Frances Willard (1839-1898) and her family moved around a lot—New York to Ohio to Wisconsin and finally to Evanston, Illinois where 18 year old Willard enrolled in North Western Female College, a Methodist-affiliated secondary school. After graduation, she began teaching at one room schools in nearby towns and later at more prestigious secondary schools in Pennsylvania and New York. In 1871 Willard returned to Evanston, being named president of the new Evanston College for Ladies. Two years later, the college merged with Northwestern University and Willard became the first Dean of Women. The appointment was short-lived because Willard and Northwestern President Charles Henry Fowler (Willard’s former fiancé) disagreed over her leadership role. Willard resigned and began a new vocational path as a leader of the women’s temperance movement, culminating in her 1879 election as President of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). While the WCTU is best known for its stand against the consumption of alcohol, Willard broadened the organization’s scope to include woman’s suffrage, woman’s rights, education reforms and labor reforms. Under her leadership, the WCTU was the largest organization of women in the 19th century. Willard was the first woman to have her statue placed in the U.S Capitol (put there in 1905).
Why this stop? The Purple Line Davis stop is a 6-minute walk from Francis Willard’s home.
Learn more about Frances Willard and the WCTU in this video.
Connect—Visit the Frances Willard House Museum in Evanston.