Frances Willard, 1839-1898

  • Frances-Willard-WWP

Woman Category: Activism & Feminism and Politics & LeadersWoman Tags: 19th Amendment Centennial Anniversary, Educator, Suffragist, The Pioneering Women of the Penn Quarter Neighborhood, and WDC Metro Area Women

  • HerStory

    An educator, suffragist, and the national president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

    Born in Churchville, New York as Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard, and moved from one place to another with her family, until they settled in Evanston, Illinois, where she attended the North Western Female College. After graduation, she began a teaching career, and at the age of 32, she was appointed the president of Evanston College for Ladies. Two years later she was named the first Dean of Women at the university, but she resigned after only one year due to confrontations with the University President, to whom she was engaged a few years earlier.
    At the time, women began to oppose alcohol consumption in purpose to reduce domestic violence. Willard, dedicated to the cause, became a member of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and served in various positions in the organization, including the first Corresponding Secretary, the Head of the Publications Department, and the President of the National WCTU, a position she served for 19 years until her death. Under Willard’s presidency, the WCTU grew to be the largest women’s organization at the time, encouraging women to be involved in local and national politics and supporting social change.
    With the assistance of her personal secretary, Anna Adams Gordon, Willard promoted the temperance goals by giving speeches throughout the country, advocating for women’s rights, the suffrage movement, labor reform, and education.
    When Willard was 49 years old, she joined the International Council of Women meeting, where they established the National Council of Women. Later on, she was appointed as the first president of the organization. She also took part in the establishment of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. In 1898, while preparing for a trip to Europe, she caught the flu and died in her sleep when she is 59 years old.

    “Temperance is moderation in the things that are good and total abstinence from the things that are foul”

    “Temperance is moderation in the things that are good and total abstinence from the things that are foul”

    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She was named after the novelist Frances Burney, the poet Frances Osgood, and her sister, Elizabeth Caroline.
    • Willard was the first woman at America’s greatest leaders in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol.
    • ‘Frances Willard Avenue’ in Chico, California is named in her honor.
    • The ‘Frances E. Willard Temperance Hospital’ is named in her honor.
    • She never got married or had children. She lived with her assistant Anna Adams Gordon.
    • The Frances Willard House Museum in Evanston, IL, is located at her family home and the headquarters of the WCTU.
    • Frances Willard statue in the US Capitol was given to the National Statuary Hall Collection by Illinois in 1905.
    • Frances Willard Memorial, known as the Fountial Girl statue is located at Lincoln Park in Chicago, IL.
    • Many of the fountains memorials were donated by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and are still standing in many cities all over the US.


  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Books she wrote
    * Her co-authored Autobiography

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Documentary: Frances E. Willard

    A history project. Song: I Want to Break Free by Queen

  • Photographed by Kurz & Allison Lithography Company in 1897. Presented at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Photo credit - WWP team.

  • Citations and Additional References:
    Frances Willard House website.
    WCTU website.
    Wikipedia page.