News & Events

Join Us on November 20 for
Collection Close-Up!

For the Frances Willard House Museum’s first Collection Close-Up, Fiona Maxwell (Willard House Director of Museum Operations and Communications; University of Chicago History PhD candidate) will share the story behind Frances Willard’s first major writing endeavor – Rupert Melville and His Comrades: A Story of Adventure.

Inspired by story books set on the Western prairies, as a young teen Willard worked on her novel every day and “read each chapter aloud” to her friends and family “as fast as it was written.” The enjoyment Willard derived from narrating Rupert’s adventures convinced her that “write I could and should and would.” The WCTU Archives houses the 165-page unfinished manuscript.

The first handwritten page of Rupert Melville.

Participants of all ages are encouraged to attend this free virtual program and join in the Q&A following the presentation.

Please RSVP here for Sunday, November 20 at 4pm Central Time. A Zoom link will be sent shortly before the event to everyone who registers.

Collection Close-Ups are part of the Knowledge is Power: Women and Education program series, which uncovers the history – and the prehistory – of women’s higher education in Evanston. You can learn more about Willard’s early growth as a writer on our blog.


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.

Museum Director Lori Osborne sets the stage in a blogpost situating Evanston’s educational experiments in historical context and detailing the establishment of the Northwestern Female College. You can explore Willard’s side of the story in a series of blogposts by Fiona Maxwell (Willard House Director of Museum Operations and Communications, University of Chicago History PhD candidate). 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.

Although we will be investigating and sharing our site’s connection to women’s education in special detail this year, it has always been a key theme in our storytelling. Check out our existing digital resources below, and stay tuned for new content and upcoming programs!

  • Frances Willard Digital Journals: This website provides access to searchable transcriptions of Frances Willard’s journals, which contain entries pertaining to her educational experiences starting at the age of 16.
  • Frances Willard Biographical Timeline: This timeline uses images and documents to illustrate stages in Willard’s life, including her time as a student, schoolteacher, and higher education leader.
  • Frances Willard and Women’s Oratory: Focusing on Willard’s contributions to oratory, this blogpost explores the ways in which she served as a role model for Northwestern students and other women who aspired to make their voices heard in public.
  • Mary Thompson Hill Willard: This blogpost highlights the ways in which Mary Willard, Frances Willard’s mother, drew on her years of experience working as a schoolteacher to mentor and inspire her daughter.

Do Everything: The Biography of Frances Willard

Christopher Evans and Janet Olson in conversation at Bookends and Beginnings.

Thank you to everyone who joined the Frances Willard House Museum and WCTU Archives at Bookends and Beginnings on October 20 for the launch of Dr. Christopher Evans’s new book, Do Everything: The Biography of Frances Willard. We enjoyed a fascinating discussion with Evans and Willard House Archivist Janet Olson about the new perspectives Evans has brought to the complex interpretation of Willard’s life, work, and legacy.

A recording of the conversation is now available on our YouTube channel.

Do Everything can be purchased through your local independent bookseller, Oxford University Press, and Amazon. Order your copy today!

It was great to see a mix of old friends and new faces!

View images from a small sampling of our past events here!