NU Archives’ Best Dead People: Frances Willard

For Halloween, University Archives has created an exhibit to display in University Library honoring some of Northwestern’s most famous dead people. In case you aren’t able to make it to the exhibit, The Flipside has researched the lives of some of Northwestern’s most prolific figures.

Frances Willard was a leader of the temperance and suffragist movements, devoting her life to banning the sale and consumption of alcohol and wishing she herself could elect representatives to vote on such a constitutional amendment. A graduate of Northwestern University, Willard became the first Dean of Women at her alma mater, and soon the college became the dry campus that it remains today.

Willard is also the namesake of Willard Residential College, the site of her famous duel with Mortimer Schapiroose. What began as a simple argument in the lobby of what was then known as Student Residency C escalated into a life-or-death shootout. According to legend, Schapiroose made an obscene comment about the length of Willard’s stockings and followed with an invitation to visit Evanston’s hippest saloon, The Whiskey Barrel.

Willard responded by pulling out the pistol she notoriously kept tucked away in her brassiere, and shot Schapiroose in the leg. Schapiroose then ripped off his purple sweater-vest and attempted to strangle Willard, but shrieking what would become her motto—“Temperate women of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!”—Willard shot Schapiroose dead on the spot. The grand piano in Willard’s Common Room now stands as an unofficial marker of the incident.

Insignificantly, Willard shared a brief friendship with Frances Searle; recent scholarship suggests Willard left Searle when the latter refused an invitation to sleep together.

Although Willard never married, she was the first woman to have her eggs extracted and frozen. Anonymous sperm donors and surrogate mothers allowed her genetic line to continue; Willard’s descendants have remained active in the Evanston community, and include Northwestern VP of Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin and Evanston mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.

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