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Mary Thompson Hill Willard 1805 ~ 1892


The mother of Frances E. Willard was born January 3, 1805, near North Danville, Vermont. She was the daughter of John Hill, of Lee, New Hampshire and Polly Thompson Hill. Mary Hill received her early education in the district schools. At that time these schools were largely taught by students or graduates of Dartmouth and Middlebury colleges. When she was twelve years of age her father removed to the Genessee Valley in Western New York, and in a new settlement fourteen miles from Rochester, known as the town of Ogden,

Mary spent her early girlhood. At the age of fifteen she taught her first school and continued in the work as a teacher for eleven years. It is said "she possessed in an unusual degree a love for the beautiful, had a poetic faculty, a sweet voice, remarkable gifts in conversation, rare tact, delicacy and appreciation of the best in others."

On November 5, 1831, she married Josiah F. Willard, the son of one of her father's neighbors. Four children were born. The second daughter was Frances Elizabeth Willard, who being rather a delicate child, her parents moved to Oberlin, Ohio, to secure for her educational advantages which were offered in that city. The lives of both Mr. and Mrs. Willard were beautiful and well ordered, their children sharing in every interest. They formed a circle for study long before women's clubs were heard of. Mr. Willard's health failing it became necessary for them to move to what was then the territory of Wisconsin, and in 1846 they settled near Janesville, Wisconsin. They soon became the leaders in die church and affairs of the community.

The Willards resided in this home for twelve years, and then moved to Evanston, Illinois, near Chicago in order that their daughters might be educated without being separated from their parents and the home life. In 1862 Mary, the younger daughter, died and in 1868 Mr. Willard passed away and in 1878 the son Oliver.

Frances Willard in her early youth wrote these words of her mother. "I thank God for my mother as for no other gift of his bestowing. My nature is so woven into hers that I think it would almost be death for me to have the bond severed and one so much myself gone over the river. I verily believe I cling to her more than ever did any other of her children, perhaps because I am to need her more." "Enter every open door," was her advice to her daughter, and much of the distinguished career of Frances E. Willard was rendered possible through the courage and by the encouragement given her by her mother. Mrs. Willard preserved her mental powers to the last, and died after a brief illness, August 7, 1893, at the age of nearly eighty-eight years. These words were said at her funeral: "She was a reformer by nature, she made the world's cause her own and identified herself with all its fortunes; nothing of its sadness, sorrow or pain was foreign to her. With a genius, a consecration, a beauty and a youth which had outlived her years, a soul eager still to know, to learn, to catch every word God had for her, she lived on, a center of joy and comfort in this most typical and almost best known home in America. She stood a veritable Matterhorn of strength to this daughter. Given a face like hers, brave, benignant, patient, yet resolute, a will inflexible for duty, a heart sensitive to righteousness and truth, yet tender as a child's, given New England puritanism and rigor, its habits of looking deep into every problem, its consciousness full of God, its lofty ideal of freedom and its final espousal of every noble cause, and you and I shall never blame the stalwart heart, well-nigh crushed because mother is gone." Her house-hold name was "Saint Courageous."

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


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