19th Century Reformers Ida Wells-Barnett and Frances E. Willard
- Who were Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Frances E. Willard?
- What is lynching? What was the anti-lynching crusade, and what was Wells’ part in it?
- Why was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union a significant political force during the Progressive Era?
- What was the reason for the conflict between Wells and Willard?
The late 20th century saw the beginning of the Progressive Era in American politics. Among the issues raised during this era, both the Temperance movement and the Anti-Lynching movement had fiery women leading their causes: Frances E. Willard and Ida B. Wells.
The conflict between Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Frances E. Willard highlights the tensions felt in women’s movements during the Progressive Era and beyond to the present day. Both women struggled for equality and freedom, yet each held a different view of what equality might look like. Wells believed that lynch law, the torture and killing without trial that was particularly directed against African-American men, was the crux of America’s ills. Wells traveled the country speaking and writing about lynching in the American South, attempting to galvanize a movement to protect African-Americans. Willard saw the wide availability and consumption of alcohol as the greatest threat to American society. Her work with the Temperance movement relied on Christian morality to address this problem.
In her attempts to reach out to a white southern audience, Willard ignored racial tensions and conjectured that lynchings were taking place due to an abundance of alcohol and the rape of white women by African-American men. Wells countered this argument with statistics and grim stories of lynchings, stating that the mob justice doled out by southern whites could not be excused.