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In the 1890s, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) President Frances Willard and journalist and activist Ida B. Wells fought a war of words in the international press over Miss Willard’s lack of public support for Miss Wells’ anti-lynching campaign. At the time, Miss Willard was a world-famous social reformer but while working to expand the WCTU, especially in the South, she used language that was demeaning and incendiary toward black Americans.
Miss Wells called Miss Willard’s moral leadership into question and demanded that Miss Willard and the WCTU join her anti-lynching campaign. Under Miss Willard’s leadership, the WCTU eventually passed resolutions opposing lynching, but her language and actions complicate her legacy.
From 6 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 21, the Frances Willard House Museum and WCTU archives will host a curator’s talk with Ella Wagner, the primary designer of the Truth Telling: Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells website. The website explores the conflict between Miss Willard and Miss Wells through archival sources and documentary essays with the ultimate goal of uncovering the full truth of the conflict and its many meanings in our world today.
The talk will include an overview of the exhibit and its development, a detailed look at some of the archival sources and additional background and insight into the conflict.
This event, at the Frances Willard House Museum at 1730 Chicago Ave., is free to the public. Reservations are recommended by calling 847-328-7500.