Rights for Women: The Suffrage Movement and Its Leaders

Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard (1898-1939)

Frances Willard promoted the cause of women and reform throughout her temperance work. Willard began her career in organization activism as secretary for Chicago’s Temperance Union and as corresponding secretary to the National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). While serving in her secretarial capacity, Willard formed her beliefs that women needed the vote to successfully implement their temperance work. She embraced the national suffrage movement as the vehicle to help women extend their reform efforts. Willard, the Illinois WCTU president in 1878, began a petition asking that women of the state be given the vote on liquor questions. While the petition did not pass into law, it became the model for many local and state WCTU chapters.

As president of the national WCTU from 1879 until her death, Willard changed the WCTU from a conservative temperance organization into a broader woman’s rights movement with a range of social concerns. She coined the “Home Protection” rallying cry, tying the home to her cause in an effort to show women their influence beyond the family circle. In 1888 she was a leader in the International Council of Women, a Washington meeting designed to unify the woman’s movement. Serving in leadership positions in suffrage, peace, and temperance organizations, Willard never let her dream of an inclusive women’s reform organization wane, working right up until her death in 1893.

Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (LC-DIG-ggbain-02864)

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