she began her thirty-year career as a missionary for the Disciples of Christ Church.  During those years she continued her education, at the University of Chicago in 1933 and at the University of Colorado in the summers of 1940 and 1945.


Her first missionary assignment was a three-year general service in Jamaica, West Indies, from 1925 to 1928.  For the next twenty years she served at the Disciples of Christ Congo Mission in the Equatorial Province (Belgian Congo, now Zaire) where she supervised village schools at Wema and Lotumbe.


In 1950 she was re-assigned to Jamaica and stayed there until 1957, as matron of a dormitory, treasurer of the mission and co-director of three work camps.  In 1957 she returned to the Congo as treasurer of the District of Christ Mission, but because of family illness she returned to the United States in 1959 and settled in Red Oak, Iowa.


During her years in Red Oak she was an active volunteer in church and community activities such as the Good Samaritan Nursing Home and Church Women United.


Myrle Ward was widely honored for her outstanding service. She received awards as the Outstanding Alumna at Culver-Stockton University (1963); volunteer of the year, Iowa Health Care Association (1981); 30 year plaque from the American Cancer Society in 1985; and in 1988 she received the Governor's Award for her participation in the adult literacy program.


Ward continued to travel widely during these years, to South America, to the Far East, Australia and New Zealand in 1970, and to Alaska in 1976.


Ward died in Red Oak on April 28, 1992, of leukemia.


Scope and Content Note


This collection focuses primarily on Ward's missionary experience, especially her service in the Belgian Congo during the 1930s and 1940s.  The two five-year diaries and most of the correspondence, as well as many photographs, are from these years in Africa.


A book describing these years, In the Footsteps of the Elephant, was privately published in 1992.  It contains three chapters.  One is a thirty-nine day diary of a journey in Africa; another contains excerpts from letters to her family and friends, the originals of which are included in this collection; and the third chapter is a report about the educational program in the Belgian Congo, a paper she submitted for a summer school course at the University of Colorado in 1945.


Biographical information, vital papers, photographic portraits and snapshots of Ward, as well as genealogical information and family photographs comprise the remainder of the collection.


Artifacts from Africa have been given to Culver-Stockton University in Canton, Missouri along with black and white photos of her missionary work.  Her large collection of color slides of Africa and the photo albums of her travels have been given to Red Oak Community Media Center.


Box no.   Description

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Box 1

Biographical information

Family history and correspondence


Belgian Congo, 1929-1947 (bulk 1930s)

 General (1908, 1956, 1966, 1991, and undated;

                    annotated postcards)

Diploma, Farragut High School diploma, 1925 [oversize: shelved in map case drawer 2]


"What We Owe To Dreamers" (April 29, 1915)

"The Religious Dance: An Introduction to the Study of Religion"

"Why Young People Should Prepare for Foreign Service"

In The Footsteps of The Elephant, 1992 [shelved in printed works collection]

Manuscripts for Chapters 1 and 3


Box 2


Diaries (2 vols.)

  January 1, 1935 - December 31, 1939

              January 1, 1940 - 1945 (irregular entries)

Day Book

September-October, 1970 [a trip to the Far East, Australia and New Zealand for the Eighth Assembly of the World Convention of the Christian Churches, Adelaide, October 19-25]

Reminder book, 1962

Notes on places visited

Picture postcards (Canada, Alaska, Rio de Janeiro, Panama, and miscellaneous)

Inspirational clippings


Army Song Book, 1918

Autograph book, 1925

Picturesque Jamaica

Photographs of Myrle Ward

Photographs (4 envelopes in 1 folder)

Belgian Congo and Jamaica, the latter from the 1950's Alaska, Canada, Northwest United States (1976)

Family photographs