Our latest Collection Close-Up is now live on our YouTube Channel! In “An Exceeding Fondness for Books: The Libraries at the Willard House,” Museum Director Lori Osborne explores favorites from the book collections at the Museum. Amongst some of the Willard family’s oldest possessions, the books reveal much about who owned them, shared them, and cared for them over many years.

Do Everything 2023

Each September, the Frances Willard House Museum marks Frances Willard’s birthday (September 28) with special programs and tours that examine her model of leadership. In honor of the 150th anniversary of Willard’s inaugural term as the first Dean of Women at Northwestern University in 1873, Do Everything 2023 explores her contributions to and struggles in the field of women’s higher education.

Click here to watch our new video account of Willard’s first term as Northwestern’s Dean of Women. Willard broke new ground as a woman professor teaching women and men students in the same classrooms. But while Northwestern students championed her tenure as “a most substantial triumph in favor of the woman movement,” Willard faced unprecedented challenges to her leadership from within and without.

Our free public programs happen only with your support. We hope you will consider making a donation here. Thank you!

Knowledge is Power: Women and Education

The Frances Willard House Museum and WCTU Archives is excited to announce our new program and content theme, Knowledge is Power: Women and Education. In recognition of Frances Willard’s role as President of the Evanston College for Ladies (1871-1873) and Dean of Women at Northwestern University (1873-1874), we are uncovering the history – and the prehistory – of women’s higher education in Evanston.

For Frances Willard, as for other women of her time, education was a fundamental need, but access was limited. As doors to schoolhouses and colleges slowly began to open, women’s lives changed significantly and their options multiplied. This enabled them to take on broader and more influential public roles in their communities and country. But it all started with education – and thus we are returning to the story of women and education to ask questions and learn more.

Our “Educated Women” series of blogposts situates Evanston’s unusual educational experiments in historical context. Part one details the establishment of the Northwestern Female College. Part two documents the Northwestern Female College’s evolution into the Evanston College for Ladies and the Woman’s College of Northwestern University. Part three concludes with Frances Willard’s appointment as Northwestern University’s first Dean of Women.

You can explore Frances Willard’s side of the story in a series of blogposts by Fiona Maxwell. Part one traces how, as a young girl, Willard connected writing and speaking to social reform. Part two details Willard’s formative experiences as a student at the Northwestern Female College.

A new timeline curated by Archives volunteer Gemma Rosenthall, Women and Education: The Lifelong Learning of Frances Willard, explores Willard’s work in all spheres of education – both her own and that of other women. After she left teaching in institutional settings, she disseminated knowledge in writings and speeches as president of the WCTU.

In addition to our written resources, we have also highlighted the history of women’s education in recorded public programs. Our Collection Close-Up series has addressed Frances Willard’s childhood writing and the self-report forms Willard devised for her students at Northwestern. For Women’s History Month 2023, we hosted a virtual conversation with Dr. Andrea Turpin on Faith in Women’s Higher Education: The Religious Background of the First Female and Coeducational Colleges.

The Evanston College for Ladies and Woman’s College building.
It still stands at 711 Elgin Road in Evanston, Illinois.

“A Picture of Free, Untrammeled Womanhood”:
Bicycle Fashions and the New Woman

Thank you to everyone who attended our May 7 Views: Bicycle Fashions and the New Woman program! We enjoyed a fascinating conversation with Dr. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox about the ways in which liberating ideas regarding bicycling attire translated into everyday wear and politics. You can watch a recording of the event here.

Dr. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox is a historian of modern American women’s and gender history who teaches at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Her new book, Dressed for Freedom: The Fashionable Politics of American Feminism, examines the ways in which women used fashion to promote feminist agendas and to challenge ideas regarding gender, race, and class.

Truth Telling: Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells

An Award Winning 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. 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.

Truth Telling: Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells is 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. To visit the website, click here.

In 2020, the Truth Telling project received Honorable Mention for Outstanding Public History Project from the National Council on Public History. To view the online award ceremony video click below.