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Philadelphia Women’s History Month All-Stars

All-Star #23: Clara Ward

Philadelphia Women’s History Month All-Stars

All-Star #23: Clara Ward

Scientists. Activists. Lawyers. Artists. The first computer programmers.

The history books may have neglected some of the incredible Philly women who changed the world over the last 200-plus years—but we have not.

While it shouldn’t take a national observance to put women on our radar, this is one holiday we’re happy to play along with: Every weekday during Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting a local woman whose legacy deserves celebrating—and who continues to inspire us.

Find the full list below—and also check out the incredible women we included in our Black History Month All-Stars roundup—like Marian Anderson, Sadie Alexander and Caroline Still Anderson.

23

Clara Ward

Gospel singer / songwriter

Clara Ward

Gospel singer / songwriter

1924-1973

Considered one of the greatest soloists in gospel history, Clara Ward and her Famous Ward Singers—a group started by her mother, Gertrude—toured their signature rollicking gospel sound around the country, in churches, arenas and even, quite controversially, nightclubs. Ward became the group’s musical arranger at the height of their success, including when they toured with the Rev. C.L. Franklin, whose daughter—Aretha—considered Ward a mentor.

Ward, who went on to lead the Clara Ward Singers, featured in the Hollywood movie A Time to Sing, with Hank Williams Jr., and was inducted posthumously into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • Was a founding member, and musical arranger, of the Ward gospel singers
  • Has a 32 cent U.S. Postal Service stamp with her image on it
  • Influenced Aretha Franklin
  • Performed twice before President Lyndon Johnson
  • Played at Carnegie Hall with Mahalia Jackson
  • Directed the music for a Broadway play


FINAL WORDS:
In her 1973 obituary, Ward was quoted as having said: “I really kind of think, as far as my personal life is concerned, I got it made.”


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