Willard was elected president of the United States Woman's Christian Temperance Union in 1879, a position which she held for life. She created the Formed Worldwide W.C.T.U. in 1883, and was elected its president in 1888.
She founded the magazine The Union Signal, and was its editor from 1892 through 1898.
Her tireless efforts for women's suffrage and prohibition included a fifty-day speaking tour in 1874, an average of 30,000 miles of travel a year, and an average of four hundred lectures a year for a ten year period, mostly with her longtime companion Anna Adams Gordon. Her influence was instrumental in the passage of the Eighteenth (Prohibition) and Nineteenth (Women Suffrage) Amendments to the United States Constitution.
She wrote Woman and Temperance, Nineteen Beautiful Years, A Great Mother, Glimpses of Fifty Years: The Autobiography of an American Woman (1889), and the popular bestseller, A Wheel within a Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle (1895), as well as large number of magazine articles.
Willard was the first woman represented among the illustrious company of America’s greatest leaders in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. She was national president of Alpha Phi in 1887, and the first dean of women at Northwestern University. In her later years, Willard became a committed socialist. She died of influenza at the Empire Hotel in New York City while preparing to set sail for a visit to England.
The oldest building of the University of Mary Washington, Frances Willard Hall, is named in her honor. In 1940, she was portrayed on a U.S. postage stamp. A dormitory at Northwestern University, Willard Residential College, was named after her. She was honored in a plaque in School #80 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Evanston, Illinois home where she lived and worked from 1865 until her death in 1898 has been preserved and made into a museum in honor of her memory. Frances Willard Avenue in Chico, California is named in her honor. There is also an elementary school named in her honor in Evanston. Frances Willard Middle School and the adjoining park in Berkeley, California are named in her honor, as are Frances E. Willard Middle School in Piedmont, Alabama, Frances Willard Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa, and Frances E. Willard School in Rosemead, California.
Written into South Carolina Law: SECTION 53-3-20. Frances Willard Day. The fourth Friday in October in each year shall be set apart and designated in the public schools as Frances Willard Day and in each public school it shall be the duty of such school to prepare and render a suitable program on the day to the end that the children of the State may be taught the evils of intemperance.