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EPL Women's Club Flyer by HeatherA locally produced documentary on the history of the Evanston Woman’s Club has been airing on local cable stations and will be shown at a free event at the Evanston Public Library. Produced by The Reporters, The Woman’s Club of Evanston: Making a Difference covers the history of the club throughout its many years of service in Evanston. The showing at the library takes place in the community meeting room on Saturday, March 28th at 1 pm with discussion to follow. For more information, click here.


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals and families are increasingly visible in popular culture and local communities; their struggles for equality appear regularly in news media. While this is a relatively new situation, same-sex love and desire has a long-standing history and can provide historical context for current events.

Building from her recently published book, Interpreting LGBT History at Museums and Historic Sites, author Susan Ferentinos will discuss the ways historians approach the study of same-sex relationships; the challenges to uncovering this past; and the efforts of museums, historic sites, and community groups to preserve this history and present it to the wider public.

Co-sponsored by the Evanston Women’s History Project and the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites (NCWHS), this program is designed not only for those connected to a museum or site, but also for anyone who is concerned with issues of inclusion and diversity in our interpretation of the past.

book cover sue 2Susan Ferentinos is a public history researcher, writer, and consultant based in Bloomington, Indiana, where she specializes in historical project management and the use of the past to create community. Dr. Ferentinos holds a Ph.D. in U.S. history with a focus on the history of gender and sexuality and a Master of Library Science with a concentration in special collections, both from Indiana University.

The talk will be held on Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. (6:30 reception) at the Evanston History Center, 225 Greenwood Street, Evanston, Illinois.

The cost is $10; free for Evanston History Center or NCWHS members. Reservations are encouraged. For more information about the event, membership, or the sponsoring organizations, visit www.evanstonwomen.org or www.ncwhs.org. To make a reservation, please contact the Evanston History Center at (847) 475-3410 or email Lori Osborne at losborne@evanstonhistorycenter.org.

To purchase the book online, visit this link.



The 2015 celebration of International Women’s Day in Evanston will take place Friday, March 6th from 7:45 – 9 am at the Woman’s Club of Evanston. This year’s topic will be: Ending Sex Trafficking Locally and Globally. For more information and to register, click here.

For more about the historic connection of Evanston to International Women’s Day, visit this previous post.

unnamedHappy 75th birthday to the Frances E. Willard Memorial Library and Archives. Founded to honor Frances Willard’s 100th birthday, this institution continues to be a major resource for telling the story of her life and the work of the many women involved in the temperance movement and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Evanston is lucky to be the home of such an amazing resource! Click here to find out more about an Open House on October 25th to celebrate. You can also find out more about using the amazing collection held in the archives and the recently completed Willard Journals digitizing project.

Two new exhibits are up at local museums and both look to have great women’s history stories included —

At LUMA, Loyola University of Chicago’s art museum, Crossings and Dwellings: Restored Jesuits, Women Religious, American Experience, 1814-2014, is on display through October 16, 2014. Using historical maps, books, objects, and textiles, Crossings and Dwellings tells the story of European Jesuits and women religious who arrived in America’s borderlands to serve indigenous and immigrant populations. It marks the 200th anniversary of the Jesuit Restoration and a century of women’s education at Loyola-Mundelein.

More here — http://luc.edu/crossings/

joan-2At the Newberry Library, Chicago, Europe and the Great War is showing in conjunction with American Women Rebuilding France, 1917-1924. The former draws on the Newberry’s collection to tell the story of the Chicagoans who engaged with the war, as reporters, commentators, soldiers, supporters or protestors. The latter, American Women Rebuilding France is a travelling exhibit from the Franco-American museum in France. Evanstonians, including many Evanston women, were active in the war years, and many were involved with the post-war recovery in France. Both exhibits at the Newberry are up through January 3, 2015.

More here — http://www.newberry.org/09172014-chicago-europe-and-great-war

unnamedHope you can join the EWHP for a full weekend of events to culminate the yearlong celebration of Frances Willard’s 175th birthday.

On Saturday September 27th, Frances Meets the Future will take place from 10 am to 3 pm at the Woman’s Club of Evanston. This daylong event will begin with morning presentations by historians Amy Slagell and Rachel Bohlmann on Willard’s leadership and impact on her world. In the afternoon, local experts will lead a series of roundtable discussions on topics related to Willard’s work, but focused on issues that face women and girls today. Discussion leaders are Karen Singer, Executive President and CEO of the YWCA Evanston/North Shore; Kate Mahoney, Executive Director of Peer Services; and Porschia Davis, City of Evanston’s Assistant Youth & Young Adult Program Manager. Registration is required for this event and the cost is $25 in advance; $30 day-of, including lunch. Registration and more information can be found at franceswillardhouse.org or by calling 847-328-7500.

On Sunday, September 28th, Celebrating the Frances in Us All will take place at various locations around Evanston. First Methodist Church, at 516 Church Street, will host a special presentation on Willard’s life and work at 9:15 am, and a viewing of its Frances Willard stained glass window at 11:30 am. First Methodist was Willard’s home church and the site of many important events in her life.

Also on Sunday, September 28th, the Frances Willard House, at 1730 Chicago Avenue, will host an open house from 11 am to 2 pm. A new exhibit, Cultivating Character: The Early Life of Frances E. Willard, will open and new signage designating the WCTU historic district will be unveiled. In addition, the Ridgeville Band will play songs from the time period and birthday cake will be served on the lawn. Sunday’s events are all free and open to the public.

