Willard's journals are divided into four eras of her life: Early Life, Evanston, Travels, and Later Life (WCTU). The eras are described below.
Encouraged by her mother, Frances Willard began to keep a diary on January 1, 1855. Her early life journals describe her life on a farm in Janesville, Wisconsin, and her experience at the Milwaukee Female Seminary, and include lively observations about everything around her--daily life, schoolwork, religion, the roles of men and women, as well as expressions of her hopes and ambitions.
Willard’s journals continue as she moves to Evanston, Illinois, to attend the North Western Female College, and then to pursue a teaching career. Her reaction to the Civil War; her sister’s and father’s deaths; her teaching experiences; and her relationships with friends and mentors, are representative of a Midwestern woman of her time, while also unique in the context of Willard’s development into a committed reformer and leader.
Willard’s account of her two-year tour of Europe and the Holy Lands fills 20 volumes (Travel), and alternately show Willard as the typical tourist, earnest student of art and culture, and commentator on foreign manners and morals (especially in regard to religion and to the role of women); she also finds time to reflect on her own life and goals as she enters her 30s.
The later journals (WCTU/Later Life) record the continued growth of Willard’s thought as she deals with her mother’s death, the exhausting work of managing a world-wide organization (and the rise of factions within the WCTU that resisted Willard’s radical and wide-ranging Christian Socialist program), and the decline of her own health. Lists of meetings and appointments, interspersed with her typical lively commentary—even when she was 'tee-totally tired'—demonstrate her continuing dedication to 'Do everything' to make a better world.
SEARCHING THE JOURNALS
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