Frances Willard 1839 – 1898
As President of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), Frances Willard was the 19th Century equivalent of a rock star. It was said that only Queen Victoria was more influential or better known. Willard was a social progressive who stood for gender equality and called the attention of the world to the link between alcohol abuse and domestic abuse. She was also a strong advocate on women’s issues including the right to vote.
Born in Churchville, NY and raised in Ohio and Illinois, Frances was able to receive a full education, graduating from the Northwestern Female College. After teaching for a few years, she became President of Evanston College for Ladies and then the first Dean of Women at Northwestern University. Her real passion, however, was women’s rights and in 1874 she resigned from academic life to become Corresponding Secretary and then President of the WCTU, arguably the most powerful organization for women in her century. As a leading activist of day, her name was known at all levels of society. She was the first woman to receive a statue in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall and remained the only woman until Rosa Parks was honored with a statue in 2013. While her name is less known today than when she was alive, she is an inspiration to women who yearn to make a difference.
“An ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory…”