Partners in FrancesWillard@175 include: Alpha Phi Foundation; Evanston History Center; Evanston Women’s History Project; First United Methodist Church; Frances Willard Historical Association; League of Women Voters of Evanston; Shorefront Legacy Center; and Woman’s Club of Evanston. Participating organizations include: City of Evanston; Curt’s Cafe; Peer Services; and YWCA Evanston/North Shore.

Major funding for the Willard Leadership Weekend is provided by a grant from the Evanston Community Foundation.

For more information about all of these events and to register, please visit franceswillardhouse.org or call 847-328-7500.


nw female college

Explore the revolutionary history of Evanston’s women by viewing the houses and buildings where they worked to transform our cultural landscape.

Cost: $20/$15 for Evanston History Center members.

When: August 2, 11 a.m. -12:30 p.m.

Where: All tours begin at the Evanston History Center, 225 Greenwood Street.

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

Hope you can join us!

This wonderful documentary about Frances Willard and her work empowering women and girls was created by a Sonia Wanberg, a Junior High student in Chicago, and was a finalist in the National History Day Junior Division.

Frances Willard: A Champion for Girls from So Wan on Vimeo.


By Kris Hartzell, Director of Facilities and Visitor Services, Evanston History Center

Bertha Yerex was the first woman to graduate from the College of Architecture and Design at the University of Michigan.  According to Bertha, when she applied in 1914, the Dean of the college told her that as a woman she was not welcome in the architecture program.  She was accepted nevertheless and became one of the pioneering women in architecture. In 1915 she co-founded the T-Square Society, an association for the few women architectural students at the university. During WWI she went to work as the first female drafter for the Dodge Company in Detroit. After the war she finished school, receiving her degree in 1920.

In 1921 she married Lloyd E. Whitman in Ann Arbor. On the advice of Emil Lorch, the dean who had previously tried to discourage her from joining the architectural program, she and her family moved to Chicago to pursue her career. At first, Whitman found it difficult to get work, as many firms refused to even interview her. She obtained her Illinois architectural license in 1926 and was hired by the firm of Perkins, Fellows and Hamilton. The same year her second child, Suzanne, was born.

Her work at Perkins, Fellows and Hamilton was extremely rewarding. She wrote an account of her experiences there, “My Life at Perkins Fellows and Hamilton.” She said she was treated as an equal, allowed to work on all aspects of every major project with all the engineers. She became one of the nine founding members of the Women’s Architectural Club of Chicago. She and another woman at the firm would host the club’s exhibitions at the Perkins, Fellows and Hamilton offices on Michigan Avenue.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring the Depression her husband’s business collapsed and he left her in 1934.  In order to support her family, she went to work as a social worker for State of Illinois. Three years later she was designing office remodels for state building. Whitman also maintained an independent residential practice.  She designed houses for many builders who lived in Evanston, including Otto Shultz, Fred Johnson, Horatio.W. Dring, Ray W. Pervier and John Strom. In 1931 she won a Better Homes Award from a contractor’s association for the house she designed for B.G. Lawrence at 2719 Payne Street. The commendation noted the “unique, convenient arrangement of rooms and stairways” in the design that was featured in the women’s architecture display at the 1933 World’s Fair.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to one account she designed more than 50 houses between 1928 and 1967. Her designs were often noted for their efficient use of space.  She was the subject of an article in the Chicago Tribune in 1973 entitled “A Woman Architect: She builds a well-planned house.” Whitman prided herself on designing houses well-suited for domestic life. She also traveled widely, studying architecture in Europe, Egypt, Japan and Africa. Whitman circled the world five times, and in 1966 wrote a book on her experiences, A Tyro* Takes a Trip. (*novice) Bertha lived at 2656 Lincolnwood Drive until 1975. Whitman died in 1984 at the age of 92.

Partial List of Evanston houses:

2444 Central Park, John Strom 1928

2440 Central Park, John Strom, 1929

2436 Central Park, John Strom, 1930

2430 Central Park, John Strom, 1930

2719 Payne Street, B.G. Lawrence, 1930

3128 Park Place, Fred Johnson, 1935

Originally published in the 2014 Evanston History Center House Walk booklet.

Temperance advocate and prohibition supporter. Progressive. Straight-laced. Free-wheeling. Conservative. Radical. These words and more may be what come to mind when you think of Frances Willard. But they don’t fully describe her and in many ways get her entirely wrong.

Periwilkle_logoAn upcoming talk at the Evanston History Center will tell the true story of Evanston’s most famous citizen and one of the world’s most influential women. Given by Lori Osborne, Archivist at the Evanston History Center and Director of the Evanston Women’s History Project, the talk will take place Thursday, May 1st at 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:30) at the Evanston History Center, 225 Greenwood Street. A dessert reception will follow. Tickets are $10 (free for members of partnering organizations). RSVPs are recommended and can be made by calling 847-475-3410 or at this web address: franceswillardhouse.org.

2014 marks the 175th anniversary of Frances Willard’s birth and FrancesWillard@175 is a yearlong series of events to honor this occasion by re-introducing her and her work as social reformer and radical progressive to the world.

Partners in FrancesWillard@175 include: Alpha Phi Foundation, Evanston Women’s History Project at the Evanston History Center, First Methodist Church, Frances Willard Historical Association, the League of Women Voters Evanston and Shorefront Legacy Center.

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