Against the Tide: Women Reformers in American Society

By Paul A. Cimbala; Randall M. Miller | Go to book overview
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Africa, Great Britain, and Scandinavia. Kaji Yajima was declared "the Frances Willard of Japan"; portraits of Willard were distributed by missionaries among the mission schools of India. But like the larger temperance movement itself, her reputation never spread to any extent beyond the Anglo-American world and its missionary outposts in such places as China and Japan. Apart from her visits to Great Britain and Europe in the 1890s, to stay with Lady Henry Somerset, and several trips to eastern Canada, Willard did not tour internationally. She suffered severely from seasickness, and her health was failing. So she left the work of international organizing to such missionaries as Mary Clement Leavitt and Jessie Ackermann.

Willard's career shows in particular that American reform had impacts in other countries and at times presented a model for other countries. American reform, in turn, was influenced by events abroad and demands from admirers in those other countries. Willard's views on race, for example, were modified in a more progressive direction in 1895 as a result of British criticism of her failure to condemn lynching in the United States. Her British experience also made her aware of the complexities of alcohol production and consumption, and she was particularly interested, after her British trips in the early 1890s, in the connection of alcoholism to poverty. Her exposure to the international missionary work of the WCTU made her more sympathetic toward religions other than her own evangelical Protestantism. Finally, as part of her international vision for the expansion of the WCTU, she necessarily came to regard the improvement of relations between nations through peace and arbitration as necessary for human survival and prosperity, and pushed the idea of an international arbitration treaty with Britain.

Willard left her mark indelibly upon the WCTU. Her mother's home, Rest Cottage, where Willard lived in Evanston, became WCTU headquarters. It remains so today, and at the same time functions as a de facto mausoleum of women's temperance reform. The furniture and mementos of Willard's time dominate the surroundings and impress the memories of visitors, who are informed that nothing has changed since Willard's death. For all that, Willard's memory lives on in a world vastly changed. Her meaning today is different from that for the nineteenth-century representative woman. Frances Willard still speaks to the role of women with her concerns about the role of the family, moral values, and the tensions between family responsibilities and the search for equality for women.

Annual Report of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union for 1893 ( Chicago, 1893), 105. Hereafter these annual reports are cited as NWCTU, AR, and year.
Ibid., 104.
NWCTU, AR, 1891, 139.
Frances Willard, Woman and Temperance ( Hartford, Conn., 1883), 27-28.
NWCTU, AR, 1891, 139.


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