Jacqueline McDonnell was born in 1941 to a military family in Hawaii (her father served in the US Navy) and raised in Nebraska. Her first public singing performances were with her two sisters in a Nebraska church - she was eight years old at the time. After the trio won a national talent search run by Horace Heidt, they moved to Los Angeles to look for work in the music industry.
At the age of 13 she was hired by television station KTLA to sing on a Your Hit Parade-like program, Bandstand Revue, in which she sang popular hits for four years as part of the house singing ensemble. After she parted ways with KTLA, she started a career of singing in demo recordings for various LA-based songwriters and session singing for several California-based record companies and producers. One result of her session work was the recording for her voice singing the "La la la" parts in Pat Boone's last million-selling single, "Speedy Gonzales", in 1962 (Elton John stated that the "hook" in his best-selling single "Crocodile Rock" was inspired by his listening to Ward's vocal on "Speedy Gonzales").
In 1963, songwriter-producer Perry Botkin, Jr. needed a session singer to make a demo recording of "Wonderful Summer", a song that he wrote with his co-writer and co-producer, Gil Garfield. Botkin may have been looking for a Lesley Gore sound-alike, and he found her in Jackie. A now-married Ward agreed to record it in Gold Star Studios. After an experiment in which Botkin sped up the recording by wrapping splicing tape around the capstan of the recorder, he and Ward agreed that the finished recording (with bird and surf sound effects added) would not be just a demo but a recording to be released as a 45 revolutions-per-minute single.
The "altered" recording resulted in the then 21-year-old woman sounding like a high school girl; so Ward suggested changing her first name on the record label to that of her daughter, Robin. That fall, "Wonderful Summer" was released on Dot Records. Sales were over one million copies in the United States, propelling the recording to the #14 position on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in November 1963.
An album followed, to limited success, before a duet with Wink Martindale, another Dot artist. "Wonderful Summer" remains the only hit for Ward on the Hot 100.
In 1964 Ward released the single "Winter's Here", which reached #123 on the Billboard chart.
While Ward was disappearing from the record charts, her session singing career was becoming quite lucrative. In the early to mid-1960s she was one of the stable of singers for The Red Skelton Show; at roughly the same time, she performed the same job for The Danny Kaye Show, and later, The Carol Burnett Show. In the 1970s she worked similarly for The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.
Her voice is heard in dozens of television theme songs, including Flipper; Batman; Love, American Style; Maude (with Donny Hathaway providing the lead vocal); and The Partridge Family. She has sung in hundreds of television commercials, most notably those for Rice-a-Roni ("The San Francisco treat").
The theme song was not the only recording that she did for The Partridge Family: she was one of a group of four background vocalists—herself, brothers John and Tom Bahler, and Ron Hicklin—to record all the music for television play and record releases while "posing" as the Partridge Family (only two members of the TV series—Shirley Jones and David Cassidy—recorded with them).
In 1967, she sang on Gábor Szabó's album for Impulse!, Wind, Sky And Diamonds, as member of The California Dreamers.
By her own estimate, Ward's voice can be heard in "maybe 800" films. Some of the more notable instances include her voice being dubbed over Natalie Wood's singing for the Academy Award nominated song "Sweetheart Tree", from The Great Race as well as Inside Daisy Clover, doing the same for Janet Leigh in American Dream, and providing the singing voice for Cindy Bear in Hey There, It's Yogi Bear!, and the Singer in Charlotte's Web.
In the 1965 movie Beach Blanket Bingo, she sang two songs off-screen, "New Love" and "Fly Boy", which were lip-synched by Linda Evans onscreen.
After "A Wonderful Summer", she kept busy with not only television and motion picture session work, but hundreds of recordings for the music industry, including backing Barbra Streisand on "Stoney End"; broadcast recordings of Hair, Grease, Annie, and Hello Dolly; and backup singing for dozens of major recording artists, including Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Gordon Lightfoot, the Carpenters, Cass Elliot, and Joan Baez. Ward also sang alto as a member of vocal groups the Anita Kerr Singers, the Ron Hicklin Singers and the Ray Conniff Singers, having recorded several lead and solo vocals on a few of Conniff's albums. Ward sang a duet with Allan Sherman on his song Here's To the Crabgrass from his 1963 comedy album My Son The Nut