Sue Fryer Ward: An Advocate for Maryland’s Senior Citizens

The Sue Fryer Ward papers were recently donated to the University of Maryland’s Special Collections by Ward’s daughter, Lucille Ward Walker. They chronicle Ward’s activities as a licensed social worker and her political career at the county and state level. A first in a series of donations, this particular group of materials includes Sue Fryer Ward’s correspondence, news clippings, speeches, certificates and other awards, reports, and photographs.

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Photograph of Sue Fryer Ward with then-County Executive Parris Glendening, 1994. Note reads: “To Sue: With warmest congratulations. You have been a key to the progressive spirit of this county. Parris.” Sue Fryer Ward papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.

Ward was passionate about advocating for the rights of elders. As a child, she spent ten years living on a Navajo reservation while her father worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She witnessed the respect that the Navajo tribe paid to their elders; this experience helped to inspire the work she did on behalf of senior citizens. Ward was the director of the Department of Aging for Prince George’s County from 1982 to1991. During this time, she worked closely with then-County Executive Parris Glendening to improve health care, transportation, and housing options for elders. Ward was also the director of the County’s Department of Family Services from 1992 to 1995. By consolidating the Department of Aging with the Commission for Women, the Commission for Persons with Disabilities, the Commission for Children and Youth, and the Commission for Families, Ward and other officials were able to better serve those in need by combining their knowledge and resources. As governor of Maryland, Parris Glendening later named Ward the director of Maryland’s Office on Aging, a position that she held between 1995 and1998. This agency became a Cabinet-level department in 1998 and Ward was appointed the Secretary of Aging for the State of Maryland. She was the first person to hold this position.

After Ward left government service in 2003, she became the grassroots director for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. In this role, she fought against cuts to Social Security and Medicare and led efforts to educate citizens across the nation about the importance of these programs. Ward retired from this position in 2011.

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Photograph of Sue Fryer Ward with a colleague at the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, ca. 2003. Sue Fryer Ward papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.

Sue Fryer Ward was also a candidate for the House of Representatives in 1978. She challenged Republican incumbent Marjorie Holt for the seat of Maryland’s Fourth District. During her campaign, she focused on employment, inflation, energy, and the improvement of services like day care, education, and housing. The Sue Fryer Ward papers include news clippings, campaign buttons, stickers, an election guide, and correspondence which relate to this ultimately unsuccessful congressional campaign.

Throughout her life, Ward remained politically active. She helped to staff polls on Election Day and participated in various political demonstrations. Ward received the 1994 Gladys Noon Spellman Award for Excellence in Public Service for her service to the Prince George’s County government. She also received a 2001 Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Award of Excellence to Outstanding Women in Government Service. The Maryland chapter of the National Association of Social Workers selected Ward as the Social Worker of the Year in 2003. She was also posthumously inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in 2015. Many of the certificates and plaques that Ward earned throughout her career are included in this group of materials.

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Campaign buttons. Sue Fryer Ward papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.

Among its several collection strengths, the Maryland and Historical Collections unit strives to document the activities of Maryland women in politics through active collecting. Researchers can learn more about similar resources by consulting the Women’s Political Papers section of the Women in Maryland LibGuide. The Sue Fryer Ward papers join the papers of Lucille Maurer, Carol S. Petzold, and Pauline Menes,  now available to researchers in the Maryland Room of Hornbake Library. This collection would be helpful for researchers particularly interested in Maryland women in politics and in advocacy for senior citizens.


Emily Flint is a first year MLIS student in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. She works in the State of Maryland and Historical Collections at UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives.

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