Frances Willard: A Biography

Frances Willard: A Biography

Frances Willard: A Biography

Frances Willard: A Biography

Synopsis

Frances Willard (1839-98), national president of the WCTU, headed the first mass organization of American women, and through the work of this group, women were able to move into public life by 1900. Willard inspired this process by her skillful leadership, her broad social vision, and her traditional womanly virtues. Although a political maverick, she won the support of the white middle class because she did not appear to challenge society's accepted ideals.

Excerpt

A hundred years have passed since Frances Willard, national president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, reigned as temperance queen of the United States and was revered as the beloved St. Frances of American womanhood. Over forty years have elapsed since the most recent biography of the nineteenth-century heroine and leader was published. Three recent developments underline the need for a new "life."

First of all, important original sources -- unavailable since early in the twentieth century -- were rediscovered after 1980 by Rosalita Leonard, librarian of the Willard Memorial Library in Evanston, Illinois. These include Willard's diaries, some correspondence, and all but one of the twenty scrapbooks missing when the microfilm edition of the Temperance and Prohibition Papers was made. They are now accessible by purchase or loan as a supplement to the original microfilm edition as well as being available at the Willard Library. Thus, Anna Gordon, Willard's secretary and companion, always loyal and true in her devotion to Willard, did not destroy, as earlier legend had it, any of her papers but preserved all the memorabilia and private writings of her friend and cohort for posterity to assess.

We now probably have access to all the existing Willard diaries. Although we know of no volumes for many of her adult years, Willard herself explains that there were long gaps in her journal keeping. She did not find time to produce a diary during much of the seventies and eighties, but her autobiography, Glimpses of Fifty Years, shows that a diary for 1874. once existed that covered the period of her resignation from Northwestern University. No such volume is now among her papers. However, forty volumes of journals and diaries are newly available and provide a wealth of firsthand information on the inner workings of Willard as a child and young woman as well as valuable information, hitherto unavailable in any form, on her last decade. These late . . .

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