Frances Willard House Museum and Archives

On August 26, 2020, it will be 100 years since the Nineteenth Amendment was adopted into the U.S. Constitution.  The Nineteenth Amendment granted women throughout the United States the right to vote.  Prior to that, some states permitted women the right to vote (the state of Wyoming as early as 1869), but once the U.S. Constitution added the amendment, the entire country had to allow it. 

Frances Willard was one of the many American suffragettes who fought for women’s enfranchisement in the United States.  Although not a widely recognized name today, during her time, many people knew of her.  In fact, in 1905, Illinois presented a statue of Frances Willard to the U.S. Capitol Building’s National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington D.C., where it still stands today.  All fifty states are required to have 2 statues in the U.S. Capitol Building’s National Statuary Hall Collection, each of which represents a famous inhabitant from that respective state.  Illinois’ statue of Frances Willard was the first statue of a woman added to the collection.

Frances Willard lived from 1839 to 1898.  Two years after her death, Willard’s Evanston home became a museum, and, according to a September 29, 2019 article in The Daily Northwestern, became the first museum in the United States dedicated solely to a woman.  The house still functions as a museum dedicated to Willard today.  Prior to the COVID-19 epidemic, the museum offered several tours of Willard’s home on Sunday afternoons.  It also maintains a library and archives available to researchers upon appointment.

Willard’s Gothic Revival home was built by her father in 1865.  For a time, Willard served as the first dean of women at neighboring Northwestern University.  Afterwards, she helped found the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1874.  The goal of the organization is (it still exists) to ban alcohol in the United States.  It may not seem obvious at first, but the reasoning behind this movement was to protect women.  As alcoholism continued to increase among the United States’ male population, women suffered.  Alcoholism largely contributed to domestic abuse against women, and also joblessness among men, who then lost their ability to provide for their wives and children.  Thus, by eradicating alcohol, the WCTU believed it was empowering women.  In order to give women a larger voice against alcohol, Willard believed that educated women ought to be granted the right to vote.  This is what led her to also become a suffragette.

Tours of Willard’s home last about an hour.  While the tour guide takes you throughout the home, he/she describes the history of the house, as well as Willard’s activism and personal life.  The house is beautiful, and since it became a museum soon after Willard’s death, retains much of Willard’s original furniture and objects.  That includes all of her books.  Perhaps one of the most interesting objects in the museum is Willard’s bicycle.  Willard first learned how to ride a bicycle at the age of 53, and then became an advocate for women to ride bicycles.

Frances Willard’s cremated remains are buried at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago.

If you are ever in Evanston, Illinois, near Northwestern University, it is worth visiting Frances Willard’s home.

Sources and Further Reading

“The 19th Amendment: A Crash Course.” National Park Service. October 9, 2019. (accessed July 25, 2020).

“About the National Statuary Hall Collection.” Architect of the Capitol. (accessed July 25, 2020).

“Biography.” Francis Willard House Museum and Archives. (accessed July 25, 2020).

Buchaniec, Catherine. “A Hundred Years after Ratification, Frances Willard’s Legacy Remains Vital to the 19th Amendment.” The Daily Northwestern. June 26, 2019. (accessed July 25, 2020).

“Frances E. Willard.” Architect of the Capitol. (accessed July 25, 2020).

Miller, Zoe. “When Women Got the Right to Vote in 25 Places around the World.” Insider. March 8, 2020. (accessed July 25, 2020).

Rowan, Andrew. “Willard House Museum Celebrates Visionary Leader’s 180th Birthday with Open House. The Daily Northwestern. September 29, 2019. (accessed July 25, 2020).

“When Women Received the Full Vote in Every Country: Interactive Timeline.” Historic Newspapers. (accessed July 25, 2020).

“Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment.” U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. (accessed July 25, 2020).

“Women’s Suffrage.” Francis Willard House Museum and Archives. (accessed July 25, 2020).

DeKalb, Illinois and Barbed Wire

Most people may not know it, but Illinois has made an important contribution to barbed wire history.  Although different people had been working on barbed wire during the mid-nineteenth century, it was not until 1874 that developments really skyrocketed in DeKalb, Illinois.

According to my tour guide at the Joseph F. Glidden Homestead in DeKalb, Illinois, when three DeKalb farmers visited a local fair, each man was individually inspired to perfect a fence that was on display there.  The fence at the fair was wooden with metal spikes sticking out of it.  Its purpose was to keep cattle away from the crops.  At first, the three men started working on a better fence, unbeknownst to the other, but once they learned about each other, competition began.

