"Let us have plain living and high thinking." So said this woman who made an impact on her time as an educator, eloquent temperance crusader and advocate of women`s right to vote.
Frances Elizabeth Caroline was born on September 28, 1839 in Churchville, New York, to Josiah and Mary Willard. She blossomed into an intelligent, independent-minded and strong-willed woman.
Willard graduated from Northwest Female College in 1859, then taught in a public school setting until 1868. She then left for a world tour with a friend and returned in 1870 to become the president of the Evanston College for Ladies. Later, she became the dean of women at Northwestern University.
The educator abandoned this promising career to the less promising life of a mover and shaker in the Temperance Movement, whose aim was to curb or eliminate alcohol consumption in the country. She worked without compensation for a number of years, using her lecture fees to make a living. She became the corresponding secretary of the Chicago Woman`s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1874.
Later, thanks to Willard`s influence, the WCTU also willingly took on women`s suffrage as a cause. She had reasoned that local elections on the issue of whether liquor could be sold in neighborhoods would have an impact on women, so it was important for them to have the right to vote on it.
Willard traveled constantly to meet with other women and lecture on temperance, women`s suffrage and allied issues. In 1879, she was elected president of the National WCTU, then president of the World WCTU in 1891, an organization she crossed the Atlantic numerous times to found.
She recognized that the aims of these organizations were congenial with those of the Prohibition Party, which came into being in 1869. She aligned the two movements in 1882. Their efforts would one day see the light of day: Prohibition with the 18th Amendment and women`s suffrage, the 19th Amendment. Also an author, Willard contributed articles to magazines and wrote Women and Temperance in 1883.
She is quoted as saying:
"Temperance is moderation in the things that are good and total abstinence from the things that are foul."
In January 1898, Willard delivered her final public address at the Congregational Church in Janesville, Wisconsin. In February, while visiting New York City, Frances E. Willard contracted influenza and died. She was 59. Her grave is in Chicago`s Rose Hill Cemetery.
By 1911, the WCTU was the largest women`s organization in U.S. history up to that time, with a membership of 245,000.
For additional famous women, see Important and Famous Women in America .