Nine Stories Nine Women -7- Mary Agnes Ward

Nine Stories Nine Women -7-  Mary Agnes Ward

In keeping with the theme of Queensland Women’s Week 2019 – Invest in Women, Invest in the future.  Talking about financial insecurity and literacy.    The stories of the women of Boggo Road Gaol directly represent what goes wrong when women are faced with financial insecurity and other difficult circumstances.
This year, in honour of these women we have produced Nine Stories Nine Women a series of short stories representative of the different circumstances that women found themselves in.  Mary Agnes Ward is the seventh of our nine stories.

Name (with aliases):  Mary Agnes Ward

Year of Birth: 1924

Trade or Calling:  Laundress

Religion:  Roman Catholic

Education:  R & W

Height: 5 feet 8 inches

Weight: 8 stone 7 pounds

Hair: Brown

Eyes:  Blue/Green

Complexion: Fresh

Build:  Slight

Features:  Two missing Fingers Right hand.


19-year-old Mary Agnes Ward, is the definition of victim of circumstance.  A former ward of the state she was released from care directly into poverty.  Begging on the streets she was caught up in the cleanse by police of Brisbane from vagrants or undesirable girls…

Frustratingly, very little is obtainable about Mary Agnes Ward.  The records of her early life being sealed under strict regulations.   However, we do know that Mary was a ward of the state and had recently been released from care when she was caught up in a massive cleanse of Brisbane by the police.

What does it mean to be a ward of the state?  A child can be made a ward of the state, even if the parents are alive. Usually, this happens when the parents become incompetent to take care of the child due to reasons like mental illness, chronic substance abuse, or physical disability. … Children who are in trouble with law are also often made wards of the state.

Mary was charged twice in the same year, only having been out of Boggo Road Gaol for a number of days before being charged the second time.  Each charge was for having insufficient means of support.   Basically she was in poverty and had no money to support herself.

Now this insufficient means was also a tricky charge.  A person could be charged with insufficient means  or Vagrancy simply as a charge to take you off the street as an “undesirable”   Poverty then as it is today seen by some to be a filthy, lazy existence… however as we know it can be absolutely the complete opposite.

The Cleanse

At this time, we are in the midst of the second world war… Brisbane has been thrust onto the world stage when soldiers from the United States of America came to port here for some desperately needed Rest and Relaxation.   Also Brisbane served as part of the port system for the Pacific Fleet.  The arrival of the soldiers brought with it… women from all over Queensland seeking a good fellow to marry them and perhaps even see the world.  It also brought to town women solely with the purpose of making a quick dollar off of the visiting men.   It is thought that newly freed Mary was more looking for a fellow to help her escape.

However, being poverty stricken that was terribly unlikely she was much more likely to fall into the trap of being a lady used for entertainment and getting roped into making a quick dollar instead.

Seemingly though, Mary resisted this temptation.  Unfortunately for her, the police charged by the government were keeping an eye out for any seemingly undesirable women and locking them up. Sweeping the street clean so to speak.   Of course, this only worked for as long as they were locked up!

Thankfully when Mary was released from Boggo Road Gaol, she married and turned her life around.  A happy ending for a victim of circumstance.  As with the beginning of her story, the ending is not really known either. Mary does not appear in the records of Boggo Road Gaol again…

Come and get locked up in Boggo Road Gaol for International Women’s Day Experience what life was like for the women from the earliest times of the female division in our fully immersive tour experience Join us for a History Tour on the 8th of March to be a part of our very special International Women’s Day event.

Tickets for International Women’s Day are strictly limited so get in quickly to secure your spot.  You do not want to miss this! Click here to book now! 

Boggo Road Gaol
Boggo Road Gaol