Women's Christian Temperance Union/Frances Willard


Women's Christian Temperance Union/Frances Willard


Building mass appeal almost always means making your ideas less threatening. Once persuaded, new adherents may want the cause to reflect their own more conservative interests. For the vanguard, this instrumental tradeoff rarely feels good.

To take one recent example...

A domesticated, strictly monogamous, painfully chaste version of LGBT life made marriage equality palatable to the masses.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. Is it limiting? Sure is.

In the 1880s, Frances Willard recast suffrage as “home protection,” a brilliant stroke.

0Willard's approach attracted a wider base of support than the radical idea that women were independent individuals.

But the influence of so many conservative women pushed the suffrage movement in a more conservative direction. Over the months ahead we’ll see how that played out.

Before moving on, @EllenDubois10 new history of the movement captures perfectly why I resist spending much time on Frances Willard.

“It takes a real leap of historical imagination to appreciate what Frances Willard accomplished in the WCTU. So much of her approach—her religious framework, her appeal to sentimentalism and moralism, even her flowery language—is foreign to us today.

Unlike Eliz. Cady Stanton, who believed relentlessly in individual privacy as well as rights, Willard was an advocate of social control and government policing of behavior and morality. She believed in legal prohibition, if necessary by constitutional action.

"That said, Frances Willard placed herself squarely in the center of the women’s rights tradition, and did so in a way that spoke to women far less radical in their inclinations than the pioneers of the suffrage movement. As Willard’s leadership grew stronger and more confident, her essential belief in the equality of the sexes became ever clearer."

Willard died in 1898, only 59. We don’t know how her views might have evolved further. #Suffrage100 


Daily Suffragist




-11- Daily Suffragist on Twitter- -Building mass appeal almost always means making your ideas less threatening- Once persuaded- new adherents may want the cause to reflect their own more conservative interests- For.png


Daily Suffragist, “Women's Christian Temperance Union/Frances Willard,” Daily Suffragist, accessed December 4, 2022, https://dailysuffragist.omeka.net/items/show/335.

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