The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999 Page: 46
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
however, the organization's strength remained in the northeastern and
In the principal purpose of the tour, the effort to organize local chap-
ters of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in the southern states,
Willard had met with only modest success. For a variety of reasons, south-
ern women had proved much more difficult to enlist in the cause. The
conservatism and paternalism of southern society closely delimited the
public activities of women. In the northern states evangelical churches
provided many women with their first experiences in social activism, most
commonly in temperance work. In contrast, southern evangelicals gener-
ally eschewed social activism and its association with antebellum abolition-
ism. In addition, rural isolation and the disruption of western migration
made it impossible for most women to participate in the wider associa-
tions of a national reform movement. Finally, southern women were
themselves suspicious of an organization based in the North, associated
with female suffrage, and dedicated to the participation of women in the
public sphere. Still, Willard had made significant inroads. Her excursion
into Texas came toward the end of her second tour of the southern states,
a tour which had attracted both record crowds and national attention. For
the first time in decades, southern women were meeting and working with
their counterparts in the northern states. And her reception in Texas
would demonstrate that there was a significant number of reform-minded
women and men who were anxious to embrace Willard and her cause.4
But many of the prohibitionists in Texas saw in Frances Willard more of
a threat to the social and political order than a champion for the cause.
Her support of female suffrage, her decidedly reformist politics, even her
position as a public figure made her a problematic ally. Although her tour
attracted unprecedented and wide-ranging support while she was in the
state, it did not result in the galvanizing of temperance forces over the
longer term. Within a few years, Texas prohibitionists, even many of those
s The most recent, and the best, biography of Willard is Ruth Bordin, Frances Willard: A Biogra-
phy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), although Mary Earhart, Frances
Willard: From Prayers to Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1944) remains an important
revision of the W.C.T.U.'s more conservative orthodoxy and a significant effort to place Willard
as a leader in nineteenth-century feminist circles. Willard's autobiography, Glimpses of Fyly Years:
The Autobiography of an American Woman (Chicago: Woman's Temperance Publication Assoc.,
1889), is detailed and fascinating, but suffers from being hurriedly pieced together and deals lit-
tle with the southern tours. Also useful for insight into Willard's character is Carolyn De Swarte
Gifford, Writing Out My Heart: Selections from the Journal of Frances E. Willard, 1855-96 (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1995), although Willard was not keeping a journal at the time of her
4 On the significance of Willard's southern tours see Ruth Bordin, Woman and Temperance: The
Quest for Power and Liberty, 1873-1goo (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981), 76-85. On
the complexities of engaging southern women in social reform the best work is still Anne Firor
Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, I830o-930 (Chicago: University of Chicago
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999, periodical, 1999; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/m1/71/: accessed December 15, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.