News & Events

Views Event: New Research on Sophonisba Breckenridge

On October 20th, 2019, author Anya Jabour will give a talk titled: “’Champion of the Championless’: Sophonisba Breckinridge and Social Reform in Progressive-Era Chicago.” The talk will draw on her recent book, Sophonisba Breckinridge: Championing Women’s Activism in Modern America.

The talk will take place from 4-5 p.m. at the Frances Willard House Museum, 1730 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. The event is $10 (free for members of the museum). Reservations are recommended as seating is limited. RSVP at this link or call 847-328-7500. This talk is part of the series Views: New Work in Women’s History offered at the Willard Museum and Archives.

In 1912, the Woman’s Journal ran a laudatory profile of Sophonisba Breckinridge. Titled “A Woman Who Helps,” the article promised to tell “the story of a southern woman who is a power in Chicago,” to highlight her “many-sided work,” and to demonstrate that she was “a champion of the championless.” Breckinridge, a native of Kentucky, spent her adult life in Chicago, where she became a tireless advocate of social justice.Based on this new biography, the October talk will focus on Breckinridge’s participation in Chicago’s reform milieu in the heyday of Progressivism, from the turn of the century until World War One. 

Thank you to our Do Everything! Open House Sponsors!

Upcoming Events


On Sunday, September 29th, from 2:00-4:00 p.m., the Frances Willard House Museum will commemorate Willard’s 180th birthday with its annual Open House highlighting Willard’s “Do Everything” brand of leadership and celebrating the leader in all of us.

Our theme this year is Real Leaders Know Their History. Willard encouraged women leaders to take on issues of importance to them and work to make change in whatever way they could. We honor that work by celebrating women leaders from the past, supporting women who are leaders today, and encouraging leaders of the future.

The first floors of the Willard House and the WCTU Administration Building will be open and the new exhibit Women and Prohibition will be on display. Our new bike rack will be unveiled – thanks to the Evanston Bicycle Club for a grant to fund this project! Cupcakes and lemonade will be served.

Cost for the event is free.


Women and Prohibition: A War of Mothers and Daughters, Sisters and Wives is a new exhibit at the Frances Willard House Museum that highlights the work of women to expand their public lives, advocate for themselves, and protect their families from the serious problems that alcohol can cause. Visitors can learn how women acted in the political arena before they were able to vote and how they worked to gain the vote to extend their reach.

Women and Prohibition will open Thursday, September 5, 2019. The museum is open Sundays from 1-4 p.m. and admission is $10 ($5 for students).

This exhibit is a companion to two exhibits at the Evanston History Center – Dry Evanston: the Untold Story (up through January 2020) and Spirited: Prohibition in America (up through October 20, 2019). Special joint tours of the Willard House and the Dawes House are offered in conjunction with these exhibits. Purchase an admission to either museum to receive your coupon for half-off tours at the other museum.

Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells

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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. 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.

On Thursday March 14, 2019 the Frances Willard House Museum and Archives launched 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.

To visit the new website, please click here.

Current Exhibits

“Cultivating Character:  The Early Life of Frances E. Willard”IMG_0836

Frances E. Willard (1839-1898) is known today for her work as the charismatic president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union from 1879 to 1898. But what made her the best-known woman in America at the time of her death in 1898? What forces shaped her?

This exhibit explores how Frances E. Willard’s family, education—both what she received as a student and imparted as a teacher—and religion helped to form the woman who became America’s leading female social reformer of the 1880s and 1890s.

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