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Commemorating the 19th Amendment

Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote and Insisted on Equality for All Book Launch and Reception

Join the Frances Willard House Museum, in partnership with Jane Addams Hull-House and Northwestern University Department of History, in conversation with Martha S. Jones author of Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote and Insisted on Equality for All (Basic/2020) and Leslie Harris (moderator), professor, department of history, Northwestern University. 

FREE! with RSVP – click here.

About the book: In the standard story, the suffrage crusade began in Seneca Falls in 1848 and ended with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. But this overwhelmingly white women’s movement did not win the vote for most black women. Securing their rights required a movement of their own. In Vanguard, acclaimed historian Martha S. Jones offers a new history of African American women’s political lives in America. She recounts how they defied both racism and sexism to fight for the ballot, and how they wielded political power to secure the equality and dignity of all persons.

About the author: Professor Martha S. Jones is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and Professor of History at The Johns Hopkins University. She is a legal and cultural historian whose work examines how black Americans have shaped the story of American democracy. 

Suffrage Sunday Videos!

This August, the Willard House and WCTU Archives released a series of short videos on our YouTube Channel (link below) featuring different collections items related to the fight for women’s suffrage. “Suffrage Sundays” videos provide a glimpse into the ways that the suffrage and temperance movements were connected areas of women’s leadership.


COVID-19 Update

The Frances Willard House Museum and WCTU Archives will be closed for tours and onsite programs for the foreseeable future. Many of our programs will take place online this fall – sign up for our email newsletter or follow us on social media to stay in touch.

The WCTU Archives is open by appointment. Visit this page for details on doing research at this time.


Statement on Systemic Racism and our Work

We at the Frances Willard House Museum and WCTU Archives at the Center for Women’s History and Leadership join the many eloquent and powerful voices who have expressed outrage, sadness and resolve at this time of crisis and awakening. The loss of life due to systemic racism in our country is hard to witness and even harder to understand.

As historians we are committed to be a part of the solution and tell the stories that lead to understanding. We are committed to do truth-telling and to work hard to do what so many leaders, like Ida B. Wells, have called all of us to do:

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

It is a long, difficult process requiring thoughtful and deep analysis by each of us as individuals and as an organization. We commit to Do Everything we can to see that the difficult work of taking on systemic racism takes place and that lasting change, both in our organization and in our community, happens.

Visit one project that marks the beginning of our work – www.willardandwells.org. Stay tuned as we further develop plans for this work in the future.

Lori Osborne, CWHL Executive Director on behalf of the CWHL Board, Museum and Archives Council and Staff


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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