Frances E. Willard Poster Text
Making the journey in a covered wagon, seven-year-old Frances Willard arrived in the Wisconsin Territory in 1846. Her parents established a farmstead along the Rock River near Janesville. As a young girl Willard disliked housework, preferring outdoor activities such as hunting and horseback riding. Many adults at the time considered such activities inappropriate for girls, but Frances refused to conform. She also trimmed her hair short and requested that people call her Frank. Taught at home by her mother, Willard became an avid reader. She moved to northern Illinois at age 18.
In the 1870s Frances Willard emerged as a national leader within the temperance movement, which was an effort to limit the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. The temperance movement had been growing stronger in the United States for several decades and, in 1879, Willard was elected president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Her leadership quickly made the WCTU an influential organization. A popular speaker, Willard delivered a speech in every state and territory in the United States in 1883.
Temperance supporters pointed to the financial and family problems often linked to the abuse of alcohol. Frances Willard also viewed temperance as part of a large social reform movement that could improve living conditions for women and make the United States a better place to live. Through her writings she introduced thousands of women to other important social concerns: voting rights for women, safer conditions for American workers, world peace, and methods of improving the nation's schools. Using the slogan "Home Protection" as her rallying cry, Willard showed how these urgent social problems affected women and their children. Willard died before many of the social reforms that she promoted became law, yet she inspired the generation of reformers who followed her.
Wisconsin schools celebrate Frances E. Willard Day on September 28th.