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Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells

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A Community History Project of the Frances Willard House Museum and Archives

In the 1890s, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union President Frances Willard and journalist and activist Ida B. Wells fought a war of words in the international press over Willard’s lack of public support for Wells’ anti-lynching campaign. At the time, Willard was prominent in social reform circles but her work to expand the WCTU, especially in the South, caused her to make moral compromises and use language that was demeaning and incendiary. Wells called Willard’s moral leadership into question and demanded that Willard and the WCTU join her anti-lynching campaign. Under Willard’s leadership, the WCTU eventually passed resolutions opposing lynching, but Willard’s language and actions complicate her legacy.

Until now, this story has never before been told at the museum and archives dedicated to honoring Willard’s life and leadership.

On Thursday March 14, 2019 the Frances Willard House Museum and Archives will launch Truth Telling: Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells, a community history project that explores this conflict. The project includes a digital exhibit of original archival sources, community conversations, and public programs. The goal of the project is to uncover the full truth of the conflict, and explore its many meanings and ramifications for our world today. The launch event will include a view of the in-progress digital exhibit, a panel discussion with invited scholars, and audience feedback and conversations.

The launch will take place from 6-8 p.m. in Harris Hall room 107 at Northwestern University, beginning with a 5:30 public reception. The event is free to the public. Reservations are recommended as seating is limited. RSVP at this link or call 847-328-7500. 

Project Sponsors Include:

  • Ann Ida Gannon, BVM, Center for Women and Leadership, Loyola University Chicago
  • Department of History, Loyola University Chicago
  • Department of African American Studies, Northwestern University
  • Department of History, Northwestern University; Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, Northwestern University
  • Center for Diversity and Democracy, Northwestern University
  • Office of Neighborhood and Community Relations, Northwestern University
  • Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications, Northwestern University
  • Pritzker School of Law, Northwestern University
  • Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, Northwestern University
  • Northwestern University Libraries
  • Office of the Provost, Northwestern University.

For our project statement with more information, please click here.

Just Released – 2018 CWHL Annual Report

Please click here to view the 2018 Center for Women’s History and Leadership Annual report.

Views Talk: New Works in Women’s History

A Temperate and Creole Cosmopolitanism in Frances Harper and Amanda Berry Smith

On Tuesday February 19th, 2019, author Carole Stewart will give a talk titled: “A Temperate and Creole Cosmopolitanism in Frances Harper and Amanda Berry Smith.” Drawing on her recent book, Temperance and Cosmopolitanism: African American Reformers in the Atlantic World, Stewart will address the works and lives of African American author-reformers Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Amanda Berry Smith. At the end of the nineteenth-century, both women were also prominent members of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

The talk will take place from 7-8 p.m. at Deering Library Room 208 on the Northwestern University campus. The event is free but donations in support of the Willard Museum and Archives will be accepted. Reservations are recommended as seating is limited. Please use this form to RSVP.


The Chicago Tribune travel section has recognized the Frances Willard House Museum as #2 on it’s “Bucket List: 20 things to see linked to influential Illinoisans”. Whoohoo! You can check out the article here.


It’s not too late to pick up a fun activity for the whole family with our Tour Evanston Women’s History Map, which provides a self-guided tour highlighting fifteen women’s history sites throughout Evanston around the theme, She Persisted. More information available here.


In August we were pleased to host participants of Evanston Library’s “Girls Be Heard” program, which empowered participants to use their voices to speak up for themselves and on issues they felt were important. We loved giving a tour for the girls, and sharing Willard’s own journey to learning to use her voice!


The Lisa D Show, a podcast that records in Evanston and celebrates creatives, recently featured our director, Lori Osborne, in an episode of their show. You can check out their conversation about exciting upcoming projects and programs at FWHM here.

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