Women's History Month: Frances Willard

March 28, 2016

willardOur Women’s History Month celebration draws to a close as we highlight one final influential woman from history as chosen by you.  Last but certainly not least is Frances Willard who was selected by Glen Madeja – a 44-year Evanston resident and the Executive Director of the Frances Willard Historical Association which manages the Frances Willard House Museum, Memorial Library, and Archives.  Writes Mr. Madeja:

“Frances Willard was a visionary feminist, social justice advocate, and political activist in the late 19th century.  She was able to mobilize women across the globe to work for women’s rights and human rights when women generally had no empowerment in the public sphere.  The basis for our modern social welfare policies can be found in the initiatives fomented by Willard.  Many things we commonly take for granted today such as women’s right to vote, childhood education, protection of women and children at home and work, stiffer penalties for sexual crimes against girls and women, traveler’s aid, police matrons, pure food and drug laws, legal aid, and passive demonstrations are based on the pioneering work of Willard and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.”

You can learn more below about Frances Willard, and make sure to mark your calendars for July 2016 when EPL hosts a special Frances Willard House photography exhibit.  Stay tuned.


bordinFrances Willard: A Biography by Ruth Bordin

This well-researched biography examines Willard’s many reform efforts including her work as an early leader of the temperance movement.  Drawing on diaries and unpublished papers, Bordin contends that Willard paired her seeming conservatism with a radical social philosophy that combined womanliness, Christian socialism, and equal rights.



something goodLet Something Good Be Said: Speeches and Writings of Frances E. Willard edited by Carolyn De Swarte Gifford and Amy R. Slagell

Edited by experts in history, gender studies, and rhetoric, this collection gathers 22 excerpts from Frances Willard’s speeches and publications from 1874 to 1897.  To help put her words into context, the book includes a detailed timeline of Willard’s life and activities along with ample footnotes to explain her numerous contemporary, historical, literary, mythical, and scriptural allusions.



prohibitionProhibition by Ken Burns

This fascinating Ken Burns documentary includes Frances Willard in its examination of Prohibition and its consequences.  In the series, historian Catherine Murdock describes Willard as “one of the great unsung heroes of American history.  There was a time when every school child in America knew her, and she was sort of, on par with Betsy Ross.”  Fun fact: Some of the research for the documentary was done at the Frances Willard Library and Archives.



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