Gordon was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to James M. and Mary Clarkson Gordon, both Christian abolitionists. When she was three, her family moved to Auburndale. She went on to attend Boston High School, Lasall Seminary, and Mount Holyoke College. She spent a year abroad in San Sebastián with her sister, Alice Gordon Gulick, who had started a school for girls there in 1871.
In 1877, Gordon met Frances E. Willard at a Dwight L. Moody revival meeting, in the building where Willard was holding temperance meetings. Gordon's younger brother Arthur had died just days before, a traumatic event which had, as Willard later wrote, driven Gordon "Godward". The two became close friends, with Gordon continuing to play organ for Willard's meetings. Gordon eventually moved into Willard's residence as her personal secretary. Gordon subsequently followed her employer on her travels through the United States, Canada and Europe, spending a year in England, mostly as the guests of Lady Henry Somerset. Modern scholars have speculated on the precise nature of the relationship between Gordon and Willard (who preferred to be called "Frank"), believing both to have been lesbians.
Gordon and Willard remained intimate friends until Willard's death in 1898, at which time Lillian M. N. Stevens became president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, with Gordon as vice-president. That same year, Gordon also wrote a memorial biography of Willard (expanded and reprinted in 1905). Upon Lillian Stevens' death in 1914, Anna Adams Gordon became president of the WCTU.
During the First World War, Gordon was instrumental in convincing U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to harden the federal government's policies against the manufacture of alcoholic beverages, most notably by criminalizing the use of foodstuffs to make alcohol. Later, in 1919, temperance organizations scored a major victory with the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which fully established prohibition in the United States. After this success, the WCTU under Gordon's guidance began to turn more towards temperance enforcement, and causes peripheral to the temperance movement, such as citizenship for immigrants, women's rights in the workplace, and child protection.
In November 1922, she was elected president of the World Women's Temperance Union (WWCTU), and resigned her presidency of the national WCTU organization.
She died on June 15, 1931, in Castile, New York.
During her career she was also president of the World League Against Alcoholism, and vice-president of the National Temperance Council, and vice-chairman of the Commission of Nineteen on the National Constitutional Prohibition Amendment. In addition to these and the WCTU, Gordon was also deeply involved in temperance work with the National Council of Women, the International Sunday-School Association, the World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and the National Legislative Council, among others.
As a leader in the WCTU, Gordon was a staunch believer in the need to interest children in temperance at a very early age. To that end, she authored a number of books of stories, verse, and song aimed at children, as well as publications for adults. Sales of her books were said to have surpassed a million copies. Her temperance songs, in particular, became quite successful and were translated into a number of languages. She was also the editor of the Union Signal, the news organ of the WCTU, and The Young Crusader, the newspaper of the Loyal Temperance Legion, the WCTU's children's branch.
Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard (September 28, 1839 – February 17, 1898) was an American educator, temperance reformer, and women's suffragist. Her influence was instrumental in the passage of the Eighteenth (Prohibition) and Nineteenth (Women Suffrage) Amendments to the United States Constitution. Willard became the national president of Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1879, and remained president for 19 years. She developed the slogan "Do everything" for the women of the WCTU to incite lobbying, petitioning, preaching, publication, and education. Her vision progressed to include federal aid to education, free school lunches, unions for workers, the eight-hour work day, work relief for the poor, municipal sanitation and boards of health, national transportation, strong anti-rape laws, and protections against child abuse.
Willard was born to Josiah Flint Willard and Mary Thompson Hill Willard in Churchville, near Rochester, New York, but spent most of her childhood in Janesville, Wisconsin. Frances was named after English novelist Frances (Fanny) Burney, the American poet Frances Osgood, and her sister who had died the previous year, Caroline Elizabeth. She had two siblings, Mary and Oliver, and was born the middle child. Her father was a farmer, naturalist, and legislator while her mother was a schoolteacher. Her father had originally moved to Oberlin, Ohio, to be part of the ministry there. During the family’s stay in Wisconsin, they converted from Congregationalists to Methodists, a Protestant denomination that placed an emphasis on social justice and service to the world. In 1858, the Willard family moved to Illinois so that Mary and Frances could attend college and their brother Oliver could go to the Garrett Biblical Institute. Willard had three years of formal education. She attended Milwaukee Normal Institute where her mother's sister was a teacher, and she attended North Western Female College in Illinois. She moved to Evanston, Illinois when she was 18. Willard's time at the Northwestern Female College led her to become a teacher and she held various teaching positions until she became the President of Evanston College for Ladies. She held this position on two separate occasions, once in 1871 and again in 1873. She was also the first Dean of Women for Northwestern University.
