Howe, Julia Ward
Died October 17, 1910
Newport, Rhode Island
Writer and lecturer; activist for abolition, women's rights, and peace
"The new domain now made clear to me was that of true womanhood—woman no longer in her ancillary relation to her opposite, man, but in her direct relation to the divine plan and purpose, as a free agent, fully sharing with man every human right and every human responsibility."
Julia Ward Howe is perhaps best known as the writer of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (1862), which became the unofficial song of the Union army during the American Civil War (1861–65). However, Howe was equally significant during her lifetime as an activist for abolition (ending slavery), women's rights, peace, and prison reform. She was a founding member of the American Woman Suffrage Association, a leading organization for promoting voting rights for women. A noted lecturer and author, Howe was the first woman elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters.
From a distinguished family
Born in New York City in 1819, Howe was the second daughter and fourth of seven children of Samuel Ward, a prominent banker, and Julia Rush (Cutler) Ward, a published poet. The Ward family roots included two descendants who served as governor of Rhode Island when it was still a colony. Howe's grandfather was a distinguished officer during the American Revolution (1775–83).
Howe became interested in poetry and art at an early age, thanks in part to a home with an art gallery and a large library. Howe's mother died at the age of twenty-eight shortly after giving birth to her seventh child when Howe was five years old. A witty and loving aunt helped care for the Ward children. Howe was tutored at home and at private schools in Latin, French, literature, science, and mathematics, and she received music and voice training. She began learning Italian at age fourteen, and then studied German and Greek as well. Howe would continue to read literature, history, and philosophy throughout her life. By the time Howe was twenty, she had had literary reviews and essays published anonymously in magazines such as the Literary and Theological Review and the New York Review.
Howe began attending social gatherings in New York City during her late teens after her brother, Samuel Ward Jr., married Emily Astor of the wealthy Astor family in 1837. Howe was petite—just over five feet tall—with blue eyes and red hair. She enjoyed parties and conversation, but when Howe's father died shortly after she turned twenty, she fell into great sadness. To help ease her grief, she visited friends in Boston in 1841. Among her acquaintances was noted poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882), a longtime friend of her brother, Samuel. In Boston, Howe also met other significant writers of the day, including Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) and Margaret Fuller (1810–1850), who had recently begun publishing a major new literary magazine called The Dial.
The deepest soul of the writer
Howe accompanied Longfellow and his friend Charles Sumner (1811–1874; see entry), who would later become an important U.S. senator from Massachusetts, on a visit to the New England Institute for the Blind to meet Laura Bridgman (1829–1889), an extraordinary blind and deaf student. While the group was out on the grounds of the Institute, the school's director, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe (1801–1876), rode up on a black horse ("a noble rider on a noble steed," Howe would write later of the encounter in Memoir of Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe … with Other Memorial Tributes,1876). A friend of Longfellow and Sumner, Dr. Howe was a famous educator, physician, and reformer, and had been a military hero in the Greek War for Independence during the 1820s, where he earned the title, "Chevalier of the Order of St. Savior." The twenty-two-year-old Howe was immediately attracted to the tall and handsome forty-year-old bachelor.
The couple first appeared together in public in 1842 at a farewell dinner in Boston for Charles Dickens (1812–1870), the famous English author who had been touring the United States. Shortly after the dinner, the couple announced their engagement. They were married on April 23, 1843, and went on a long honeymoon journey to Europe, visiting England, Germany, and France before making an extended stay in Italy. Their first child was born in 1844 in Rome. The Howes would have six children, one of whom died in early childhood. The Howes' marriage was difficult—some say violent—at times, stemming from the couple's different personalities: Dr. Howe was studious, focused on work, and expected his wife to be content as a homemaker and hostess; Julia Ward Howe was a witty conversationalist who enjoyed writing and a lively social scene. Their Boston home, which Howe named "Green Peace," was part of a social environment of philosophers, writers, and social reformers.
While carrying on domestic duties and bearing five children between 1844 to 1856, Howe began receiving attention as a writer. In 1848, she had poems published in two anthologies (collections of writings by various authors). Though her husband frowned at her writing, he teamed with Howe to publish and edit a newspaper called The Commonwealth. The periodical featured stories and editorials that argued for the abolition of slavery, and Howe contributed reviews and essays on books. The newspaper remained in circulation up to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. During the late 1850s, the Howe home was a safe haven for fugitive slaves who were fleeing to freedom in Canada. The Fugitive Slave Law, passed in 1851, allowed slave owners to pursue and apprehend runaway slaves in nonslave states.
