So We Can All Be Heard
by Historian Marlene Cook
Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard (1839-1898) is one of the most politically active founding members of Illinois Woman's Press Association. Her name can be found in many history accounts in addition to those of IWPA. She is said to have been a charming, powerful and extremely interesting woman and brilliant speaker.
A descendent of Simon Willard, a domineering tyrannical father, she became an American educator and reformer. She devoted her life to the Temperance Movement from 1874.
She appeared often on the lecture platform and for a time conducted prayer groups in the streets and in saloons. She was president of National WCTU in 1879 and the World WCTU in 1891. She aided in organizing the Prohibition Party in 1882. She was elected to the American Hall of Fame in 1910.
During a tour of the Indiana Capitol Building in Indianapolis, during NFPW's 2001 conference, we discovered a brass plaque bearing her image in the rotunda. It reads: "In honor of one who made the world wider for women and more homelike for humanity."
The plaque was placed there in 1920 by the WCTU to commemorate Willard's 50th anniversary of her election as national president in Indianapolis in October 31, 1879. She was the first dean of the Women's College of Northwestern University and was the first woman to have her statue placed in Sanctuary Hall of the United States Capitol.
Growing up on a Wisconsin farm, she is quoted as saying, "I wonder if we shall ever know anything, see anybody, or go anywhere?"
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