Do Everything 2022

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Each year the Frances Willard House Museum and WCTU Archives honors Frances Willard’s birthday – September 28, 1839 – by exploring a theme relating to her motto, “Do Everything.” Do Everything was a central idea that defined her energetic and broad leadership style and reform strategy. This year it was easy to choose our focus, as a new biography of Frances Willard – titled Do Everything – is being released this month. In this first new biography of Willard in over 35 years, Dr. Christopher Evans (Boston University) makes use of primary source materials not accessible to previous biographers, and he highlights Willard’s importance to the fields of women’s history, Gilded Age and Progressive Era studies, and religious history.

Dr. Evans with a newly printed copy of his book!

We are excited to bring our 2022 Do Everything celebration to you via our YouTube channel. Click here for a recorded conversation between Christopher Evans and Janet Olson, our Archivist, about Do Everything: The Biography of Frances Willard. Evans addresses what the idea of Do Everything reveals about Willard’s leadership, as well as the legacies of her vision.

Our video serves as a preview for two in-person opportunities:

1) Do Everything Tours of the Willard House – focusing on Willard’s early life and education, and the development of her leadership skills and tactics – will be held at 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm on the following days:

  • Sundays, October 9 and 16
  • Thursdays, October 13 and 20

Tours are available by reservation only. Masks are required. Visitors should request a tour by emailing info@franceswillardhouse.org or 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.

2) Join us on Thursday, October 20th at 6pm at Bookends & Beginnings for an in-person conversation and book-signing event with Christopher Evans. The talk will be moderated by Janet Olson and will focus especially on the ways in which Evanston’s community of women shaped Willard, as well as the new perspectives Evans has brought to her complex life, work, and legacy. Click here for more information and a link to register.


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.

Museum Director Lori Osborne sets the stage in a new blogpost situating Evanston’s educational experiments in historical context and detailing the establishment of the North-Western Female College (NWFC). The NWFC offered a curriculum parallel to the (at the time) all-male Northwestern University and, in 1859, became Frances Willard’s alma mater. The college remained in operation for sixteen years and solidified Evanston’s reputation as “a paradise for women.”

You can explore Willard’s side of the story in a recent blogpost by Fiona Maxwell (Willard House Director of Museum Operations and Communications, University of Chicago History PhD candidate) tracing how, as a young girl, Willard connected writing and speaking to social reform.

Although we will be investigating and sharing our site’s connection to women’s education in special detail this year, it has always been a key theme in our storytelling. Check out our existing digital resources below, and stay tuned for new content and upcoming programs!

  • Frances Willard Digital Journals: This website provides access to searchable transcriptions of Frances Willard’s journals, which contain entries pertaining to her educational experiences starting at the age of 16.
  • Frances Willard Biographical Timeline: This timeline uses images and documents to illustrate stages in Willard’s life, including her time as a student, schoolteacher, and higher education leader.
  • Frances Willard and Women’s Oratory: Focusing on Willard’s contributions to oratory, this blogpost explores the ways in which she served as a role model for Northwestern students and other women who aspired to make their voices heard in public.
  • Mary Thompson Hill Willard: This blogpost highlights the ways in which Mary Willard, Frances Willard’s mother, drew on her years of experience working as a schoolteacher to mentor and inspire her daughter.

Women’s Equality Day Postscript

Thank you to everyone who celebrated Women’s Equality Day (August 26) with us, either by taking a suffrage tour of the Willard House or by exploring our related digital resources. If you weren’t able to join us in person, you can read an account of our Women’s Equality Day tours in Debbie Marie-Brown’s article for the Evanston RoundTable

Before we turn the page on Women’s Equality Day, we have an exciting announcement to make! The National Women’s History Museum has just released a new digital anthology, Determined to Rise: Women’s Historical Activism for Equal Rights. This collection of essays puts forward a broader understanding of the woman suffrage movement, acknowledging both the achievements and limitations resulting from the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Lori Osborne, the Willard House Museum Director, and Marie Pellissier, a former Willard House intern, contributed an essay about “Frances Willard and the Historic Link Between the 19th Century Women’s Temperance and Suffrage Movements.” The anthology is currently available in e-book format. 


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.