Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells

A 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. At the time, Willard was prominent in social reform circles but her work to expand the WCTU, especially in the South, caused her to make moral compromises and use language that was demeaning and incendiary. 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.

Until now, this story has never before been told at the museum and archives dedicated to honoring Willard’s life and leadership.

On Thursday March 14, 2019 the Frances Willard House Museum and Archives will launch Truth Telling: Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells, 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. The launch event will include a view of the in-progress digital exhibit, a panel discussion with invited scholars, and audience feedback and conversations.

The launch will take place from 6-8 p.m. in Harris Hall room 107 at Northwestern University, beginning with a 5:30 public reception. The event is free to the public. Reservations are recommended as seating is limited. RSVP at this link or call 847-328-7500. 

Project Sponsors Include:

  • Ann Ida Gannon, BVM, Center for Women and Leadership, Loyola University Chicago
  • Department of History, Loyola University Chicago
  • Department of African American Studies, Northwestern University
  • Department of History, Northwestern University; Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, Northwestern University
  • Center for Diversity and Democracy, Northwestern University
  • Office of Neighborhood and Community Relations, Northwestern University
  • Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications, Northwestern University
  • Pritzker School of Law, Northwestern University
  • Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, Northwestern University
  • Northwestern University Libraries
  • Office of the Provost, Northwestern University.

For our project statement with more information, please click here.

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