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North Western Female College, corner of Chicago Avenue and Greenwood Boulevard

Explore the revolutionary history of Evanston’s women by viewing the houses and buildings where they worked to transform our cultural landscape. In partnership with the Frances Willard House Museum. Meets in front of the Frances Willard House, 1730 Chicago Avenue.

Cost: $20/$15 for Evanston History Center and Frances Willard House Museum members.

When: July 21st, 11 a.m. -12:30 p.m.

Where: All tours begin at the Frances Willard House, 1730 Chicago Avenue.

Reservations are not needed but they are encouraged via email –ewhp@evanstonhistorycenter.org.

Hope you can join us!

A Summer of Exploration

My name is Molly Sampson, I am a current graduate student at Loyola University Chicago studying public history and library science. This summer I had opportunity to work at the Evanston History Center as the Vickie Burke Intern for Women’s History. As the centennial of the ratification of the19th amendment approaches, my research and the research of past interns will culminate to form a digital and physical exhibit displayed at the Evanston History Center.

One of my main goals for the summer was to research the suffrage activities of black women in Evanston. Chicago and the surrounding cities are known as a center for the suffrage movement and Illinois was one of the first states to grant women the right to vote. However, the black community has historically been excluded from the narrative of the suffrage movement. Racism and indifference to the work of African American women to secure the vote were key factors that led to the absence of black women in discussions of the movement. Over the summer I found that the black community in Evanston was not only well organized, but also engaged in many social, philanthropic, and political matters.

Evanston Index, June 6, 1903. Ida B. Wells speaks on “Some Problems of the Colored Race” at First Congregational Church in Evanston.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, black women could not solely focus on the right to vote. Lynching was a national crisis. Unequal job and education opportunities needed to be addressed. Discrimination, red-lining, and Jim Crow laws all threatened the black community. Black leaders, including Ida B. Wells, recognized the need to actively support suffrage, but also focus on more pressing matters.

Black women in Evanston created many different clubs to address political matters. The black auxiliary of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, the Julia Gaston Club, and the Iroquois League all engaged in philanthropic and political activities within the city. In some cases, the black women’s clubs were more active than the white women. The Ladies Colored Republican Club was mentioned in the Evanston Index in 1896, more than 20 years before the (white) Women’s Republican Club was founded in Evanston.

Evanston Index October 10, 1896. Ladies’ Colored Republican Club meeting.

Limited documentation and newspaper coverage make it difficult to pinpoint the exact activities of the black women’s clubs in Evanston at the time. It is also difficult to identify many of the women involved in clubs because of there are often variant name spellings across newspapers, or the women are listed under their husband’s name and not their own. But through my research I have found that many women involved in Evanston clubs were also involved in Chicago suffrage clubs.  Additionally, the work of other Republican clubs across the state suggests that the black women’s Republican clubs engaged in suffrage activities.

In the coming weeks, I plan on writing more thoroughly on the activities and importance of black women’s clubs in Evanston as well as places where interracial cooperation happened during the suffrage movement. You’ll find that post on the Evanston Women Fight for the Vote online exhibit. Stay tuned for more!

Women and Prohibition

There are several ways to connect this year (the 100th anniversary of the 18th Amendment) to the story of women’s activism against alcohol – both locally and nationally. This story reveals the critical nature of this issue for women and the broad reach of temperance activism into many other areas of social reform. In addition to Dry Evanston: the Untold Story which opened earlier this summer, you can visit the Evanston History Center and the Willard House for two new exhibits that tell more of the story.

Spirited: Prohibition in America, a new exhibition opening September 1, 2019 (running through October 20, 2019) at the Evanston History Center, explores this tumultuous Prohibition era, when flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance lobbyists took sides in the battle against the bottle. Evanston was an epicenter for alcohol reform, and visitors to Spirited can also experience the local story in Dry Evanston: The Untold Story, an exhibit at EHC that runs simultaneously. An opening reception featuring the Chris Mahieu Trio will be held on September 19th from 6:30-8 pm. Light refreshments and non-alcoholic drinks will be served. More details can be found here.

Women and Prohibition: A War of Mothers and Daughters, Sisters and Wives is a new exhibit at the Frances Willard House Museum that highlights the work of women to expand their public lives, advocate for themselves, and protect their families from the serious problems that alcohol can cause. Visitors can learn how women acted in the political arena before they were able to vote and how they worked to gain the vote to extend their reach. Women and Prohibition will open Thursday, September 5, 2019. The Frances Willard House Museum is open Thursdays and Sundays from 1-4 p.m. and admission is $10 ($5 for students).

