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Temperance, and I Enjoy Frances Willard's House Almost As Much As She Did

I cannot overestimate the level of indifference with which people will respond when you tell them you have JUST come from a tour of former president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Frances Willard's house.

I'd never heard of her either. Which is a SHAME because she is one of just six female statues in D.C.'s Statuary Hall, and was the ONLY one from 1905-1980. I was watching the Ken Burns documentary on Prohibition while cleaning the other week, and they started talking about Frances Willard and how she effected actual change with the WCTU (and linked it up with the suffrage movement, making it more socially acceptable for women to opine for suffrage), which before her was pretty much just going in front of taverns and praying, which is ALL WELL AND GOOD, but when you leave, the guys are just gonna go back in and keep drinking.

She went to every town that had over 10,000 inhabitants in the United States and lectured and recruited members and then eventually we had Prohibition, WHICH GRANTED DID NOT GO SO WELL, but I think when people think about Prohibition now and make fun of it, they think of it in the context of our current drinking culture.

Our current drinking culture is, overall, tame. We don't need to outlaw alcohol. In the early 1800s, everyone was growing grain,which could be distilled into whisky. So instead of beer, which people had been drinking for ages with every meal, they were drinking whisky. And they didn't quite realize that you couldn't drink the same amount. You also had soldiers coming back from the Civil War who'd been dosed up with hard liquor because it was a cheap anaesthetic, and now they were alcoholics who spent their paychecks at the bar and left their wives and children without money or food.

What I'm saying is, make fun of the Temperance movement, but it was NECESSARY.

do we really want this? (yes)

And the awesome thing about Frances Willard's house is she was so famous in her time, that right after she died, people were like "Preserve this shit," so instead of visiting and having the tour guide be like "Well, this is how it MIGHT have looked back in the day," they're like "HERE IS A PHOTO OF HER LIVING ROOM AND HERE'S ALL THE EXACT SAME STUFF IN IT."

She also had a little sign to hang on the outside of her office that said "This Is My Busy Day" so people wouldn't disturb her. And they have the sign. And her books. You guys. Her books. She has so many. On suffrage and botany and the voting population of New Hampshire and temperance (natch) and AN OLD-ASS COPY OF VILLETTE and something called The Intellectual Life and there was no damn internet so she chose to just cover her walls with shelves of books.

And they were all caj-like saying "We know they're hers because there're annotations in pretty much all of them."

Good Lord.

SO. If you're in Evanston (north of Chicago, but accessible by the El train) on the first or third Sunday of the month and available between 1 and 4, you can visit! And go on an hour-long tour and derail the tour guide with way, way too many questions, because it's important to know whether that chess set is the chess set SHE played with, damnit (and yes it is).


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