Feed on

As 2017 winds to a close and you are considering where to make your year-end gifts, I hope you will consider supporting the work of the Evanston Women’s History Project. The EWHP has just finished up its tenth year of work and this year has been a busy one with many of our usual operations and some big changes too.

This year we:

  • held our annual women’s history month lecture where local historian and author Louise (Lucy) Knight spoke about her upcoming biography of abolitionists Angelina and Sarah Grimke.
  • had two women’s history walking tours in partnership with the Frances Willard House Museum.
  • continued to connect to statewide and national planning for the 2020 Women’s Suffrage Anniversary.
  • updated the project’s website and research database, and answered research requests.
  • hosted our third Vickie Burke Intern for Women’s History.

Plans for the next year include:

  • Women’s History Month programming
  • Women’s History Walking Tours
  • Ongoing research and database updates
  • Planning for the 2020 women’s suffrage anniversary

There are two ways to give to support the EWHP. You can give toward general  operating support through the EHC Annual Appeal. And, we continue to raise funds for the Joan Barr Smith Endowment for Women’s History at the Evanston Community Foundation, which ensures the long-term sustainability of the EWHP. More details for this endowment can be found on the ECF website.

I hope you will join me in looking forward to another great year of women’s history in Evanston!

Lori Osborne, EWHP Director

Temperance and Suffrage

Happy Women’s Equality Day!

It’s been a busy summer of discovery for the Evanston Women’s History Project, thanks to the work of Marie Pellisier, our 2017 Vickie Burke Women’s History Intern. Marie spent the summer researching the links between the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the women’s suffrage movement. Her research will be a key foundation for our plans for the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote in 2020.

Led by Evanston resident Frances Willard in the late 19th century, the WCTU was the largest organization of women in the world by 1890. As such it was the place many women found to express their growing interest in the world beyond their homes and churches. One of the many ways the WCTU worked to broaden women’s access to this wider world was through its work for women’s rights – including the right to vote. In many ways, the WCTU was the largest suffrage organization in this time period, far surpassing the other suffrage organizations in shear numbers and power.

Find out more about this on the Frances Willard House website where Marie has published some of her research. You can also see her work on our website with updates to Evanston Women and the 19th that includes more of the local WCTU story. And stay tuned as we role out this story for the 2020 suffrage anniversary.

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 Historical Association. Meets in front of the Frances Willard House, 1730 Chicago Avenue.

Cost: $20/$15 for Evanston History Center and Frances Willard Historical Association members.

When: July 15 and October 7, 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!

April 6, 2017 marks the centennial of the U.S. entry into WorldWarOne. The EvanstonHistoryCenter is chronicling some of the fascinating stories behind Evanston’s role in the war and the people who fought, served, and died. In honor of this somber anniversary, EHC is highlighting the story of Helen Wood, a resident of the city, who came to Evanston from her hometown in Scotland. Wood, a nurse, set sail on the USS Mongolia in May 1917, headed for Europe to serve her adopted country. Wood was among the first casualties of the war and the first Evanston resident to die in the conflict. You can read her story on the EHC website: http://evanstonhistorycenter.org/…/evanston-rem…/helen-wood/. Or visit the EWHP research database – http://evanstonwomen.org/project-database/.

On Thursday, April 20th from 1-5 p.m., The Edith Ayres and Helen Burnett Wood Memorial Symposium on U.S. Nursing in the First World War will be held at University of Illinois at Chicago. Five noted historians and archivists, all experts in the history of WWI Nursing and in the history of three of the Chicago base hospitals that served the wounded in France, will present their scholarship. Discussion will follow. This Symposium is presented in support of the United States World War One Centennial Commission, Illinois Centennial Committee. To register, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/us-nursing-in-the-first-world-war-a-symposium-tickets-32235338766.

And, Northwestern University is highlighting its own history related to the war. An onsite exhibit, Northwestern Remembers the War, will be up from March 27 – June 16 at University and Deering Libraries. An online exhibit is viewable here and includes many stories of the university’s role in the war, including the stories of the nurses from Base Hospital 12, and other Evanston women. More information can be found here.


Women Making Change

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Women Making Change will be held on March 25th at the Unitarian Church of Evanston from 6-8:30 pm. The event will include dinner, conversation and a question: What can we learn from the stories of black women in Evanston about the way forward? Speakers will include: Historian Dr. Cheryl Johnson-Odim, Morris (Dino) Robinson of Shorefront Legacy Center, JoAnn Avery, Program Manager for Family Focus, and Karli Butler, Social Service Provider for Curt’s Café. For details and to rsvp go here. Click on this link to see the flyer for the event – womenmakingchangeflyer-3

I began volunteering at the Evanston History Center (home of the Evanston Women’s History Project) in 2010 and, since that time, it has become a significant and fulfilling part of my life in the community. My experience began with organizing and cataloging historical source material, including the extensive newspaper clipping files – my personal favorite being the “Backyard Chickens” folder, containing every article ever written on this slice of Evanston life!

Since those beginnings working with the archival collection, I have been fortunate to participate in two projects highlighting Evanston’s outsized role in the history of women’s rights and feminism in the United States. I first worked on the EWHP research database, assisting in validating and sourcing information to be included in the biographies and organizational histories. I am currently working on the Illinois Suffrage Research Project, compiling the stories of Evanston and Illinois women who contributed to passage of the 19th Amendment, securing the right-to-vote for women for a National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) database .