One of the farmers was Joseph F. Glidden.  He was from New Hampshire, but made his way west to Illinois, which was then frontier land.  The other farmer was Jacob Haish, an immigrant from Germany.  The third, who was also the youngest, was from New York and named Isaac L. Ellwood.  According to my tour guide, Ellwood’s wife told him that Glidden’s wire was better than his, so he ended up partnering with Glidden, and did the promoting for him. Glidden ended up receiving the patent for his wire in 1874, and created a machine that allowed it to be made quickly.  Despite Glidden’s official recognition as the creator of the barbed wire design we use today, until his death, Haish continued to contest him.

This photo was taken at the Ellwood mansion, and depicts Glidden, Ellwood, and Haish, respectively, as well as the spiky wooden fence that inspired the men to create barbed wire.

Today, you can have tours of both Glidden’s and Ellwood’s homes, which are where you can also learn about the history of barbed wire.  Unfortunately, Haish’s mansion was eventually torn down, so it is no longer standing.  However, you can see furniture from his mansion in the Ellwood Mansion visitor center’s museum. 

The Joseph F. Glidden Homestead is located next to Northern Illinois University, which is a state school.  This is no coincidence, since Glidden donated his land for the creation of the school.  Haish ended up donating money to create the university’s library, as well as to create the DeKalb Public Library.  Ellwood also contributed money to start the university, and built the university president’s house.

The Glidden Homestead is only open for tours on Tuesdays and approximately one Sunday a month.  The tour guide is a knowledgeable historian, who spends a lot of time discussing the history of barbed wire, in addition to the history of Glidden himself.  Although the home was undoubtedly surrounded by farmland in the past, it is now along a busy street, so is easy to miss when getting to it.  Here is the home’s website:

The Joseph F. Glidden Homestead at 921 W. Lincoln Hwy, DeKalb, IL 60115

Ellwood’s mansion is not too far away from Glidden’s, and also offers tours.  However, the tours are offered more regularly than they are at Glidden’s home.  Additionally, the tours have a stronger focus on the home itself, because it is a significantly larger one than Glidden’s.  According to my Glidden Homestead tour guide, this is not because Glidden made less money from his barbed wire patent, but because Glidden used his money to work on tinkering with other inventions, rather than on using the money for himself. Here is the website for Ellwood’s mansion:

The Isaac L. Ellwood mansion at 509 N. 1st St, DeKalb, IL 60115

I am not sure if all of the tour guides for the Ellwood mansion do this, but my tour guide also took my tour group inside a mini playhouse that Ellwood’s kids used.  Built in 1891, it was like walking inside a little dollhouse.

This is the 1891 children’s playhouse on the grounds of Ellwood’s mansion.

Located approximately 60 miles west of Chicago, DeKalb is worth a visit if you want to learn more about the history of barbed wire.  For what may have seemed like a small, practical invention for farmers, it certainly caught on internationally, and took on many uses.

Sources and Further Reading

Ellwood House Museum. (accessed October 26, 2019).

John F. Glidden Homestead and Historical Center. (accessed October 26, 2019).

Stratford-upon-Avon and The Globe Theatre

Every April 23rd is Shakespeare Day, which is a day to commemorate the famous British playwright.  William Shakespeare’s fans chose that day because he died on April 23, 1616, and may have also been born on that day in 1564 (his baptism was April 26, so it is possible).  Although the English used in his plays may not be the easiest to understand, his works have endured throughout the centuries.  Perhaps the main reason for this is because the themes found within his plays continue to remain relevant up to the present day.  Additionally, Shakespeare does a wonderful job of portraying humanity and placing you inside the minds of both villains and heroes.  Finally, whether you realize or not, Shakespearean created many phrases and words that have now entered into the English language.

If Shakespeare fans want to learn more about The Bard, they should visit his birthplace at Stratford-upon-Avon, which is about a two-hour drive away from London.  Stratford-upon-Avon is a town along the River Avon, which is why “upon-Avon” is a part of its name.  This distinguishes it from other places in England with the name of Stratford.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace Home at Stratford-upon-Avon.

At Stratford-upon-Avon, you can visit Shakespeare’s boyhood home, his wife’s home, and the home of his daughter and son-in-law.  You can also see the Edward VI School, which is believed to have been Shakespeare’s school.  With the exception of the school, which is still active, the homes were restored by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.  The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust still maintains the homes and offers tours of them to visitors.  When I visited, the tour guides wore 16th century garb, and at Shakespeare’s Birthplace Home, even performed scenes from two of Shakespeare’s plays.

Shakespeare’s supposed school, the Edward VI School at Stratford-upon-Avon.

