The series consists of a photocopy of approximately 2000 pages of typed transcriptions of journals kept by Frances E. Willard between 1855 and 1896 (the original hand-written journal totals over 8,000 pages). Willard kept journals continuously from the age of 16 to 31, and then from age 54 to 57. The journals are an invaluable resource for understanding the life and thought of one of the most important American women of the nineteenth century.
The journals (many of which had previously been microfilmed, but never transcribed) had been considered lost, but were rediscovered in the Willard Memorial Library and Archives in 1982. Carolyn DeSwarte Gifford began transcribing the journals, deciphering Willard's often difficult handwriting, in 1986. In 1995, Gifford published Writing Out My Heart: Selections from the Journal of Frances E. Willard, 1855-1896. A complete description of Gifford's process of transcribing the entire journal, as well as her decisions about the selection process for the edited book, is found in the introductory chapter entitled “Editorial Method” in Writing Out My Heart.
The transcriptions are organized by journal year. Each journal is contained in one folder. The journals are numbered, and the folder numbers correspond to the journal number (thus there is a folder 17A to reflect the number of the journal it holds). There are four exceptions to this numbering. Folder 50 contains a transcription of a brief volume that Willard had labeled “Notes and Memos,” dating between 1875 and 1889. Folder 51 holds transcriptions of pages from the journal of Anna Gordon, Willard's secretary, relating to Willard's death; and Folder 52 holds transcriptions of pages from the journal of Willard's sister Mary, who died in 1862. Throughout, there may be some annotations and notes handwritten by the transcriber.
Especially useful to the researcher are the summaries (mostly 1-2 typewritten pages) that Gifford prepared for each journal, which are contained in Folder 53. Also included in Folder 53 are photocopies of several pages, annotated by Gifford and relating to the microfilmed diaries, from the Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Temperance and Prohibition Papers (edited by Randall C. Jimerson, Francis X. Blouin, Charles A. Isetts; Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, c1977).