Sunday, September 16, 2012

Frances E. Willard


Four. Four posts in the past 8 months of 2012. Only 4. Ugh. 

In November and December of 2009 alone I completed 8 posts. In 2010 and 2011, I averaged 1.5 posts a month. As I sat down to force myself to finally complete a new post last night, I noticed the numbers to the right of my homepage and couldn't help but panic and think, "What has happened to 2012!?"

"Is someone just too distracted by her domesticated bliss?" - Lane Pieschel

In January, I started dating Lane. A super cute comedian whom I love so much. While I hate to admit having a boyfriend has shifted my focus from my beloved CalistaJones, it has. But before you become disappointed with me for having seemingly abandoned my feminist principles for a cute, cuddly man, 2012 has been a year of exciting firsts reaching far beyond my relationship status.

Big guy super stud mega hottie. My bf Lane. :)

I finally told a story at The Moth StorySLAM!! Well, 2 actually. They both went well but I'm excited to become a better storyteller. Two of my submissions have appeared on and one was posted on It's definitely encouraging to have your writing validated by national websites. I attended the Northwestern Summer Writer's Conference and actually felt like a real writer! I'm also thinking about starting a podcast and am working on developing the concept and figuring out all of the logistics. It's been a productive 8 months! 

So, writing has been happening, just unfortunately not on CalistaJones. I fell into a writer's block of sorts where I couldn't finish new entries for some reason. Today is my first step toward getting back in the habit of completing posts starting with Frances Willard!


As a modern woman, I have a lot of modern debt. I'm modernly indebted to Sallie Mae, Visa, and ACS for school and shoe purchases I modernly bought then and am modernly paying for now. So mod. All of this moderness necessitates a day job. So, even though I'd love to sleep til noon, write til 7, then party til dawn, I spend my 8-5's at Northwestern University. Specifically, I work in the Registrar's Office with the Registration and Scheduling team. This is my third position working in higher education and I really do love it, although I am often under-appreciative of my secure, stress free career. Is it my dream job? No. Does it provide more than enough for me to modernly pay down my debt while having a life full of weekend mimosa brunches? Yes. I get to Facebook professionally, take vacation time whenever I want, and most importantly and beneficially, work with a team of incredibly self assured and highly capable women. All in all, I'm making it on my own with guidance from independent women which is this modern working girl's dream come true. 

Mod nails for a modern profesh woman. 
Traditionally, even though most jobs in my field are held by women, the men have been the registrars. In the past decade however, women have been making strides to fill this gender gap and in my office, hold all leadership positions. My boss Leigh Ann has (incredibly ;) hired me twice now; first at North Park and then at NU. In our combined 4 years of working together, I have learned how to not only do my job well but have also become forward thinking and career minded. She's one of the hardest working people I've ever met and she balances her office time with being a wife and mother. LA not only puts up with my shenanigans on a daily basis, but always manages to be encouraging even when it comes to the search for my next position. And, she's been a fan of my blog since the very beginning! Dream boss! 

As a Senior Assistant Registrar, LA serves on a team of managers, who are all female. Over the last year I have grown so much under their leadership. There are challenges here and there, as with any job, but I feel more confident now in my abilities and I credit all of them for building that within me. Seeing capable, intelligent women in charge of many important day to day and big picture decisions, has been extremely beneficial. It is a significant change for women in the workforce to have more and more female leaders advising them and opening up new career paths. This is truly so mod. Mary (as in Tyler Moore) would be excited. We should all be excited!
If my blog represents my feminist philosophy, then my job is my feminism in action. The women I work with encourage me to not only have new ideas but to implement my projects and accumulate more experience. Most of my coworkers are also mothers. While I appreciate the work stay at home moms (SAHMs) accomplish, declaring their job to be the "hardest in the world" is simply empty appeasement. Leaving the home to work is a feat in and of itself. Child care, time off for sickness, managing your work life with your home life, etc., add to the responsibilities of mothers. In addition, staying at home in this economic climate is a luxury that is not affordable for most families. Whether you work and raise children, or spend your days with your kids, none of us benefit from being coddled. Why aren't mothers supported the most if SAHMs have the "hardest job in the world"? 