At the home of Anne Hathaway, who was Shakespeare’s wife (not the actress of the same name), the tour guides described why Shakespeare and Anne got married.  About eight years younger than Anne, 18-year-old William had to marry Anne after impregnating her.  They ultimately had 3 children.  However, Shakespeare ended up living in London to work as an actor and playwright, while his family remained at Stratford-upon-Avon.

This is the childhood home of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife.

The home of Shakespeare’s oldest daughter, Susanna, is called Hall’s Croft, and was the largest home in town.  Because Susanna’s husband, John Hall, was a doctor, the top floor displayed medical instruments from the 16th century.  They looked frightening!

Shakespeare fans should also try to visit the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London.  The original Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare’s plays were first performed, burned down.  However, in 1997, a new Globe Theatre was built, with the attempt to make it look as much like the original as possible.  It is a circular, open-air theatre, and stands near the foundations of the original Globe Theatre (another building is on the original location).  The Globe Theatre currently provides historic tours of its building, where tour guides explain what a theater experience would have been like in Shakespeare’s day.  According to my tour guide, poorer people could not afford the seats, so paid an entry fee of a penny to stand in the middle of the theatre.  My tour guide mentioned how that would have been a smelly experience, because people hardly showered then, and because people used the middle of the theatre as the public toilet.  The original Globe Theatre had woodchips on the ground, which helped to cover up the litter, but the new Globe Theatre does not replicate this feature, due to fire hazards.

This is the Millennium Bridge over the River Thames in London. The Globe Theatre is the circular, white building on the left.

Today, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre performs plays at the Globe Theatre during the warmer months of the year.  Visitors may purchase tickets to watch the play standing, just like the lower classes did during Shakespeare’s day.  However, that means that if it rains, those are the people who will get wet.

These are the seats at the Globe Theatre.

Because the Globe Theatre is currently closed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Globe is currently streaming recordings of its older performances online:

You can also take a virtual tour of the theatre:

As Shakespeare says in Act 2, Scene 7 of As You Like It, “We have seen better days.”  However, hopefully, by the end of this year, the Coronavirus will listen to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1, and will have “Melted into thin air.”

Shakespeare is buried at Holy Trinity Church at Stratford-upon-Avon. It might be hard to see in this photo, but you should look up his epitaph.

Sources and Further Reading

Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Globe Theatre.” (accessed May 1, 2020).

Encyclopaedia Britannica. “William Shakespeare.” (accessed May 1, 2020).

“Shakespeare Phrases.” Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. (accessed May 1, 2020).

Shakespeare Trust Birthplace. (accessed May 1, 2020).

Shakespeare’s Globe. (accessed May 1, 2020).

Cuneo Mansion

In 2011, a group of house museums in the Chicago area formed a consortium called “At Home in Chicago.”  Some of these houses are free to visit, while others cost admission. A list of the homes can be found here:

Some of the homes that usually cost admission, occasionally have free days. The Cuneo Mansion in Vernon Hills, Illinois has free days on the second Saturday of each month (except in the winter months, when it is closed).

The Cuneo Mansion was completed in 1916 and belonged to an electrical pioneer named Samuel Insull, who was also the founder of the Chicago Civic Opera House in 1929. Unfortunately, he lost the house during the Great Depression.

This description of Insull is from the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois.

Eventually, the home passed hands to the wealthy Cuneo family, who later donated it to Loyola University in Chicago in 2009.  The University has hosted classes at the mansion, rented it out for events, and opened it up to the public for self-guided tours.

Cuneo received a permit from Rome to build a chapel in the home in 1940.

Although most house museums provide guided tours so that visitors can learn further information about the house, the self-guided tour option at the Cuneo Mansion was a nice change.  I did not have to rush through the house, as I would on a formal tour, but could admire its beauty at my own pace.  Because of the beauty of the home and grounds, Cuneo Mansion was apparently featured in a film with Julia Roberts called My Best Friend’s Wedding.

This mansion was probably built when Vernon Hills was less populated, however, it is now only five minutes away from Hawthorne Mall.  When you arrive at the house’s gated entrance, be prepared to get out of your car and dial security with the phone there, so that they can lift up the front gate and let you in.

The home can be rented out for private events, such as weddings.

Sources and Further Reading

At Home in Chicago. (accessed August, 31, 2019).

Cuneo Mansion. John A. Mallin. (accessed October 19, 2019).

Loyola Lake County Cuneo Mansion in Vernon Hills History. Loyola University Chicago. (accessed August, 31, 2019).

Loyola University Chicago Cuneo Mansion and Gardens Downloadable Tour. Loyola University Chicago. (accessed August, 31, 2019).