The Evanston History Center has an enormous volume of resources and a unique collection of primary documents. When necessary my research is supplemented with records housed at the Northwestern University Archives and the Frances Willard Archives, located at the Willard House site. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my work is uncovering the small details in the various primary sources, which add understanding and color to the lives of these women.

Every woman I research walked the same streets as I do, lived in the same neighborhoods as my friends and were sometimes educated at the same schools my children attend. I walk past their houses and marvel at what they achieved with such limited support, precedent or power.  Evanston has a rich and unique history – volunteering at the History Center connects me to that past. I am honored to have the opportunity to bring to life the stories of these hard working, courageous and sometimes forgotten women and contribute to keeping Evanston’s remarkable history accessible

Julia Flynn, March, 2017

For more information or to volunteer with the Illinois Suffrage Research Project, contact us at ewhp@evanstonhistorycenter.org.

The Evanston Women’s History Project is now accepting applications for the 2017 Vickie Burke Internship for Women’s History. This internship is in conjunction with the Frances Willard Historical Association (FWHA) which manages the Frances Willard House Museum. Both locations are near downtown Evanston and are easily accessed by car and public transportation.

Project work could include:

  • continued research on Evanston women and women’s organizations
  • website and research database updates and management
  • program development and event planning — including the 2020 Suffrage Anniversary Project and our annual Women’s History Month event
  • online and onsite exhibit development

Other projects will be determined based on project needs and intern’s interests and abilities.


  • internships will take place once per year; for 2017 this will be in summer or fall
  • the schedule will be flexible but most internships will last 8-10 weeks and be approximately 15 hours per week
  • interns will be paid a stipend of $1,500
  • applicants will be 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.

Evanston’s celebration of International Women’s Day will take place on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 from 6-8 p.m. at the Upstairs Theatre of Evanston Township High School. The theme this year is Be Bold, Let’s Move the Needle: A Conversation on Women’s Economic Progress and the Journey Ahead. Evelyn Diaz, President of the Heartland Alliance, will be a featured speaker and Louder Than A Bomb will also perform. There is no charge for the event, but reservations are required.

The Evanston Women’s History Project is pleased to be a Founding Partner of this event. For more about Evanston’s historic connection to International Women’s Day, click here. For information about this year’s event and to RSVP, click here or on the image.

Untold Stories: Enslaved People in the Home of the Grimke Family

By Louise W. Knight

Thursday, March 2, 2017, 7pm

When we think about how enslaved people responded to their bondage, we often think first of those who liberated themselves through the underground railroad, but this is only part of the story. Join us for a presentation by historian Louise W. Knight as she discusses some of the other ways people rebelled against enslavement, drawing on the stories of the enslaved people of the aristocratic Grimke family of Charleston, South Carolina. Pieced together from correspondence, white owners’ published recollections, and “runaway” ads in newspapers, the stories illustrate the courage and resourcefulness with which people met their involuntary bondage.

This Women’s History Month program is co-sponsored with the Evanston History Center and the Frances Willard Historical Association.

Reception catered by Whole Foods Market starts at 6:30pm.
Reservations are encouraged – click here.

Here are some highlights from the EWHP in 2016. We are looking forward to a busy 2017!

  • in 2016, the Joan Barr Smith Endowment for Women’s History moved to the Evanston Community Foundation (ECF). Barr Smith was Evanston’s first female mayor and this move honors Joan’s long commitment to both women’s history and Evanston, and ensures the long-term sustainability of the EWHP. It also recognizes ECF’s significant role in developing and supporting the EWHP in its early years. The Endowment now stands at almost $50,000. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this fund, and please consider supporting it going forward. More details can be found on the ECF website.
  • the EWHP is in the second year of the Vickie Burke Internship for Women’s History program. In 2016, Ella Wagner, who is working on her PhD in History at Loyola University Chicago, spent the summer and early fall with the project. Ella updated our online exhibit of women’s suffrage material, primarily focusing on the story of the Evanston Political Equality League. Visit Evanston and the 19th to see what Ella’s been working on. Thank you to everyone who gave to the internship fund as this has been a key way for the project to move forward. We will begin recruiting 2017 interns in the late winter/spring.
  • in 2016, we also worked closely with the Frances Willard House, planning a full slate of women’s history programs both at the house and about town. We jointly hosted two women’s history walking tours (led by Kris Hartzell) and one lecture on plans for the restoration of the historic garden at the house. As the Willard House reopens after an amazing interior restoration (more here), I feel this partnership has great future potential. In addition, exciting plans are in the works to ensure this most important women’s history site is around long into the future, so stay tuned.

Looking ahead to 2017, we have a strong menu of programs scheduled for March, Women’s History Month. These will include the annual celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th and a lecture on March 2nd in conjunction with the Evanston History Center’s Underground Railroad exhibit (more here about the lecture at EHC). And, the EWHP is connected to national, state and local planning groups for the celebration of the 2020 women’s suffrage anniversary. From research, to exhibits, to public programs and celebratory events, EWHP is involved and this will continue to be a focus of our work.

Finally, all this work could not happen without the operational support of the Evanston History Center. If you are interested in making a donation to support the ongoing work of the Evanston Women’s History Project, you are welcome to do so through the EHC Annual Appeal. Thank you for your support – it makes our work to document and tell the stories of women’s lives in Evanston possible!

Lori Osborne, EWHP Director

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