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Woman of the Century/Frances Elizabeth Willard

WILLARD, Miss Frances Elizabeth, educator, reformer and philanthropist, born in Churchville, near Rochester, N. Y., 28th September, 1839. Her father, Josiah F. Willard, was a descendant of Maj. Simon Willard, of Kent, Eng., who. with Rev. Peter Bulkeley, settled in Concord, Mass., less than fifteen years after the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Major Willard was a man of great force of character and of distinguished public service, and his descendants included many men and women who inherited his talents with his good name. Miss Willard's great-grandfather, Rev. Elijah Willard, was forty years a pastor in Dublin, N. H. His son. Oliver Atherton Willard, was a pioneer, first in Wheelock, Vt., and later in Ogden. Monroe county, N. Y., where he died at the age of forty-two, leaving to his widow, Catherine Lewis Willard, a woman of strong character and remarkable gifts, the task of rearing a young family in a country then almost a wilderness. Josiah, the oldest child, grew to maturity. FRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD A woman of the century (page 788 crop).jpgFRANCES ELIZABETH WILLARD. At the age of twenty-six he was married to Mary Thompson Hill, born in the same year as himself in Danville, Vt. Frances was the fourth of five children born to Josiah and Mary Willard, two of whom had passed away in infancy before her birth. Inheriting many of the notable gifts of both parents and of more remote ancestors, Frances grew up in an atmosphere most favorable to the development of her powers. In her second year her parents removed from Churchville to Oberlin, Ohio, that the father might carry out a long-cherished plan of further study, and that the family might have the advantages of intellectual help and stimulus. They remained in Oberlin five years, both parents improving their opportunities for study. Mr. Willard's health demanding change of climate and life in the open air, he removed with his family, in May, 1846, to Wisconsin, then a territory, and settled on a farm near the young village of Janesville. Their first advent was to the log house of a relative. Frances is remembered as at that time a child of six-and-a-half years, small and delicate. The family were soon settled on an estate of their own, a beautiful farm, half prairie, half forest, on the banks of Rock river. Their abode was named "Forest Home." In the earlier years, without near neighbors, the family were almost entirely dependent upon their own resources for society. Mrs. Willard was poetical in her nature, but life was to her ethical and philosophical as well as poetical. With a memory stored with lofty sentiments in prose and verse, she was at once mentor and companion to her children. The father was "near to nature's heart" in a real and vivid fashion of his own. The children, reared in a home which was to their early years the world's horizon, lived an intellectual, yet a most healthful, life. Frances enjoyed entire freedom from fashionable restraints until her seventeenth year. She was clad during most of the year in simple flannel suits and spent much of the time in the open air, sharing the occupations and sports of her brother and sister. Her first teachers were her educated parents. Later an accomplished young woman was engaged as family teacher and companion for the children. Her first schoolmaster was a graduate of Yale College and a former classical tutor in Oberlin. At the age of seventeen Frances, with her sister Mary, was sent from home to school, entering Milwaukee Female College in 1857. In the spring of 1858 they were transferred to the Northwestern Female College, in Evanston, Ill., and thither the parents removed in the following autumn, that they might educate the children without breaking up the home circle Miss Willard was graduated from that institution in 1859, with valedictory honor. A brief term of teaching in 1858 was the introduction to her successful life as a teacher, covering sixteen years in six locations and several prominent positions, her pupils in all numbering about two-thousand. Beginning in the district school, she taught a public school in Evanston and one in Harlem, 111. She then taught in Kankakee Academy, in the Northwestern Female College, in Pittsburgh Female College, in the drove school, Evanston, was preceptress in Genesee Wesleyan Seminary, Lima, N. Y., and was president of the Ladies' College, Evanston, later the Woman's College of the Northwestern University, of which she was dean and professor of aesthetics in the University. Her success as a teacher was very marked. In coeducation she was ever an earnest believer, and she dealt with the unsolved problems of coeducation in its early stages with cheer, hopefulness and skill. As president of the Ladies' College, Evanston, she was free to work her will, as she says, "as an older sister of girls," and there was instituted her system of self-government, which bore excellent fruit and has been fol- lowed in other institutions with success. The Roll of Honor Club, open to all pupils, had for its general principles "to cooperate with the faculty in securing good order and lady-like behavior among the boarding pupils, both in study and recreation hours, in inspiring a high sense of honor, personal responsibility and self-respect." Pupils were not regarded as on the roll of honor after they had transgressed a single regulation of the club, and their places were supplied by those whose lives were above reproach. From the roll of honor, girls were graduated after a specified length of time to the list of the self-governed and took this pledge: "I promise so to conduct myself that, if other pupils followed my example, our school would need no rules whatever, but each young lady would be trusted to be a law unto herself." At the ck»e of the first year twelve young ladies were on the self-governed list, and all the rest were on the roll of honor. Miss Willard's associates in the faculty of the Woman's College were a unit with her in aims, method and personal affection. The Chicago fire swept away a large part of the financial aid which had been pledged to the college in Evanston as an independent enterprise, and in 1873 it became an organic part of the university with which, from the beginning, it had been connected as a sister institution with an independent faculty. The new arrangement led to complications in the government of the Woman's College, which rendered it impossible for Miss Willard to carry out her plans therefor, and she resigned her deanship and professorship in June, 1874. Her soul had been stirred by the reports of the temperance crusade in Ohio during the preceding winter, and she heard the divine call to her life-work. Of all her friends no one stood by her in her wish to join the crusade, except Mrs. Mary A. Livermore, who sent her a letter full of enthusiasm for the new line of work and predicted her success therein. In the summer of 1874, while in New York City, a letter reached her from Mrs. Louise S. Rounds, of Chicago, who was identified there with a young temperance association. "It has come to me," wrote Mrs. Rounds," as I believe, from the Lord, that you ought to be our president. We are a little band without money or experience, but with strong faith. If you will come, there will be no doubt of your election." Turning from the most attractive offers to reenter the profession she had left. Miss Willard entered the open door of philanthrophy, left for the West, paused in Pittsburgh for a brief personal participation in crusade work, and, within a week, had been made president of the Chicago Woman's Christian Temperance Union. For months she prosecuted her work without regard to pecuniary compensation, many a time going without her noonday lunch down town, because she had no money, and walking miles because she had not five cents to pay for a street-car ride. She found that period the most blessed of her life thus far, and her work, baptized in suffering, grew first deep and vital, and then began to widen. With the aid of a few women, she established a daily gospel meeting in lower Farwell Hall for the help of the intemperate. Scores and hundreds of men were savingly reformed, and her "Gospel Talks" were in demand far and wide. She had made her first addresses in public three or four years before with marked success, but then, turning from the attractions of cultivated society and scholarly themes, even from church work and offered editorial positions, those little gospel-meetings, where wicked men wept and prayed, thrilled her through and through. Thrown upon a sick bed the following year by overwork, she consented to accept a sum sufficient to provide for the necessities of her widowed mother and herself, but has ever steadfastly refused to receive an amount which would enable her to lay up anything for the future. Every dollar earned by writing or lecturing, not needed for current expenses, has been devoted to the relief of the needy or to the enlargement of her chosen work. The Chicago Woman's Christian Temperance Union, from that "day of small things" in the eyes of the world, has gone on and prospered, until now it is represented by a wide range of established philanthropies. The Woman's Temperance Temple, costing more than a million dollars, the headquarters of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union and of the Woman's Temperance Publication Association, which scatters broadcast and around the world annually many million pages of temperance literature, are a few of its fruits. Soon after Miss Willard's election to the presidency of the Chicago union, she became secretary of the first Illinois State convention of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and a few weeks later, in November, 1874, after having declined the nomination for president in the first national convention, was elected its corresponding secretary in Cleveland, Ohio. In that office, besides wielding a busy pen, she spoke in Chautauqua and addressed summer camps in New England and the Middle States. In 1876, while engaged in Bible study and prayer, she was led to the conviction that she ought to speak for woman's ballot as a protection to the home from the tyranny of drink, and in the ensuing autumn, in the national convention in Newark, N. J., disregarding the earnest pleadings of conservative friends, she declared her conviction in her first suffrage speech. She originated the motto. "For God and Home and Native Land," which was, first, that of the Chicago union, was then adopted by the Illinois State union, in 1876 became that of the national union, and was adapted to the use of the world's union in Faneuil Hall, Boston, Mass., in 1891, then becoming " For God and Home and Every Land." Miss Willard was one of the founders of the National Woman's Temperance Union paper, "Our Union," in New York, and of the "Signal," the organ of the Illinois union, which, in 1882, were merged in the " Union Signal," and which is now one of the most widely circulated papers in the world. In January, 1877, she was invited by D. L. Moody to assist him by conducting the woman's meetings in connection with his evangelistic work in Boston. The Christian womanhood of Boston rallied around her, and her work among the women was marked by success so great that soon she was put forward by Mr. Moody to address his great audience of seven-thousand on Sunday afternoon in the Tabernacle. She had not lessened her temperance work, but accepted such invitations as her time and strength permitted to lecture on gospel-temperance lines. In the following autumn she sundered her engagement with Mr. Moody, in the best of mutual feeling, but with the decided conviction that she could not refuse to work with any earnest, devout, reputable helper because of a difference in religious belief, and because she preferred to work with both men and women rather than confine herself to work among women. For a short time after the sudden death of her only brother, O. A. Willard, in the spring of 1878. Miss Willard, with her brother's widow, Mrs. Mary B. Willard, assumed the vacant editorship of his paper, the Chicago "Post and Mail," rather for the sake of others than through her own preference. In the autumn of 1877 she declined the nomination for the presidency of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union, but she accepted it in 1879, when she was elected in Indianapolis, Ind., as the exponent of a liberal policy, including "State rights" for the State societies, representation on a basis of paid membership and the advocacy of the ballot for women. At the time no southern State, except Maryland, was represented in the national society, and the total yearly income was only about $1,200 During the following year the work of the national union was organized under five heads: Preventive, Educational, Evangelistic, Social and Legal, and a system of individual superintendence of each department established. In 1881 Miss Willard made a tour of the Southern States, which reconstructed her views of the situation and conquered conservative prejudice and sectional opposition. Thus was given the initial impetus to the formation of the home protection party, which it was desired should unite all good men and women in its ranks. In August, 1882, she became one of the central committee of the newly organized prohibition home protection party, with which she has since been connected. During the following year, accompanied by her private secretary', Miss Anna Gordon, she completed her plan of visiting and organizing every State and Territory in the United States, and of presenting her cause in every town and city that had reached a population of ten-thou- sand. She visited the Pacific coast, and California, Oregon, and even British Columbia, were thoroughly organized, and more than twenty-five-thou sand miles of toilsome travel enabled her to meet the national convention in Detroit, Mich., in October, 1883, to celebrate the completion of its first decade with rejoicing over complete organizations of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in each one of the forty-eight subdivisions of the United States, Alaska not then included. In 1884, after the failure of endeavors to have each of the three political parties, Democrats, Greenbackers and Republicans, endorse the prohibition movement, the prohibition party held its nominating convention in Pittsburgh. Pa. There Miss Willard seconded the nomination of John P. St. John for president, in a brilliant speech. The general officers of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union publicly endorsed the party, and in the annual State meetings nearly every convention did the same. While the position of the national society is not necessarily that of States and individuals, so great has been Miss Willard's influence and so earnest the convictions of her co-laborers, that the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union is practically a unit in political influence. In 1885 the national headquarters were removed from New York to Chicago, and the white-cross movement was adopted as a feature of the work of the national union. Because no other woman could be found to stand at the helm of this new movement, Miss Willard did so. No other department of the work ever developed so rapidly as this. A great petition for the better legal protection of women and girls was presented to Congress, with thousands of signatures. Mr. Powdeny, chief of the Knights of Labor, through her influence, sent out ninetv-two-thousand petitions to local assemblies of the Knights to be signed, circulated and returned to her. Through the efforts of the temperance workers the same petition was circulated and presented for legislative action in nearly every State and Territory. In 1883, while traveling on the Pacific coast, she was deeply impressed by the misery consequent on the opium habit among the Chinese, and in her annual address in the national convention she proposed a commission to report plans for a World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which had been suggested by her in 1876. Mrs. Mary A. Leavitt was soon sent out as a missionary of the national union to the Sandwich Islands, whence she proceeded to Australia, Japan, China, India, Africa and Europe, returning to her native land after an absence of eight years, leaving Woman's Christian Temperance Unions organized in every country, while hosts of friends and intrepid workers had been won to the ranks. The British Woman's Temperance Union had been previously organized, and the most notable feature of the national convention in Minneapolis, Minn., in 1886, was the presence of Mrs. Margaret Lucas, the sister of John Bright and first president of the World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union, accompanied by Mrs. Hannah Whithall Smith. Her reception was magnificent, the convention rising in separate groups, first the crusaders in a body, then the women of New England, then of the Middle States, after these the western and the Pacific coast, and last the southern representatives, while the English and American flags waved from the platform, and all joined in singing "God Save the Queen." The Dominion Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Canada lias had also a powerful influence as an ally of the national union. Mrs. Letitia Youmans, the earliest white-ribbon pioneer in Canada, went to the convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1875. to learn its methods, and became, ten years later, the first president of the Dominion union. Thirty-five nations are now auxiliary to the World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and the wearers of its emblematic white ribbon number three-hundred-thousand. About half of these women are residents of the United Slates. Miss Willard has been reelected president of the national union, with practical unanimity, every year since 1879. She was elected president of the World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union, to succeed Mrs. Margaret Bright Lucas, in 1887. and has been since reelected for each biennial term. Besides sending out several round-the-world missionaries to nurture and enlarge the work initiated by Mrs. Leavitt, the world's union has circulated the monster polyglot petition against legalizing the alcohol and opium traffic, translated into hundreds of dialects, actively circulated in Great Britain, Switzerland. Scandinavia, India, China, Japan, Ceylon, Australia, Sandwich Islands, Chili, Canada and the United States, and signed by more than a million women. The president of the British Woman's Temperance Association, Lady Henry Somerset, is vice-president of the world's union, and Miss Willard finds in her a close friend and coadjutor. The sacrifices which Miss Willard has so freely made for this work have been repaid to her in abundant measure. She has been called by Joseph Cook "the most widely known and the best beloved woman in America" With a sisterly devotion to all of every creed who would "help a fallen brother rise." she has been ever loyal to the simple gospel faith in which she was reared. She is, first of all, a Christian philanthropist. Her church membership is with the Methodist Episcopal Church, which has honored itself in its recognition of her. though not to the extent of admitting her to its highest ecclesiastical court, the general quadrennial conference, to which she has twice been elected by the local conference. She has been one of the greatest travelers of this traveling age. From 1868 to 1871, in company with Miss Jackson, she spent two-and-one-half years abroad, traveling in Great Britain and Ireland, Denmark, Germany. Belgium, Holland, France, Austria, Turkey in Europe and Asia, Greece. Palestine and Egypt, studying art, history and languages indefatigably, and returning to her native land rich in the benefits reaped only by the scholarly and industrious traveler. She has traversed her own land from ocean to ocean and from the lakes to the gulf, and made second and third trips to England in the autumn of 1892. She has contributed hundreds of articles to many prominent periodicals, is assistant editor of "Our Day." of Boston, and other magazines, and is editor-in-chief of the "Union Signal." Her published volumes are: "Nineteen Beautiful Years," "Hints and Helps- in Temperance Work," "How to Win." "Woman in the Pulpit." "Woman and Temperance." "Glimpses of Fifty Years," "A Classic Town," and "A Young Journalist," the last in conjunction with Lady Henry Somerset. Her annual addresses to the Woman's Christian Temperance Union would form volumes unmatched in their way in the libraries of the world. In August, 1892, her devoted mother, the companion and inspirer of her life, without whose encouragement she believes her life-work never could have been done, one of the noblest women of this or any age, was transplanted to the life beyond, and Miss Willard, still in the prime of life, is now the last of her family. She is a member of societies in her own and other lands whose name is legion. She was president of the Woman's National Council, a federation of nearly all the woman's societies in America, in 1890, and is now vice-president of the same. She is at the head of the woman 's committee of temperance meetings in the World's Fair, and of many other World's Fair committees, and is actively engaged in promoting plans to aid in rendering the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 the most helpful to humanity which history has known.