Truth-Telling: Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells

The WCTU and Lynching, 1895

The Conflict Continues

The conflict between Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells continued into 1895. That year, Wells published another pamphlet documenting her research on lynchings. She devoted an entire chapter, titled "Miss Willard's Attitude," to documenting what had been happening and holding the WCTU to account.

During all the years prior to the agitation begun against Lynch Law, in which years men, women and children were scourged, hanged, shot and burned, the W.C.T.U. had no word, either of pity or protest; its great heart, which concerns itself about humanity the world over, was, toward our cause, pulseless as a stone. Let those who deny this speak by the record. Not until after the first British campaign, in 1893, was even a resolution passed by the body which is the self-constituted guardian for "God, home and native land."

The Annual Convention, 1895

In July of 1895, seeing that the criticism was not dying down, Frances Willard sent a letter to the presidents of the state WCTUs proposing text for a resolution that she hoped would “silence the absurd outcry against us.” She asked that it be passed at the WCTU's upcoming annual convention in Baltimore and for each state’s conventions to adopt it as well.

The assembly did pass Willard’s resolution at the Baltimore convention. Found below, it reflects her frustration at “the false position in which we have been placed.”

At the same time, Willard continued to mount a vigorous public defense of herself and the WCTU’s record on lynching, as well as its practice of permitting segregated chapters. Below is a letter she wrote to Fraternity—the same magazine where Ida B. Wells had had the Voice interview reprinted in 1894. Here Willard plainly states the reasoning behind its decision: the WCTU could organize segregated Unions in the South, or not organize in the South at all.

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