Special joint tours of the Willard House and the Dawes House are offered in conjunction with these exhibits. Purchase an admission to either museum to receive your coupon for half-off tours at the other museum. 

Two big Anniversaries this month – June 4th marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment in the Senate – and June 10, 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of Illinois being the first state to ratify the 19th amendment! In honor of these historic moments, the Evanston Women’s History Project has created a new website to serve as a resource for information about Illinois and the women’s suffrage movement.

Illinois women were active throughout the long history of the national suffrage movement and were critical to its success. Documenting this story and ensuring that it is told is one of the main goals of the new website. The website is also meant to serve as a hub for information about the history of the movement in the state, anniversary events that are planned, and other resources.

Suffragists Drilling in preparation for the Republican Convention in Chicago, June 1916.

Evanston women were also key players in the suffrage movement locally, statewide and nationally. Suffragists like Frances Willard, Catharine Waugh McCulloch and Elizabeth Harbert called Evanston home. For more on the local story, click the Evanston and Suffrage tab on this website.

Tour Evanston Women’s History with Summer 2019 Map – She Created!

In partnership with the Frances Willard House Museum and Shorefront Legacy Center, the Evanston Women’s History Project announces the 2019 Tour Evanston Women’s History Map. The 2019 map addition will feature eight new women’s history sites (along with the original fifteen) around the theme She Created, with each site connected to an Evanston woman in the arts.

Designed by local illustrator Caroline Brown, the map costs $5 and will be available for purchase beginning Sunday, May 26th at the Frances Willard House and the Evanston History Center (EHC). It will be available throughout the summer when these locations are open (Willard House – Thursdays and Sundays 1-4 pm; EHC – Thursdays-Sundays 1-4 pm).

Dry Evanston: the Untold Story

The battle over alcohol was formative in the early years of our nation. Dry Evanston: The Untold Story, a new exhibit at the Evanston History Center in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the 18th (Prohibition) Amendment, reveals how Evanston took on the fight, from its founding in the 1850s through the 20th century. Evanston women were of course critical in the battles over alcohol and many are featured in the exhibit.

Featuring original photographs, artifacts, archival materials and costumes that tell the story, Dry Evanston: the Untold Story will open on Wednesday, June 12, 2019 with a 6:30 p.m. reception prior to the Evanston History Center Annual Members Meeting. Lori Osborne, EWHP Director and exhibit curator, will offer brief remarks and light refreshments will be served. Admission is free.

Beginning Thursday, June 13th, visitors to the history center can see the exhibit during regular tour hours – Thursday-Sunday from 1- 4 p.m. Admission is $10 per person. The exhibit will continue its run through January 2020.

Willard House and Dawes House Joint Tours

Special joint tours of the Frances Willard House, home to the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, will be offered in conjunction with Dry Evanston. Purchase an admission to either the Willard House or the Dawes House to receive your coupon for half-off tours at the other museum. Tours of the Willard House are available on Thursdays and Sundays from 1-4 p.m. from June 2019 through January 2020.

In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, EWHP has a full calendar of events planned for March 2019, in partnership with the Frances Willard House Museum and other Evanston women’s organizations.

On Friday, March 8th from 9-10 a.m. at the Evanston History Center (225 Greenwood Street, Evanston), there will be a morning celebration of International Women’s Day. Evanston women of all ages are invited to join us for a “Get to Know You” networking event. A light breakfast will be served. This event is free but reservations are required as capacity is limited. Reservations at www.evanstonhistorycenter.org/all-events.

Lorraine Morton

On Tuesday, March 19th at 7 p.m. at EHC (225 Greenwood Street, Evanston) a screening of the new film A Life Worthwhile: Lorraine H. Morton will take place, followed by brief remarks and reflections by Dino Robinson, Shorefront founder and director of the film, and Lori Osborne, director of the Evanston Women’s History Project. Educator, Alderman and Evanston’s first African American Mayor, Lorraine Hairston Morton served the Evanston Community for over 50 years, guided by a simple statement her father passed down to her: “only a life of service, is a life worthwhile.” The film documents and honors Morton’s remarkable life and career, and is a production of Shorefront Films. Admission is $10 (free for EHC members). Reservations are recommended, go to www.evanstonhistorycenter.org/all-events.

The Evanston Women’s History Project at the Evanston History Center will begin accepting applications for the 2019 Vickie Burke Internship for Women’s History starting January 7, 2019. 

