A HISTORIC venue in York is set to raise awareness of an "extraordinary" woman from Yorkshire who paved the way for ground-breaking local, national and international change.

Mary Ward, who lived from January 23, 1585 until January 30, 1645, is the foundress of the religious order in residence at the Bar Convent in York, now known as the Congregation of Jesus. Mary is so significant to change that each year, to mark the anniversaries of her birth and her death, her life and works are celebrated worldwide.

Explaining why, Dr Hannah Thomas, special collections manager at the Bar Convent, said: “It was Mary Ward’s vision and determination that pioneered the idea of religious sisters working as missionaries- and her mission was to educate girls. Both were unheard of at the time and Catholicism was illegal in this country.

“She challenged the status quo, stating that given equal opportunities for education, there would be no difference in what women and men could achieve.

York Press: Mary Ward lived during the 1500s and 1600sMary Ward lived during the 1500s and 1600s (Image: Bar Convent)

“It is thanks to Mary that her followers established the first ever school for girls in the country in Hammersmith, London in 1669 and the second here at the Bar Convent.

“Today, there are over 200 Mary Ward schools around the world and the Bar Convent is of the highest significance to the global order of religious sisters. Mary is buried in Osbaldwick, York.”

The Bar Convent team are keen for people to join them to discover more about Mary Ward and help to raise awareness of this key local historic figure.

The activities include a 'Family Friendly Mary Ward Trail' from January 23 - 30. The price of this is included in admission to the exhibition.

There will be an introduction to Mary Ward with special collections manager, Dr Hannah Thomas. This will feature an introductory talk about the local, national and international importance of Mary. It will be held on Tuesday January 24 at 1pm.

York Press: A range of activities will be organised at Bar Convent to mark Mary Ward WeekA range of activities will be organised at Bar Convent to mark Mary Ward Week (Image: Gareth Buddo)

Sister Ann Stafford will be in the exhibition to chat to visitors about the significance of Mary Ward from 11am until 1pm and 2pm until 4pm on Saturday January 28.

The ecumenical celebration of the life and legacy of Mary Ward will be held at the Church of St Thomas in Osbaldwick Sunday January 29 at 4pm. Those wishing to attend either in person or online should contact reception@bar-convent.org.uk.

Established in 1686, Bar Convent is the oldest living convent in all of the British Isles, it is of the highest significance to the worldwide order, the Congregation of Jesus, and more than 200 schools across the globe can trace their beginnings to this house.

The Grade I listed building is now open to the public as an internationally celebrated heritage centre and receives visitors from all over the world.