Skip to main content
Select Source:

Howe, Julia Ward

Julia Ward Howe

Born: May 27, 1819
New York, New York
Died: October 17, 1910
Newport, Rhode Island

American author and reformer

Julia Ward Howe, American author and reformer, wrote the words for "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." She was also a ground-breaking activist in the pursuit of women's right to vote.

Growing up in New York

Julia Ward Howe was born Julia Ward in New York City on May 27, 1819. She was the fourth of seven children of a successful Wall Street banker. When Howe was five years old, her mother died. Because of her father's conservative nature, she was limited in her socializing. Eventually Howe was introduced to New York society, and her charm made her an instant favorite.

Shortly after Howe turned twenty, her father also died. She then moved to Boston in hopes of recovering from her loss. In 1843 she married Samuel Gridley Howe (18011876), a physician, pioneer teacher of the blind, and reformer. Although some of her Boston friends included poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (18071882) and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882), she found Boston society cold and uninviting. About the same time, Howe's views of a woman's role in society began to change. She became outspoken and oftentimes voiced her opinion, although it was not common for women to do so at the time.

A literary career

While in Boston the Howes edited the Commonwealth, an antislavery paper. Howe's first book, a collection of poems, was published in 1854. Afterwards she wrote many volumes of verse, travel descriptions, and essays. None was so popular as her patriotic song, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," which she composed in a tent one night after visiting military camps during the American Civil War (186165; a war fought in the United States between the northern states and the southern states that resulted in the end of slavery in the country). During the war Howe was a strong supporter of the northern states and their antislavery stand. Because of the song she wrote based on her wartime beliefs, she became one of the best-known and most widely honored women in America.

Meanwhile other conflicts drove her to take action in support of peace. As a Francophile, or supporter of France, she was horrified by the Franco-Prussian War (187071; a war between France and Prussia, or states that made up what is today Germany). This antiwar view led Howe to become president of the American Branch of the Woman's International Peace Association in 1871.

The women's movement

After the American branch of the peace association failed, Howe began working to concern the nation's women on issues concerning the homefront. She helped found the New England Woman's Club in 1868. That same year she organized the New England Woman Suffrage Association and later the American Woman Suffrage Association. (Suffrage is the right to vote.) These two ground-breaking associations pushed for a woman's right to vote in America.

New York feminists (fighters for women's rights), led by Susan B. Anthony (18201906) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (18151902), wanted the cause to embrace many social and political issues, from marriage questions to labor unions. More conservative Boston feminists, including Howe and Lucy Stone (18181893), focused on women's rights alone. The conservative Boston feminists encouraged men to join the movement, whereas the New Yorkers believed that men limited the organization's efforts. For more than twenty years these differences divided the movement into two organizations: the American Woman Suffrage Association and the Stanton-Anthony National Woman Suffrage Association.

Eventually the National came around to the American's point of view, and the two associations united in 1890 as the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Although Howe's careful strategy was adopted, it was another thirty years before women were given the right to vote under the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, in 1920.

In 1908 Howe was the first woman elected to the American Academy of the Arts and Letters, an organization for famed artists and writers. She died on Oct. 17, 1910, in Newport, Rhode Island. She is remembered chiefly for "The Battle Hymn," in some ways the least of her accomplishments. Yet there is justice in this. She wrote it to help free the slaves, and later it became the anthem of the women's suffrage movement. Even later it was used by civil rights workers. In 1968, when the funeral train for Senator Robert Kennedy (19251968) carried his body from New York City to Washington, D.C., "The Battle Hymn" was sung by mourners.

For More Information

Clifford, Deborah Pickman. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Biography of Julia Ward Howe. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979.

Howe, Julia Ward. Reminiscences, 18191899. Boston; New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1899. Reprint, New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969.

Richards, Laura E., and Maud Howe Elliott. Julia Ward Howe, 18191910. Boston; New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1915. Reprint, Atlanta: Cherokee, 1990.

Williams, Gary. Hungry Heart: The Literary Emergence of Julia Ward Howe. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Howe, Julia Ward." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Howe, Julia Ward." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/howe-julia-ward

"Howe, Julia Ward." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/howe-julia-ward

Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), American author and reformer, wrote the words for "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Julia Ward, the daughter of a noted banker, was born in New York City on May 27, 1819, and was privately educated there. Rejecting a life of cultivated leisure, she married Samuel Gridley Howe, a physician, reformer, and pioneer teacher of the blind. They lived in Boston and edited the Commonwealth, an antislavery paper. Howe's first book, a collection of poems, was published in 1854; thereafter she wrote many volumes of verse, travel sketches, and essays. None was so popular as her patriotic song, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic, " which she composed in a tent one night after visiting military camps. Because of this song she became one of the best-known and most widely honored women in America.