Project work in 2019 will be focused on upcoming plans for the 2020 Women’s Suffrage Anniversary and will include:

  • continued research on Evanston women and women’s organizations and their connection to the suffrage movement
  • program development and event planning for the 2020 Suffrage Anniversary
  • exhibit planning and development


  • internships will take place once per year; for 2019 this will be in summer or fall
  • the schedule will be flexible but most internships will last 8-10 weeks and be approximately 12 hours per week
  • interns will be paid a stipend of $1,500
  • applicants are required to be in college or graduate school studying in the fields of history, women’s or gender studies, or public history

For more information and an application, please email ewhp@evanstonhistorycenter.org or call (847) 475-3410.

The story of Evanstonian Eda Lord Dixon (1876-1926) and her career as an artist and entrepreneur is highlighted in this wonderful article by two curators connected to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It all starts with the mystery of a beautiful object in their collection and their search for more information about the artist who created it. In their investigation, they used the research files and resources of the Evanston Women’s History Project and the Evanston History Center. Thankfully they were able to piece together a full story of her life and work.

The photo below is of the interior of Lord’s studio in Evanston. We are not exactly sure where it was located but will be doing further research to figure that out too!

Eda Lord Dixon Rediscovered

Saying Goodbye

From the beginning of the Evanston Women’s History Project, there was no question that Lorraine Morton was a fixture in the story of Evanston women. Not only was she the first African-American elected Mayor of Evanston, and only the second woman, she was a pioneer in so many ways – as an educator, politician and community ambassador.

Lorraine Morton came to Evanston in 1941 to study for her Master’s Degree in Education at Northwestern University. She taught in Evanston schools for almost 40 years, breaking down racial barriers by being the first African-American teacher at an all-white school. She ended her educational career as principal of Haven Middle School. She was elected alderman for the fifth ward in 1982 and served until 1993, when she was tapped to run for mayor. Morton retired in 2008, becoming the longest-serving mayor in Evanston history.

When the EWHP started in 2007, Morton was still Mayor and she was involved in our early imagining and planning of the project. In the years following, she stayed in touch and involved as she could, and always had a big smile for me and welcome comments to make about the long history of Evanston women, which she rightfully embraced as her own lineage. Over the years, as I have worked on the project and used the logo which is at the top of this page, I would note that she was the only one of the women shown who was still living. I loved seeing her there, representing Evanston women today.

Morton died at the age of 99 this past week. Evanston lost its biggest fan and supporter – and a leader who truly understood that working with people, encouraging their better impulses, and making change through compromise and understanding, was how to make things work. She built a community by building us all up too. She truly embraced and embodied the idea of “lifting as we climb.”

We will miss her leadership and her smile.

For more about her life, be sure to catch the new documentary produced by Shorefront Legacy Center – Lorraine Hairston Morton: A Life Worthwhile (you can see a trailer for the film here). Upcoming showings of the film will be posted on the Shorefront website or facebook page.

“All the wonderful things that happen in Evanston, happen by vote. We did it, not I did it.” Lorraine Morton (From: Nicole Walker “Women mayors.” Ebony, 30 Mar, 2009).

By Lori Osborne, EWHP Director

By Cate Liabraaten, 2018 Vickie Burke Women’s History Project Intern

As the 2018 Vickie Burke Intern for Women’s History, I have spent the summer thinking about  Evanston women and the fight for suffrage. Evanston is an ideal place to study women’s suffrage, because the town can be seen as a microcosm of the national suffrage battle. There is a rich local heritage of activism, and there were many local women who became players on the national stage.

I have been building upon the work of others, including past Vickie Burke Interns, to add to the website, Evanston and the 19th (now renamed Evanston Women and the Fight for Suffrage). The fight for women’s suffrage had many milestones besides the eventual passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. I have been researching earlier milestones, especially victories in Illinois like 1891 school board suffrage and Illinois state suffrage in 1913.

An 1892 notice of voting procedures for Evanston women.

I’ve also been working on research and planning for the upcoming suffrage centennial exhibit in 2020. My work in this area has involved finding out what themes emerge in the story of Evanston and women’s suffrage. I have done research on aspects of this special history that are specific to Evanston but also connect to national narratives. There is a lot of decision-making in exhibit planning, and I have been learning how to craft a cohesive story out of piles of information.

One of the themes that has become clear to me throughout the course of this project is that of suffragists as strategists. There were many avenues that these women pursued in order to get their message across and to persuade others to join their cause. The mental image most people have of suffragists is one of women with big hats and protest signs. I have found it compelling to think about the many different ways that suffragists worked. Suffragists were political thinkers, strategists, and legal minds. They used many different tactics in their struggle, including letter-writing campaigns, taking legal action, automobile tours throughout the state, public speaking, and public demonstrations.

Suffrage is an evolving issue–who gets to vote is a central question of democratic societies. This summer, working with the Evanston Women’s History Project, I’ve fortunate to work with others to find out more about the women’s suffrage story and its local connections.

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