Turn-of-the-century Chicago was a boozing and brawling city. Many women had had enough of dealing with the fallout of heaving drinking. Some of them banned together to form the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU); together they fought to provide groundbreaking, social services to women who had to deal with the fallout from alcoholism. They established lodging houses, day care centers for children of working women, a medical dispensary, kindergartens and Sunday Schools. Though they were not strictly prohibitionist, they did fight for social-reform agendas related to liquor. In a quiet corner of Lincoln Park, a bronze statue of a little girl offering water is a reminder of the struggle these women endured in the face of rampant alcohol abuse. The women's very own children saved up their pennies and nickels to pay for it.
The 4 1/2 foot tall fountain girl has moved around the city several times and even went missing for a spell that lasted 60 years. The original statue was created by English artist George Wade in 1893 and commissioned by the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Her job was to provide a healthy alternative to liquor — fresh water — to visitors at the World's Columbian Exposition. She lived in Jackson Park, the Loop, and then Lincoln Park until she was stolen in 1958. Affectionately known as Fountain Girl, the Chicago Park District tracked down a copy of the statue in Portland, Maine, molded her back into life once again in 2012. She is named in memory of the suffragist and noted feminist Frances Willard, who served as the second president of the WCTU. Tip: The Frances Willard House (1730 Chicago Ave, Evanston; (847) 328-7500; franceswillardhouse.org), once the home of Frances Willard and her family as well as was the longtime headquarters of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, is now a museum dedicated to one of history's most forward-thinking women.