A monthly ritual in my workplace are office meetings complete with free breakfast! So fun! The room we meet in is extremely distracting because it's a space straight out of Harry Potter. The whole hall is reminiscent of Umbridge's puke pink office, but replace the meowing kitten plates with giant portraits of presidents from Northwestern's past. The walls are dusty rose, with each regal painting hanging high above, staring down upon us. Overtime, I have become discouraged by the indistinguishable white male faces; all stereotypical leaders, sparking no curiosity or inspiration. Imagine sitting in a room mostly filled by women, surrounded by portraits of men, listening to HR tell us we won't receive paid maternity leave until it is legally required. Stirs up just a bit of rage.  So not mod. 

One morning, as if appearing out of nowhere, like a particularly difficult "Where's Waldo" puzzle, I finally spotted Frances.

Compare and Contrast:
Umbridge's Office

Hamlin Hall.
See what I mean.

Can you spot Frances? It might take a bit. She is up on the top row, 4th from the left. 

Zoomed in, supes blurry portrait pic.
Frances E. Willard was the president of the Evanston College for Ladies. Eventually this school was incorporated with Northwestern and Willard served as the first Dean of Women. She never served as the president of NU but it is still nice to know she is remembered in this hall. 

Frances lived a vastly different life from other women of her time. She didn't serve as the dean at NU for long since she had a falling out with her former fiance who was also the president of the university. She went onto become a leading lecturer in the temperance movement. She was a devoted suffragist and her work is directly responsible for the passage of the 19th amendment, a milestone she never lived to see. She worked tirelessly to bring the plight of women to the forefront of American minds in the 1800's. 

Willard lived in an age when women were the property of the male head of house. You were your father's daughter, your husband's wife, and your children's mother. Your autonomy was non existent. You could not vote. You could not own property. You could not inherit wealth directly. If you were lucky enough to be educated, it was in the arts and you were not expected to advance onto college or work outside of the home. If your husband, son, or father hit and abused you, you had no legal recourse. If your husband drank his weekly earnings away at the local pub, you were still required to put food on the table before he arrived home. In a very real way, you were a second class citizen. So not mod. 

Prohibition Ladies

Willard's Statue in
the Capitol Building
Educated and privileged women like Frances began to envision a better life for American women overall. Their main enemy was alcohol because it consumed their men so perversely. Early feminists believed outlawing liquor would save women from domestic abuse and help men rise above the effects of alcoholism. While we now know the era of Prohibition in our country lead to organized crime, widespread corruption, and violence, it was born of out of desperation with the best intentions. "Home Protection", as Willard called her platform, combined the suffrage movement with outlawing alcohol to appeal to the everyday woman. Most women had been warned to ignore feminists by the patriarchy who controlled religious outlets, the media, and government. Freedom from alcohol was a nice cover for many women to use to demand political equality. The failure of the 18th amendment came only after the law had been put into place. Many like to blame feminists for their misguided efforts, but in truth, without Prohibition, the 19th amendment would have taken much longer to secure. It was a means to an end that mobilized an entire generation of women in a way never before seen in human history. By that standard, Willard and her counterparts' efforts were incredibly successful.

Frances on a bike.
Frances aggressively toured the country, speaking to women directly about their right to education, their need to assert their right to vote, and of course, Home Protection. As the president of The Women's Temperance Union she not only campaigned against liquor but also set up homes for women who had developed addictions to alcoholic medications. She lobbied for homeless women and children, female wardens in women's prisons, and other initiatives to expand rights for women. She wrote numerous books including "A Wheel Within a Wheel" which was her account of learning to ride a bicycle. Many feminists, including Susan B. Anthony, believed cycling was a key tool for women's emancipation in that it provided solid transportation for them not dependent upon men. It is widely speculated that Frances was one of the first openly gay women, living with Anna Adams Gordon, her personal secretary. Many historians believe them to have been lesbians even though it is difficult to define their relationship with modern day terms. Regardless, this is further proof that Willard was committed to living her life in her own way and in opposition to what was expected of women. 
Frances (standing), her mother (sitting)and Anna (kneeling)
Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise

