|Birth Day:||September 28, 1839|
|Death Date:||Feb 7, 1898 (age 58)|
|Birth Place:||Churchville, United States|
As per our current Database, Frances Willard died on Feb 7, 1898 (age 58).
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She attended North Western Female College and pursued a career as a teacher.
Willard was born in 1839 to Josiah Flint Willard and Mary Thompson Hill Willard in Churchville, near Rochester, New York. She was named after English novelist Frances (Fanny) Burney, the American poet Frances Osgood, and her sister, Elizabeth Caroline, who had died the previous year. She had two other siblings: her older brother, Oliver, and her younger sister, Mary. Her father was a farmer, naturalist, and legislator. Her mother was a schoolteacher. In 1841 the family moved to Oberlin, Ohio, where, at Oberlin College Josiah Willard studied for the ministry, and Mary Hill Willard took classes. They moved to Janesville, Wisconsin in 1846 for Josiah Willard's health. In Wisconsin, the family, formerly Congregationalists, became Methodists. Frances and her sister Mary attended Milwaukee Normal Institute, where their mother's sister taught.
In 1858, the Willard family moved to Evanston, Illinois, and Josiah Willard became a banker. Frances and Mary attended the North Western Female College (no affiliation with Northwestern University) and their brother Oliver attended the Garrett Biblical Institute.
After graduating from North Western Female College, Willard held various teaching positions throughout the country. She worked at the Pittsburgh Female College, and, as preceptress at the Genesee Wesleyan Seminary in New York (later Syracuse University). She was appointed president of the newly founded Evanston College for Ladies in 1871. When the Evanston College for Ladies became the Woman's College of Northwestern University in 1873, Willard was named the first Dean of Women at the university. However, that position was to be short-lived with her resignation in 1874 after confrontations with the University President, Charles Henry Fowler, over her governance of the Woman's College. Willard had previously been engaged to Fowler and had broken off the engagement.
After her resignation, Willard focused her energies on a new career: the women's temperance movement. In 1874, Willard participated in the founding convention of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) where she was elected the first Corresponding Secretary. In 1876, she became head of the WCTU Publications Department, focusing on publishing and building a national audience for the WCTU's weekly newspaper, The Union Signal. In 1885 Willard joined with Elizabeth Boynton Harbert, Mary Ellen West, Frances Conant and 43 others to found the Illinois Woman's Press Association.
In 1879, she sought and successfully obtained presidency of the National WCTU. Once elected, she held the post until her death. Her tireless efforts for the temperance cause included a 50-day speaking tour in 1874, an average of 30,000 miles of travel a year, and an average of 400 lectures a year for a 10-year period, mostly with the assistance of her personal secretary, Anna Adams Gordon.
Willard's work took to an international scale in 1883 with the circulation of the Polyglot Petition against the international drug trade. She also joined May Wright Sewall at the International Council of Women meeting in Washington, DC, laying the permanent foundation for the National Council of Women of the United States. She became the organization's first president in 1888 and continued in that post until 1890. Willard also founded the World WCTU in 1888 and became its president in 1893. She collaborated closely with Lady Isabel Somerset, president of the British Women's Temperance Association, whom she visited several times in the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Willard sought to expand WCTU membership in the South, and met Varina Davis, the wife of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who was secretary of the local chapter of the Women's Christian Association in Memphis (where one daughter lived). Willard had tried and failed to convince Lucy Hayes (wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes) to assist the temperance cause, but writer Sallie F. Chapin, a former Confederate sympathizer who had published a temperance novel, supported Willard and was a friend of the Davises. In 1887, Davis invited Willard to her home to discuss the future of her unmarried daughter Winnie Davis, but both Davis women declined to become public supporters, in part because Jefferson Davis opposed legal prohibition. In 1887, Texas held a referendum on temperance, in part because former Confederate postmaster John Reagan supported temperance laws. When newspapers published a photograph of Willard handing Jefferson Davis a temperance button to give to his wife, Jefferson Davis publicly came out against the referendum (as contrary to states' rights) and it lost. Although Varina Davis and Willard would continue to correspond over the next decade (as Varina moved to New York after her husband's death, and Willard spent most of her last decade abroad); another temperance referendum would not occur for two decades.
After 1893, Willard was influenced by the British Fabian Society and became a committed Christian socialist.
In the 1890s, Willard came into conflict with progressive African-American journalist and anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells. While trying to expose the evils of alcohol, Willard and other temperance reformers often depicted one of the evils as its effect to incite purported black criminality, thus implying that this was one of the serious problems requiring an urgent cure. The rift first surfaced during Wells' speaking tour of Britain in 1893, where Willard was also touring and was already a popular reformist speaker. Wells openly questioned Willard's silence on lynching in the United States and accused Willard of having pandered to the racist myth that white women were in constant danger of rape from drunken black males to avoid endangering WCTU efforts in the South. She recounted a time when Willard had visited the South and blamed the failure of the temperance movement there on the population: "The colored race multiplies like the locusts of Egypt," and "the grog shop is its center of power.... The safety of women, of childhood, of the home is menaced in a thousand localities."
Willard died quietly in her sleep at the Empire Hotel in New York City after contracting influenza while she was preparing to set sail for England and France. She is buried at Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois. She bequeathed her Evanston home to the WCTU. The Frances Willard House was opened as a museum in 1900 when it also became the headquarters for the WCTU. In 1965 it was elevated to the status of National Historic Landmark.
After her death, Willard was the first woman included among America's greatest leaders in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. Her statue was designed by Helen Farnsworth Mears and was unveiled in 1905.
In 1911 the Willard Hall and Willard Guest House in Wakefield Street, Adelaide, South Australia were opened by the South Australian branch of the WCTU.
Willard Middle School, established in Berkeley, California in 1916, was named in her honor. Willard Park, also in Berkeley and adjacent to the middle school, was dedicated to Frances Willard in 1982.
The Frances Elizabeth Willard relief by Lorado Taft and commissioned by the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union in 1929 is in the Indiana Statehouse, Indianapolis, Indiana. The plaque commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of Willard's election as president of the WCTU on October 31, 1879: "In honor of one who made the world wider for women and more homelike for humanity Frances Elizabeth Willard Intrepid Pathfinder and beloved leader of the National and World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union."
A dormitory at Northwestern University, Willard Residential College, opened in 1938 as a female dormitory and became the university's first undergraduate co-ed housing in 1970.
The Frances Willard Schoolhouse in Janesville, Wisconsin was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
The Frances E. Willard School in Philadelphia was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
In 2000, Willard was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Currently, Frances Willard is 181 years, 10 months and 1 days old. Frances Willard will celebrate 182nd birthday on a Tuesday 28th of September 2021.
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