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    Visionary Leader

    Social Reformer

    Women's Rights Advocate

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A Pleasant Sunday Afternoon:

Recreating a Nineteenth Century Literary and Musical Entertainment 

Join the Frances Willard House Museum on Sunday, July 25 at 3pm for a celebration of the reopening of the museum and the kick-off event for our new series of public programs, Arts at the Willard House. This outdoor re-creation of a nineteenth century “literary and musical entertainment” will feature storytelling pieces adapted and performed by Fiona Maxwell and American parlor guitar music performed by the Waller and Maxwell Guitar Duo. 

Nineteenth-century Evanston housed a vibrant community of elocutionists and musicians. In homes, voluntary societies, and schools, women and girls gained skills in self-expression and collaboration that they mobilized to fight for gender equality and social reform. A trailblazing orator and bestselling author, Frances Willard helped lay the foundation for successive generations of socially conscious and artistically innovative women in Evanston and around the world. 

Our event is called A Pleasant Sunday Afternoon in reference to entertainments held at many Chicago settlement houses during the 1890s. Evanston women often organized or performed at these gatherings, which were intended to foster “good fellowship” across boundaries of age, gender, class, race, ethnicity, and religion. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to experience the history of women’s artistry and activism!

The event is free and welcomes audience members of all ages. Attendees are asked to bring their own seating and spread out across the lawn.

We encourage donations to support our free public programs. You can make a donation here.

Fiona Maxwell is the Director of Museum Operations and Communications at the Frances Willard House Museum. A PhD candidate in History at the University of Chicago, her research explores the ways in which volunteers and participants at Chicago settlement houses used the spoken arts to activate social democracy. Maxwell received a BA in Theatre and History from Northwestern University with a module in Theatre for Young Audiences. She is a youth drama teacher at the Piven Theatre Workshop and has performed in storytelling venues across the Chicago area.

Anne Waller and Mark Maxwell specialize in the performance of works for nineteenth- and early twentieth-century guitars on modern and historical instruments. As the Waller and Maxwell Guitar Duo, they have toured for 40 years, have been presented in a wide variety of festival, concert, and radio venues, and have performed, lectured, and taught master classes throughout the United States and Europe. They have made recordings for the Music from Northwestern Series and Berto Records. Waller has directed the guitar program at the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music since 1985, and Maxwell has been the Coordinator of Guitar Studies at the DePaul University School of Music since 1986. 


We’re Open!

The Frances Willard House Museum is pleased to announce that we are open for tours! We are ready to welcome visitors and have new procedures in place to do so in a way that is safe and manageable for our visitors and staff.

Tours are available by reservation only. Thursday and Sunday afternoons are preferred, but there is some scheduling flexibility. Visitors should request a tour at least 48 hours in advance using our online reservation form or by calling (847) 328-7500. 

Tour fees are $15 per person. Admission is free for students at all levels. Payment must be made online or over the phone once the tour day and time has been confirmed.

Please note that health and safety measures will be in place. At this time, tour groups will be limited to 5 visitors, and no children under 12 years old will be admitted. Visitors and staff must wear masks, practice social distancing, and stay home if not well.

We look forward to seeing you at the Willard House soon!


Truth Telling: Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells

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An Award Winning 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. 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.

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