Though Howe was an ardent unionist in the Civil War, other conflicts repelled her. As a Francophile, she was horrified by the Franco-Prussian War, and she became president of the American Branch of the Woman's International Peace Association in 1871. It failed, as women were not yet ready for such work.

Howe did better at interesting them in more domestic concerns. She helped found the New England Woman's Club in 1868. That same year she organized the New England Woman Suffrage Association and later the American Woman Suffrage Association. The latter was a product of the conflict within the suffrage movement over strategy and principles. New York feminists, led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, wanted the cause to embrace many social and political issues, from the marriage question to labor unions. More conservative Boston feminists, such as Mrs. Howe and Lucy Stone, focused on woman's rights alone. They encouraged men to join, whereas the New Yorkers believed that men compromised their efforts. For over 20 years these differences divided the movement into two organizations: the American Woman Suffrage Association and the Stanton-Anthony National Woman Suffrage Association. After the National came around to the American's point of view, they united in 1890 as the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Thus, Howe's cautious strategy was adopted, though it would take another 30 years to get woman suffrage.

Howe died on Oct. 17, 1910. She is remembered chiefly for "The Battle Hymn, " in some ways the least of her accomplishments. Yet there is justice in this. She wrote it to help free the slaves; later it became the anthem of the woman suffrage movement. Even later it was used by civil rights workers. In 1968, when Senator Robert Kennedy's funeral train carried his body from New York to Washington, "The Battle Hymn" was sung as a dirge by mourners.

Further Reading

Julia Ward Howe's memoir, Reminiscences, 1819-1899 (1899), is useful. The standard biography is Laura E. Richards and Maud Howe Elliott, Julia Ward Howe (2 vols., 1915). See also Louise Hall Tharp, Three Saints and a Sinner: Julia Ward Howe, Louisa, Annie, and Sam Ward (1956).

Additional Sources

Clifford, Deborah Pickman, Mine eyes have seen the glory: a biography of Julia Ward Howe, Boston: Little, Brown, 1979.

Grant, Mary Hetherington, Private woman, public person: an account of the life of Julia Ward Howe from 1819-1868, Brooklyn, N.Y.: Carlson Pub., 1994.

Richards, Laura Elizabeth Howe, Julia Ward Howe, 1819-1910, Atlanta, Ga.: Cherokee Pub. Co., 1990. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Julia Ward Howe." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Julia Ward Howe." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/julia-ward-howe

"Julia Ward Howe." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/julia-ward-howe

Howe, Julia Ward

Julia Ward Howe, 1819–1910, American author and social reformer, b. New York City. She assisted her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, in his philanthropic projects and in editing the Boston Commonwealth, an abolitionist paper. Her first book of poetry was published in 1854. Mrs. Howe wrote and lectured in behalf of woman suffrage, African-American emancipation, and other causes, and helped found a world peace organization. In Nov., 1861, after watching Union troops march into battle, she wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," her most famous work. It was published in the Atlantic Monthly in Feb., 1862. The American Academy of Arts and Letters elected her as its first woman member (1908). Besides writing several volumes of poetry, she was the author of Sex and Education (1874), Modern Society (1881), and a biography of Margaret Fuller (1883).

See her Reminiscences, 1819–1899 (1899); biographies by her daughters L. E. Richards and M. H. Elliott (1915, repr. 1970) and by V. H. Ziegler (2004); L. H. Tharp, Three Saints and a Sinner (1956).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Howe, Julia Ward." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Howe, Julia Ward." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/howe-julia-ward

"Howe, Julia Ward." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/howe-julia-ward

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Battle Hymn of the Republic. Poem by Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910) written 1862, first line being ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord’, sung to the tune of John Brown's Body. Last verse beginning ‘He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave’ is not in orig., authorship being unknown.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Battle Hymn of the Republic." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Battle Hymn of the Republic." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/battle-hymn-republic

"Battle Hymn of the Republic." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/battle-hymn-republic