Constance Chandler Ward

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Constance Chandler Ward (October 26, 1935 - August 2, 2018) was the first woman from St. Paul's Church to be ordained as a priest.



Chandler-Ward was born in Cambridge, MA to Ruth Doggett Chandler and the Rev. Dr. Edgar H.S. Chandler. Her father was the Director of the Refugee Services for the World Council of Churches, so much of her early education took place in Geneva, Switzerland. She did her bachelor's and master's degrees at Trinity College Dublin before returning to the US and completing her Masters of Divinity at Yale in 1961.

By 1975, Chandler-Ward had married her husband, David, and moved to Charlottesville, where she was ordained as a Deacon in the Episcopal Church. Just two years later, the Episcopal Church ruled that women could become priests. Within one month of the decision, Chandler-Ward was ordained as a priest in Charlottesville, making her one of the first female priests in the Church. Her first appointment was as associate rector at St. Paul's Memorial Church, while her husband was the rector. This pattern of appointment alongside her husband continued when David was appointed as the rector at Grace Church in Providence, RI, while Constance remained the associate rectory.[1]

The portrait of Rev. Constance by Frances Brand

While living in Charlottesville, Chandler-Ward was painted by local artist Frances Brand as part of her "Firsts" series.[2]

In 1980, Reverend. Chandler-Ward became the chaplain at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where she undertook a project to make the liturgy less gender-specific.[3] In 1990, she delivered the invocation before that year's commencement address by then-First Lady Barbara Bush.

Following her retirement from Wellesley, Chandler-Ward founded a retreat center for women with two other female Episcopal ministers, where she was considered a humble, if shy leader that did whatever was necessary for the people who needed her help.[3]

Rev. Chandler-Ward died in 2018 at the age of 82, following an automobile crash in her adopted home state of Maine.[1]