Bicycle Month Tours

Frances Willard would certainly have celebrated Bicycle Month in May, as she was an early adopter of bicycle riding and one of its strongest proponents. In addition to its health benefits, she believed that bicycling contributed to women’s and girls’ sense of independence and freedom. She named all of her bicycles Gladys, because they made her “glad.” You can meet “Gladys III” first-hand by taking a tour of the Frances Willard House Museum.

May tours will be held at 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm on the following dates:

Sunday, May 7, 21, and 28
Thursday, May 11, 18, and 25

Tours are available by reservation only. Masks are required. Visitors should request a tour by emailing 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.

“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.

This program is part of the Views series at the Willard House, where we look closely at topics in women’s history with new eyes. Our free public programs happen only with your support. We hope you will consider making a donation here. Thank you!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Views-Logo--656x656.png

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.

In a series of blogposts entitled “Educated Women,” Lori Osborne situates Evanston’s unusual educational experiments in historical context. Part one details the establishment of the Northwestern Female College. Part two – a new release! – documents the Northwestern Female College’s evolution into the Evanston College for Ladies and, finally, the Woman’s College of Northwestern University.

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.

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

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.