“Look Up and Off, and On and Out”: Frances Willard and Women’s Oratory

By Fiona Maxwell, Director of Museum Operations and Communications; PhD candidate in History at the University of Chicago “Look up and off, and on and out; it is the curse of life that nearly everyone looks down.”  – Frances Willard By 1874, Frances Willard had acquired a local reputation as a public speaker. Yet, when … Read more

Home at Last

Wide-ranging travel has always been part of the WCTU’s history (think of Frances Willard’s speaking tours, and of the WCTU organizers who collected 7.5 million signatures on the Polyglot Petition in the 1880s). Imagine the warm welcome those women received when they got back home to Evanston! These thoughts came to mind on July 26 … Read more

What We Mean When We Say Feminism

There has been a lot of debate and discussion about the meaning of the word feminism in recent years. Women today take various stands for or against it – and generally its true meaning is lost in the fray. Feminism is a loaded word in our culture with some wearing the term proudly and others … Read more

Frances Willard and the Armenian Crisis: Refugees and Activism

In 1896, Frances Willard was visiting her friend Lady Somerset when she heard about a refugee crisis in Marseilles, France. The crisis had begun in 1894 when massacres of Christian Armenians broke out across the Ottoman Empire and continued for the next several years as the Empire sought to repress the Armenian population. This was … Read more

Agitate, Educate, Organize: Women’s Advocacy

Following the 2016 Presidential Election, there was a call to action for women, inspired by the historic first female presidential candidate, to get involved in politics and fight for policies that would be best for women and their communities. This uniting of women (and men) with such fervor for politics and policy seemed unprecedented, but … Read more

Frances Willard: The Coloring Book

Coloring books for adults do seem to be a thing. They are touted as being beneficial for relaxation, mindfulness, creativity, and even just fun. Realizing that museums and libraries are a hidden source of wonderful, colorable designs, the New York Academy of Medicine Library has launched the second annual #ColorOurCollections week on social media, inviting museums, … Read more

The “Woman’s Fourth of July” in Evanston, 1871

Independence Day in Evanston in 1871 was marked by parades, bands, fireworks, a baseball game, and many speeches. Not an unusual way to celebrate the 4th—except that these activities were organized by local women and were a fundraising event for the nascent Evanston College for Ladies—with the highlight of the day being the placement of the … Read more

Scarf? Handkerchief? Treasure Map!

The somewhat mysterious Willard Centenary Souvenir Map--One of 8,800 produced in 1938 for the 1939 Centenary of Frances Willard's birth
The Willard Centenary Souvenir Map–One of 8,800 produced for the 1939 centenary of Frances Willard’s birth


The story of the Willard Centenary Souvenir Map

One of our favorite artifacts is this 36”x26” rectangle of cream-colored cotton, printed in brown with a map of the United States as of 1938. If you look closely, you can see that most of the states contain one or several dots. Each one indicates the location of a structure—school, statue, drinking fountain, park—that had been named in honor of Frances E. Willard, social reformer, leader of women, president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) from 1879 until her death in 1898. The map itself was one of many objects, projects, and events produced by the WCTU to commemorate the 1939 centenary of Willard’s birth (1839).

In April, 1938, in a letter describing the map project, WCTU president Ida B Wise Smith wrote,  “Someone has said, ‘There are more memorials to Frances Willard than to any other woman,’ and we are attempting to prove this statement by gathering information as to where there are schoolhouses named for Miss Willard, where are hospitals, as in Chicago, settlement houses, as in Boston, Homes for Girls, as in Oakland, Tulsa, Toledo and Chattanooga, and so forth, in an almost endless, amazing list.”

After WCTU members all over the country reported to the National Headquarters in Evanston on the existence of memorials in their areas, the list of structures to be included on the Willard Centenary Souvenir Map reached 263. (By the end of the Centenary year, another 250 had been documented.)

The map was drawn by Ida Schmid Randall, “artist, architectural draughtsman, and experienced cartographer,” as the Union Signal described her (July 23, 1938). A sketch of Willard as a young woman is at the center top of the design. A number of the memorial sites are featured on the panels (including perhaps the most famous–her statue in the US Capitol), along with a full listing of all 263 buildings, statues, plaques, trees, drinking-fountains, and stained-glass windows. The ribbons and bows that tie the images together represent the white ribbon which has been the symbol of the WCTU since 1877.

According to correspondence in the Centenary files in the Willard Archives, the master map cost $400. The “cut” from which the map was printed was produced by Mr. M. Hermas of Evanston, and the maps were produced by Waverly Fabrics, in New York. A total of 8,800 maps were produced. WCTU unions across the US were encouraged to purchase a supply of the maps to sell or to distribute to local schools and churches during 1939. The maps were advertised in the Union Signal, the WCTU’s national weekly newspaper, starting in mid-1938, and went on sale for the first time at the National WCTU Convention in San Francisco in August, 1938. The Willard Centenary Souvenir maps were priced at $1 each (with discounts for quantity purchases).

Willard Centenary Souvenir Map order form
Willard Centenary Souvenir Map order form

The first question we usually get when someone sees the map is, “What is it FOR?” The order form for maps listed a few possibilities, including a wall hanging for schools, Sunday School classrooms, or WCTU reading rooms, or as a backdrop for Willard Centenary displays. And each map came with a document that described its history, and listed, state by state, the memorials pictured on it. We can’t help but wonder how many uses the WCTU women found for this informative, inspiring, and versatile souvenir of Willard’s centenary.

Read more