While much of Frances' work is inspiring due to her vision and ability to imagine a better future for women, she, like many early feminists, found herself at odds with the progressive black movement. Because temperance workers were using their platform to appeal to more conservative women, they oftentimes sited African Americans as incapable of responsibility and equated them to children in regards to alcohol. This is most definitely racist and inexcusable. It is an unfortunate piece of women's rights history that plagues the feminist movement even today. Without the appreciation of white privilege and the understanding of the unique challenges non-white women experience, we cannot begin to achieve overall equality for women. 

One of Jenny Holzer's most iconic photographs is of female graffiti artist Ladypink wearing a tank top printed with Holzer's truism "Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise". Willard's racist platform was challenged most aggressively by Ida B. Wells who wanted to make it known that Frances maintained regressive beliefs about black people. She wanted to out her by publishing some of Frances' disparaging remarks in England but was prevented by one of Willard's rumored lovers and benefactors, Lady Henry Somerset. I have Holzer's image framed in my living room and it is the tiled backdrop on my computer at work. As we go forward, and as I live my life with the inherent privilege residing in the color of my skin, it is important to learn from Willard's shortcomings and abuse of her own power. We cannot keep making these same mistakes if we want to advance women as a whole which is why we need to acknowledge the abuses our own movement has committed in the past.


In this modern day, we sometimes like to believe we are too far removed from the struggles Willard faced in gaining the rights we so often take for granted. We are coming up on another election, and while it is easy to become complacent about casting votes in November, we should remember that many of the women who fought to earn us this right never lived to see it become a reality.  This is why I vote. Not because of the "War on Women" narrative fabricated by a sensationalist media, but because I respect the great effort that went into securing my equality. 

I vote because even though many are trying to limit our hard earned rights, there is an aspect to being a woman now that is so exciting. We don't need dooms day headlines to get us to the ballot box if we just take a second to appreciate the liberation we have while understanding there is more work to be done. 

It can be overwhelming to fight for rights like maternity leave, reproductive choice, accessible/affordable health care, effective education, equal and fair compensation, financial safeguards against massive banks, and a laundry list of other limitations to our freedoms as females. It's true we are still chipping away at that elusive glass ceiling, but to say we have made no strides or have worsened our situation or to see no hope for our future is completely incorrect. 

Before I saw Frances' portrait on the wall of NU Presidents, I was allowing myself to get discouraged. What a waste of my energy! I am happy to know my employer has dedicated her former home as a museum in her honor. We should all be encouraged and feel privileged to be alive as women today because we can work and learn together due to the sacrifices Frances and her contemporaries made for us. 

For the first time, we are graduating from college at a higher rate than men. We are entering the work force more prepared and innovative than ever before which means we are finally receiving promotions and leadership positions. We have the right to choose motherhood and marriage, a nonexistent choice for previous generations. We are making it and the harder we work the weaker we render our oppressors. We don't need to declare war against our adversaries because we can declare victory. We need to maintain our success through continued work and effort but we can find the strength to stay steadfast by upholding the accomplishments of Frances E. Willard, Anna Adams Gordon, Ida B. Wells, Jenny Holzer, Ladypink, Calista Jones and all of the women we work, study, and socialize with daily. As we sit at our desks, or care for our children, or watch the nightly news, let's think about all we have to celebrate as women and get excited for what is to come. Voting is an act of celebration. Our votes matter and keep us moving forward. 

Partisan plug warning, not sorry:  

Obama 2012!!!!!!!!!

I read Frances Willard's Wikipedia page and listened to this highly recommended video for most of my research for this post. Photo sources are all hyper-linked unless they are my own pics. 

Are you registered to vote yet!? Click on this link to do so!!!