In the 1860s, Willard suffered a series of personal crises: both her father and her younger sister Mary died, her brother became an alcoholic, and Willard herself began to feel love for a woman who would ultimately go on to marry her brother. Willard's family underwent financial difficulty due to her brother's excessive gambling and drinking, and Willard was unable to receive financial support from them. In 1869, Willard was involved in the founding of Evanston Ladies' College.
In 1870, the college united with the former North Western Female College to become the Evanston College for Ladies, of which Willard became president. After only one year, the Evanston College for Ladies merged with Northwestern University and Willard became Northwestern's first Dean of Women of the Women’s College. However that position was to be short-lived due to her resignation in 1874 after confrontations with the University President, Charles Henry Fowler, over her governance of the Women’s College. Willard had previously been engaged to Fowler.
After her resignation, Willard focused her energies on a new career, traveling the American East Coast participating in the women’s temperance movement. Her tireless efforts for women's suffrage and prohibition included a fifty-day speaking tour in 1874, an average of 30,000 miles of travel a year, and an average of four hundred lectures a year for a ten-year period, mostly with her longtime companion Anna Adams Gordon.
In 1874, Willard participated in the creation of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) where she was elected the first corresponding secretary. That same year, she was invited to become the President of the Chicago WCTU and accepted the position. In 1876, she became head of the national WCTU publications committee. She later resigned from the Chicago WCTU in 1877, but in 1879 sought presidency of the National WCTU and held the post until her death. Willard was elected the first president of the National Council of Women of the United States in 1888, a position she held for the remainder of her life. She created the Formed Worldwide WCTU in 1883, and became its president in 1888. Willard also founded the magazine The Union Signal, and served as its editor from 1892 through 1898. She collaborated closely with Lady Henry Somerset, whom she visited several times in the United Kingdom.
Willard joined with Elziabeth Boynton Harbert, Mary Ellen West, Frances Conant and forty-three others in 1885 in the founding the Illinois Woman's Press Association.
As president of the WCTU, the crux of Willard’s argument for female suffrage was based on the platform of "Home Protection", which she described as "the movement...the object of which is to secure for all women above the age of twenty-one years the ballot as one means for the protection of their homes from the devastation caused by the legalized traffic in strong drink." These "devastations" were the violent acts against women committed by intoxicated men, both in and outside the home. Willard argued that it was too easy for men to get away with their crimes without women's suffrage. The "Home Protection" argument was used to garner the support of the "average woman," who was told to be suspicious of female suffragists by the patriarchal press, religious authorities, and society. The desire for "home protection" gave the average woman a socially appropriate avenue to seek out enfranchisement. Willard insisted that women must forgo the notion that they were the "weaker" sex and embrace their natural dependence on men. She encouraged women to join the movement to improve society, stating "Politics is the place for woman." The goal of the suffrage movement, for Willard, was to construct an “ideal of womanhood” that allowed women to fulfill their potential as the companions and counselors of men, as opposed to the “incumbrance and toy of man.”
Willard’s suffrage argument also hinged on her feminist interpretation of Scripture. She claimed that natural and divine laws called for equality in the American household, with the mother and father sharing leadership. She expanded this notion of the home, arguing that men and women should lead side by side in matters of education, church, and government, just as “God sets male and female side by side throughout his realm of law.”
Willard's work took to an international scale in 1883 with the circulation of the "Polyglot Petition" against the international drug trade. She also joined May Wright Sewall at the International Council of Women meeting in Washington, DC laying the permanent foundation for the National Council of Women. She became their first president in 1888 and continued until 1890.
Willard died of influenza at the Empire Hotel in New York City while preparing to set sail for a visit to England and France. She died quietly in her sleep. She bequeathed her Evanston home to the WCTU and in 1965 it was elevated to the status of National Historic Landmark, the Frances Willard House.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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