- Willard, Frances
- ( 1839-1898 )feminist leader of the Women's Christian Temperance UnionFrances Elizabeth Willard was born on September 28, 1839, in Churchville, New York, and grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin, where the family joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. Her parents, both teachers, made sure that Frances and her sister, Mary, received a good education. Frances was motivated through much of her life to be like her brother, who as a Methodist minister was educated, could vote, and could preach.At age 17, Willard entered Milwaukee Female College, then continued her studies at Northwest Female College and Garrett Biblical institute, both sponsored by the Methodists at Evanston, illinois. She graduated as her class valedictorian.Frances began a teaching career; in 1871, she became president of the Evanston College for Ladies. She introduced some startling educational changes designed to create more autonomous female graduates. Criticism led her to come out publicly in favor of the new women's movement. Her career at the college came to an end in 1873, when Charles Fowler became president of Northwestern University. Fowler, who had been briefly engaged to Willard, moved to end Evanston College's independence and strip Willard of her presidential powers.Leaving her academic post, Willard became active in the Association for the Advancement for Women as its national vice president. Seeing the possibilities in the antisaloon crusade that was sweeping the Midwest, she became the national corresponding secretary of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), and pushed the union to back women's suffrage. Then in 1879, she attained the presidency of the union and kept it for the rest of her life, sustained by the annual vote of the national convention.In 1880, Willard announced the "Do-Every-thing Policy," which would involve the WCTU with a wide variety of issues relevant to the status and role of women - from hiring women police to dealing with female offenders to rescuing teenagers from prostitution. As the union expanded, Willard's prominence increased. In 1888, she was one of the first group of women elected as delegates to the Methodist Episcopal Church's General Conference, but was denied her seat, with Charles Fowler, now a bishop, helping to block her way, Willard was particularly targeted because of her recent new book, Women in the Pulpit.Willard was effective on the suffrage question in Illinois, which in 1913 adopted her proposal for "Home Protection." As a step toward full suffrage, the plan would allow women to vote on all issues that directly affected the home, with alcohol abuse at the top of the list.Willard died on February 17, 1898. she was widely honored in death; the state of Illinois donated a statue to the U.s. Capitol's statuary Hall, the only woman so honored. The WCTU backed away from Willard's feminist programs in the decades following her death when their primary cause triumphed with the Prohibition amendment. Her role in the women's movement was largely forgotten until revived in the late 20th century by Evangelical women seeking role models for their own efforts to escape male-dominated ecclesiastical structures.See also women, ordination of.Further reading:■ Carolyn D. Gifford, ed., Writing Out My Heart: Selections from the Journal of Frances E. Willard, 1855-96 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995)■ Anna Gordon, The Beautiful Life of Frances Willard (Chicago: Woman's Temperance Publishing Association, 1898)■ Richard W. Leeman, Do Everything Reform: The Reform Oratory of Frances E. Willard (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992)■ Ray Strachey, Frances Willard Her Life and Work (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1913)■ Frances Willard, Glimpses of Fifty Years (Chicago: H. J. Smith, 1889).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.