Mother to Frances Willard, Mary Thompson Hill Willard was one of the pioneering citizens of Evanston and helped to establish and grow some of the town’s early institutions. She was an active member of First Methodist Church and of the local Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
Mary T.H. Willard was a teacher for eleven years (from age 15 to 26) before her marriage to Josiah Willard. The family lived in Churchville New York where two children where born, Oliver and Frances. The family moved to Oberlin, OH for the educational opportunities of Oberlin College in 1842 (where daughter Mary was born) and then, due to health reasons, moved to a farm near Janesville, WI in 1846. The family moved to Evanston in 1862 so that Frances and Mary could attend North Western Female College.
Education was always a concern for her, especially women’s educational opportunities. She became directly involved in this as a trustee of the Evanston College for Ladies in 1869, and it was a cause she advocated for for the rest of her life.
When her daughter, Frances Willard, became active in the women’s temperance movement, Mary Willard also took up the cause. As her daughter became more famous, Mary Willard became something of a women’s historian, keeping track of her daughter and the work of the WCTU in multiple scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings and other ephemera. She died at age 87 in 1892.