During Women’s History Month, let us remember Frances E. Willard.
Willard was an author, educator, reformer, master organizer, world leader, standard-bearer for the rights of women and children, and a mentor for millions.
From 1879 to 1898, she served as the second President of the National WCTU. Under her leadership, the WCTU promoted woman’s rights, suffrage, equal pay for equal work, an 8-hour work-day and protections for women and children in the workplace.
Frances Willard created a Do Everything policy that is still followed today. Under the Do Everything policy, the women of the WCTU proposed, supported and helped to establish: stiffer penalties for sexual crimes against girls and women, laws that raised the age of consent from as low as seven years, higher education for women, uniform marriage and divorce laws, dress reform, travelers’ aid (originally protection for women and children traveling alone), matrons in jails, the Pure Food and Drug Act, legal aid, labor’s right to organize, and world peace.
As a world organization, WWCTU was a charter member of the United Nations. The WCTU worked to pass legislation in every state mandating scientific instruction in public schools as to the dangers of smoking, drinking of alcoholic beverages, and use of other drugs.
She wrote several best-selling books, including the 500-page book, Occupations for Women, which inspired women by including, in addition to home making and teaching, such options as banking, beekeeper, inventor, civil engineer, archaeologists, attorney, and many more.
If asked, most people today would not know of the contributions of Frances Willard despite the fact that it has been said that she has had more memorials erected in her honor than any other woman. Many schoolhouses, college dormitories, hospital rooms, stained glass windows, plaques, statues, water fountains and streets carry her name in many parts of the world. A statue of Frances Willard stands in Statuary Hall of the US Capitol in Washington D.C. She was the first woman so honored.
National WCTU will be holding its 150th Annual Convention on August 6-12, 2023, in Reno, Nevada.
“We will take time to honor Frances Willard and all of the women of the WCTU who have worked and continue to work, to create a better life for all of us,” Jent said.