Frances Elizabeth Willard


Frances Elizabeth Willard Famous memorial

Churchville, Monroe County, New York, USA
Death 17 Feb 1898 (aged 58)
New York Mills, Oneida County, New York, USA
Burial Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Plot Section F; Her cremated ashes were placed in her mother's grave.
Memorial ID 6555 View Source

Social Reformer. She was an American woman, who was a leader in the temperance movement, a suffragist, an educator and the first President of Evanston College for Ladies. She was the first woman to be honored with her statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the United States Capitol. Born Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard, the middle child of three, her parents were Josiah Willard and Mary Thompson Hill Willard. Her family migrated from New York to Ohio and then to Wisconsin. Her education consisted of being homeschooled by her mother, attending a one-room school for a brief time, and studying at Milwaukee Female College for one semester. In 1858, the family relocated to Evanston, Illinois, where her father became a banker and she attended North Western Female College, a Methodist school, graduating the next year. After teaching in local one-room schools, her reputation of being an excellent teacher gave her job opportunities at the Pittsburgh Female College in Pennsylvania and at Genessee College in New York. While at Genessee College, she had a serious romance with a teacher. In 1871 she became the first president of the all-women faculty of Evanston College for Ladies. She raised funds to construct a building to house the 236 students. This building became known as Willard Hall. Her female students mainly enrolled in classes at nearby Northwestern University, but did take art and home economic classes at Evanston College for Ladies. The college's first graduating class was the first to receive diplomas from female professors and to hear the baccalaureate address given by a woman. She was being recognized widely in the educational community. When this college merged with Northwestern University on June 25, 1873, she became the first Dean of Women of the Women's College as well as Professor of Aesthetics at Northwestern, but resigned and ended her engagement to marry in 1874, after a disagreement with Northwestern University President Charles Henry Fowler, who was her fiancé for several years. She never married. At that point, she traveled to the East crusading city to city for the woman's temperance movement. She was an excellent speaker, a successful lobbyist, and an expert in pressure politics. Upon returning to Illinois, she accepted the position of president of the Chicago group and continuing to support the crusades. In November of 1874 she participated in the founding convention of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and was elected the first corresponding secretary of the WCTU and was elected President of the WCTU in 1879. In 1877 she met Anna Adams Gordon at evangelist Dwight L. Moody's Boston revival. Gordon became her private secretary, friend, and life-long companion. With her leadership, the WCTU became the largest organization of women in the nineteenth century. With a strong work ethic, she was a model of amazing leadership skills and personal determination, which inspired others to work hard. The WCTU 150,000 members became involved in local and national politics on the subject of not only temperance, but the woman's right to education and voting along with labor reforms. Although she had a decline in her health in 1892, she traveled to England to be the founder of the World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union. She and her sister-in-law were involved in the WCTU newspaper, the "Union Signal." After her return from England in 1895, she was one of the founding members of the Illinois Women's Press Association. In late 1897, her health began to deteriorate rapidly as she was preparing for another trip to England. In a New York City hotel waiting to board the ship, she became seriously ill, dying from influenza. Her remains were returned to Illinois with thousands of mourners attending the funeral service after she had lain in state for 24 hours in the WCTU headquarters building in Chicago. A statue of her was made by sculptor Helen Farnsworth Mears and in 1905 her statue became the first of nine in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the United States Capitol. Having the membership number of 243, she was one of the earliest members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, belonging to the Fort Dearborn Chapter in Illinois. Her home was left to the WCTU but today is a museum, the Frances Willard House Museum and Archives. There are numerous schools and other facilities around the world that have been named in her honor. In 2000, Willard was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. Henrietta Briggs-Wall's 1893 painting, "American Woman and her Political Peers," has her as one of the subjects of the painting along a convict, a Native American, a man with intellectual disability, and a mentally ill man; at that time, none had the right to vote. Her older brother, Reverend Oliver Atherton Willard, was married to Mary H. Bannister Willard, a journalist, temperance supporter, and educator, who started the American School for Girls in Berlin, Germany.

Bio by: Linda Davis


Founder of the Worlds Womens Christian Temperance Union
She made this world wider for women and more homelike for humanity

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 4 Oct 1999
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID: 6555
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Frances Elizabeth Willard (28 Sep 1839–17 Feb 1898), Find a Grave Memorial ID 6555, citing Rosehill Cemetery and Mausoleum, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .