Woman of the Century/Mary Bannister Willard
WILLARD, Mrs. Mary Bannister, editor, temperance worker and educator, born in Fairfield. N. Y., 18th September, 1841. She is the daughter of Rev. Henry Bannister, D. D., a distinguished scholar and Methodist divine, and his wife. Mrs. Lucy Kimball Bannister, a woman of rare gentleness and dignity of character. In the infancy of Mary, their oldest daughter, the father became principal of Cazenovia Seminary, and her childhood and early youth were spent as a pupil in that institution. When she was fifteen, the family removed to Evanston, Ill. Possessing a love for study and rare talents, Mary made rapid progress in scholarship and was graduated with honor from the Northwestern Female College, in Evanston, at the age of eighteen. The following year she went to Tennessee as a teacher, but her career there was cut short by the approach of the Civil War. She became the wife of Oliver A. Willard, 3rd July, 1862, and went with her husband to his first pastorate, in Edgerton, Wis. In the following year they removed to Denver, Col., where her husband founded a Methodist church, and became presiding elder at the age of twenty-seven years. Two years later, the family, consisting of the parents, one son and one daughter, returned to Evanston, where they made their home for several years, and where another son and another daughter were added to their number. Mrs. Willard has always wielded a gifted pen. She wrote little during those years, giving such leisure as domestic care permitted to home study with her husband, who had become the editor of a Chicago daily paper. His sudden death, in the prime of his brilliant powers, was an overwhelming bereavement, and left to Mrs. Willard the responsibility of conducting his paper, the "Post and Mail," which she assumed with the assistance of her husband's sister, Miss Frances E. Willard. The financial burden proving too heavy, it was relinquished, and not long afterward Mrs. Willard was called to assume the editorship of a new paper, the "Signal," the organ of the Illinois Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Several years of most successful work as editor and temperance worker displayed her gifts, both in the editorial sanctum and as organizer and platform speaker. The "Signal" under her leadership came quickly to the front, and it was said that no other paper in America was better edited. In 1881 she made her first trip to Europe. Successfully editing the "Union Signal" for several years afterward, her health became impaired, and with her two daughters she spent a year in Berlin, Germany. In the autumn of 1886 she opened in that city her American Home School for girls, unique in its way, and which for six years has been carried out on the original plan with much success. It combines the best features of an American school with special advantages in German, French and music, and the influences and care of a refined Christian home. History, literature and art receive special attention. The number of pupils received never exceeds the limits of a pleasant family circle, and vacation trips are arranged under Mrs. Willard's personal supervision and escort. In the years of her residence in Europe, her gifts and wide acquaintance have ever been at the service of her countrywomen, and she has stood there, as here, as a representative of the best phases of total abstinence reform.