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I may as well take one glass: Frances Willard

Frances Willard

Suffragist and Prohibitionist

black and white portrait of frances willard wearing glasses

FRANCES WILLARD (1839-1898) was a key figure in the temperance movement. Her influence shaped late nineteenth-century views of alcohol consumption, and these, in turn, contributed to passage of the 18th Amendment and the Prohibition Era.

Willard helped establish the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in 1874. Serving first as Corresponding Secretary, she gave speeches, wrote letters and pamphlets, and generally organized American women into a powerful political force against the use and abuse of alcohol.

Elected President of the WCTU in 1879--a position she held until her death 20 years later--Willard transformed it into the largest contemporary women’s organization in the United States, with a membership of 27,000 adults and 25,000 youths divided into state chapters. She worked tirelessly, at times traveling 30,000 miles in a year and, in one ten-year period, giving an average 400 speeches a year.

In the years before her death, Willard traveled and lectured in Europe, strenuously promoted women' s rights and suffrage, supported labor reform, and wrote her memoir, Glimpses of Fifty Years: The Autobiography of an American Woman. At the age of 58, while waiting to sail to England and France from New York City, she contracted influenza and died. She was laid to rest at Rose Hill Cemetery in Chicago.

Willard 's reputation as a leader in women’s suffrage and temperance were quickly secured. In 1940 she was one of only two women honored as part of the Famous Americans postage stamp series. And in 1950, she was the first woman honored with a statue in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.