History's Women: Misc. Articles: Frances E. Willard, The Foremost American Temperance RerformerFrances E. Willard
The Foremost American Temperance Reformer
1839 – 1898 A.D.

There may be some who feel that Miss Willard has been too extravagantly loved and praised, if so, they are the people who have not known the story of her life.

In these pages we can give but a few leading facts of one of the busies and most fruitful lives of this century.

In the first place great honor should be given to her parents for what their daughter was and did.

Frances’ early girlhood days were spent on a farm on the frontier in what was then the territory of Wisconsin. She was a delicate child at first, but she dressed simply and lived much in the open air. Her parents were her teachers. After some years a highly educated young woman was engaged to instruct Frances and her brother and sister.

At seventeen, Frances and her sister went to Milwaukee Female College, and thence to the Northwest Female College at Evanston, Illinois, where she graduated with high honors.

Miss Willard taught in schools, seminaries, and colleges for sixteen years, her last being that of dean of the Women’s College of the Northwestern University. She was the same time professor of æsthetics and natural sciences.

One of her great achievements was the introduction of the system of self-government among the students and bringing to pass its successful operation.

The next period of her life is marked by the temperance crusade in Ohio. Her soul was deeply stirred, she determined to join the movement. The making of the Women’s College an organic part of the University prevented her from carrying out her plans for the college; she resigned her position as dean and professor and joined the crusade movement.

More than two thousand pupils had been under her instruction and her friends numbered in many more thousands. One woman has the sole honor of standing by Miss Willard in entering the crusade, that one is Mrs. Mary A. Livermore.

From teaching æsthetics  in university she became an apostle of temperance to the drunkards of Chicago. She often went without her noonday lunch because she had no money to pay for it, and she walked long and weary miles because she was unable to pay for car fare.

Upon the death of O.A. Willard, her brother, in the summer of 1878, she became the editor of the Chicago Evening Post, and also the president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in “the day of small things.” The work grew; the National and then the World’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union were formed, Miss Willard becoming in turn president of each.

She was the originator of the motto, “For God, Home, and Native Land.” In the world-wide movement this became, “For God, Home, and Every Land.”

Her executive ability was as marvelous as her power over an audience was mighty, and all these years her pen was busy writing along the many lines of the work of the Union.

As an indication of how her character and her work were regarded in England we give the words of the Lady Henry Somerset.

“She was welcomed in this country as I suppose no philanthropist has been welcomed in our time. The vast meeting that was organized to greet her at Exeter Hall was the most representative that has ever been assembled in that historic building. On the platform sat members of Parliament, dignitaries of the Church, temperance leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, leaders of the Labor Movement, and of the Salvation Army, and delegations from the Methodist, Baptist, and Congregational churches, and the Society of Friends. The chief Jewish rabbi sent a congratulatory letter and signed the address of welcome.”


Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.

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