The Woman’s Fourth of July

In recognition of the 150th anniversary of Frances Willard’s role as President of the Evanston College for Ladies (1871-1873) and Dean of Women at Northwestern University (1873-1874), the Frances Willard House Museum and WCTU Archives is exploring the story of women’s higher education in Evanston. We’re beginning this summer by revisiting the “Woman’s Fourth of July,” an all-day fundraising event held on July 4, 1871. 

Organized by Frances Willard and the Evanston Women’s Educational Aid Association to raise money for the newly established Evanston College for Ladies, the program featured parades, music, fireworks, and plenty of speechifying. The highlight of the day was a series of “comic representations” performed by young women, entitled The Girls: Past, Present, Future. 

Celebrate the Woman’s Fourth of July all over again with us on the Willard House blog! Director of Museum Operations and Communications Fiona Maxwell dives deep into the play in a new post, and you can read about the entire event in this post by Archivist Janet Olson from 2016. 

Ticket to The Girls: Past, Present, Future.

Bring the Willard House Outdoors!

This summer, the Frances Willard House Museum has several free DIY outdoor activities that can serve as a stand-alone or complimentary experience to a museum visit.

You can pick up our Evanston women’s history bicycle tour maps anytime outside the front door of the Museum, or take our new virtual bicycle and walking tour about Frances Willard’s life in Evanston. Frances and Gladys: A Bicycle Tour is hosted by Clio: Your Guide to History. You can access Clio by downloading the app on your mobile phone or by using the Clio website, where you can print a pdf of the tour. You can find it by searching for Evanston tours, or you can access it directly here. The tour was created by a graduate student team in the fall 2021 Public History class at Loyola University Chicago. We thank them for their hard work!

Frances Willard’s bicycle, Gladys III, on display in the Museum.

You can also explore the gardens at the Willard House, which have been carefully restored to reflect the Willard family’s nineteenth-century garden. After six years of work using only organic products and environmentally sensitive methods, our historic re-creation efforts are nearly complete. Please consider making a donation (indicate that your gift is for the garden) to support the continued restoration and maintenance of this piece of living and growing history.


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.