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Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard (September 28, 1839 – February 17, 1898) was an American educator, temperance reformer, and women’s suffragist. Her influence was instrumental in the passage of the Eighteenth (Prohibition) and Nineteenth (Women Suffrage) Amendments to the United States Constitution. Willard became the national president of Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1879, and remained president for 19 years. She developed the slogan “Do everything” for the women of the WCTU to incite lobbying, petitioning, preaching, publication, and education. Her vision progressed to include federal aid to education, free school lunches, unions for workers, the eight-hour work day, work relief for the poor, municipal sanitation and boards of health, national transportation, strong anti-rape laws, protections against child abuse, and Henry George’s Single-tax land reform theories.
In the 1860s, Willard suffered a series of personal crises: both her father and her younger sister Mary died, her brother became an alcoholic. Meanwhile, she became a friend of her future sister-in-law. Willard’s family underwent financial difficulty due to her brother’s excessive gambling and drinking, and Willard was unable to receive financial support from them. In 1869, Willard was involved in the founding of Evanston Ladies’ College.
In 1870, the college united with the former North Western Female College to become the Evanston College for Ladies, of which Willard became president. After only one year, the Evanston College for Ladies merged with Northwestern University and Willard became Northwestern’s first Dean of Women of the Women’s College. However, that position was to be short-lived due to her resignation in 1874 after confrontations with the University President, Charles Henry Fowler, over her governance of the Women’s College. Willard had previously been engaged to Fowler.
After her resignation, Willard focused her energies on a new career, traveling the American East Coast participating in the women’s temperance movement. Her tireless efforts for women’s suffrage and prohibition included a fifty-day speaking tour in 1874, an average of 30,000 miles of travel a year, and an average of four hundred lectures a year for a ten-year period, mostly with her longtime companion Anna Adams Gordon.
The loves of women for each other grow more numerous each day, and I have pondered much why these things were. That so little should be said about them surprises me, for they are everywhere … In these days when any capable and careful woman can honorably earn her own support, there is no village that has not its examples of ‘two hearts in counsel,’ both of which are feminine.
~Frances Willard, The Autobiography of an American Woman: Glimpses of Fifty Years, 1889
- Woman and temperance, or the work and workers of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Hartford, Conn.: Park Pub. Co., 1883.
- “Frances E. Willard,” in Our famous women: an authorized record of the lives and deeds of distinguished American women of our times… Hartford, Conn.: A.D. Worthington, 1884.
- Glimpses of fifty years: the autobiography of an American woman. Chicago: Woman’s Temperance Publishing Association, 1889.
- How to Win: A Book For Girls NY: Funk & Wagnalls, 1886. reprinted 1887 & 1888.
- Nineteen beautiful years, or, sketches of a girl’s life. Chicago: Woman’s Temperance Publication Association, 1886.
- A Classic Town: The Story of Evanston, Woman’s Temperance Publishing Association, Chicago, 1891.
- Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. President. President’s Annual Address 1891
- Do everything: a handbook for the world’s white ribboners. Chicago: Woman’s Temperance Publishing Association, [1895?].
- A Wheel Within a Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle 1895.