Frances E. Willard

Frances E. Willard

Frances Willard became president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1879 and brought her support for suffrage with her. Her arguments for suffrage were various, depending on her audience and time period. But, Willard was one of the foremost proponents of the social benefit argument for suffrage - the idea that the giving women the vote would make politics, government, and society dramatically better for everyone because of women's moral influence and uplift.

One of the key ways she did this was by formulating the case for what she called the “Home Protection Ballot.” In 1879, Willard called for a limited ballot for women that would include school officials and temperance referendums. Willard was a master strategist, and she knew that this argument would appeal to women, persuading them to support suffrage, and counter the anti-suffrage argument that the political sphere was inappropriate for women. Willard made women’s suffrage a popular cause with WCTU women and this support from the WCTU membership, many times larger than the national suffrage organizations, really carried the suffrage movement from the 19th into the 20th century.

  • b. 1839 (New York), d. 1898 (New York)
  • graduated from North Western Female College, Evanston, 1859
  • President, Evanston College for Ladies, 1871-1873
  • Dean, Woman’s College at Northwestern University, 1872-1874
  • Corresponding Secretary, Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 1874-1878
  • President, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1879-1898
  • Founder (with Susan B. Anthony and May Wright Sewall), National Council of Women, 1888
  • First statue of a woman installed in Statuary Hall in her honor, U.S. Capitol, 1905
Frances E. Willard