In 2004 the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary changed its name to the Congregation of Jesus to fulfill Mary Ward's ambition for the Order to be named after Jesus. Mary Ward was inspired by the Jesuit model and by the idea that women could do equal work with men. Mary Ward wanted women to be free from the restrictions imposed on women of being obliged to pursue their religious vocation in enclosed orders. She sought freedom from enclosure so that they could serve the local community.
On October 3rd, the Sisters wrote in their Journal, 'We admitted two little girls as day pupils, Dorothy and Daisy Moore of Chesterton…Dorothy is eight and Daisy five.'
The spring term began on January 16th with four new day pupils, each paying £1.10 per term. They were joined by two boarders on 20th. The Journal records, 'The two Miss Hardings arrived. Mr and Mrs Harding came over the house and seemed satisfied with all the arrangements.'
In 1904 the swelling numbers necessitated a change of venue and the Elms on Bateman Street was purchased for £6,000. The house had a tradition which was very much in keeping with Mary Ward's vision. It had belonged to Dr Kennedy, Regius Professor of Greek at the University. He had encouraged female education and opened his lectures to women. Female students were always welcome at the house and when they were ready to sit the Tripos examinations, from which they were officially excluded, they sat them in the drawing room of The Elms.
As the school continued to grow other premises were added. Paston House was purchased in 1909. It is also a house with an interesting tradition as it is said to have a connection with the Paston Letters. (The Paston Letters are just about the best sources in existence for the social history of 15th century England. They provide unrivalled insight into a Norfolk family from the upper gentry surviving the conflict generally known as the Wars of the Roses. The letters written by one of the Paston mothers to her son training as a lawyer in London give an insight into family life (and shopping habits).
By 1920 the school had 100 pupils. The numbers have increased steadily since then and the school is now around 680 strong. In 'The Cambridge Evening News' recently, there was an article reprinted from 1932, giving news of St Mary's:
'Paston House School for girls, Cambridge, goes from strength to strength. The number of pupils is greater than ever and parents were satisfied with the work conducted by the Sisters of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The school improved morals and character and a girl's soul receives training which sets her on her way to face the problems of life with a firm grounding in the things that matter.'
One of the main characteristics of the school has always been that it has provided an environment within which close and affirming friendships can be forged. Many women who were pupils in the 1930s have been meeting their old school friends regularly and are still doing so today.