Meanwhile, Howe's first volume of poetry, Passion Flowers, was published anonymously in 1854. In a review in the New York Tribune, George Ripley called the poems "a product wrung with tears and prayer from the deepest soul of the writer." A second collection of Howe's poems, Words for the Hour," was published in 1857. A play, The World's Own, was published and performed in 1857, and a collection of Howe's travel sketches, called "A Trip to Cuba," appeared in 1860 in issues of the New York Tribune and were published as a book later that year.
"Mine eyes have seen the glory"
Following the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Dr. Howe became a leader of the United States Sanitary Commission, which worked to maintain clean living conditions for soldiers in camps and in hospitals. Julia Ward Howe joined the women's auxiliary unit of the commission. During the early part of the war, more soldiers died from disease caused by unsanitary conditions in prisoner of war camps and their own army camps than in battle. The Sanitary Commission successfully curtailed the problems in the camps.
In November 1861, the Howes traveled to Washington, D.C., on duty with the commission. They joined a group that was to tour a Union military camp outside the city, but they had to turn back when the camp was attacked in a Confederate raid. During the return carriage ride, the group sang "John Brown's Body," a popular song of the time. With the song's melody in her mind and inspired by her religious fervor for abolition—Howe viewed slavery as morally wrong—Howe arose from bed the next morning and wrote the verses that would form "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" on stationery of the United States Sanitary Commission. First published as a poem in the February 1862 issue of the Atlantic Monthly (for which she was paid $4), "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" soon became famous throughout the Union.
In cadences of a Christian hymn, the poem expresses hope that the Lord will secure a Union victory. The Union army adopted the hymn as its unofficial song. The song endures in association with many causes Howe supported: it was adopted by the women's suffrage movement, by African American civil rights activists (many of whom were ancestors of slaves), and as a dirge (song of mourning) at funerals for civil rights supporters. It was sung at the memorial service for Howe at Symphony Hall in Boston in 1910 and at the funeral of U.S. senator Robert F. Kennedy (1925–1968) of New York, who was assassinated while campaigning for president in 1968 and who had been the leading civil rights proponent in the presidential administration of his brother, John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63).
On Composing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"
Julia Ward Howe remembers how she composed "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (as noted in her Reminiscences, 1819–1899).
In spite of the excitement of the day I went to bed and slept as usual, but awoke the next morning in the gray of the early dawn, and to my astonishment found that the wished-for lines were arranging themselves in my brain. I lay quite still until the last verse had completed itself in my thoughts, then hastily arose, saying to myself, I shall lose this if I don't write it down immediately. I searched for an old sheet of paper and an old stub of a pen which I had had the night before, and began to scrawl the lines almost without looking, as I learned to do by often scratching down verses in the darkened room when my little children were sleeping. Having completed this, I lay down again and fell asleep, but not before feeling that something of importance had happened to me.
During the Civil War years, Howe became active as a speaker in the Unitarian church. Unitarians are community-based and tolerant toward those of different faiths. In January 1864, Howe delivered a lecture while wearing a modest, black dress and a white lace cap; this would become her standard dress for lectures she gave in the United States and in Europe over the next thirty years.
Following the end of the Civil War in 1865 and passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, outlawing slavery that same year, Howe turned her attention to women's suffrage. She spoke before a legislative committee in the Boston State House, helped found in February 1868 the New England Woman's Club, and helped found the New England Woman Suffrage Association, which arranged a national conference in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1869. Howe was also a member of the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) when it was formed.
The AWSA differed from a similar women' suffrage group, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), which was led by Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906; see entry) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902). Members of the NWSA worked on a larger number of social and political issues, but focused only on issues pertaining directly to women; membership was limited to women only. The AWSA encouraged men to join and supported the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allowed African American male landowners the right to vote. Beginning in 1870, Howe contributed to the Woman's Journal, a periodical founded by her associate, Lucy Stone (1818–1893).
Howe's activism for women's rights was especially fulfilling for her. As she wrote later in Reminiscences, 1819–1899, "During the first two thirds of my life I looked to the masculine idea of character as the only true one. I sought its inspiration, and referred my merits and demerits to its judicial verdict.… The new domain now made clear to me was that of true womanhood—woman no longer in her ancillary relation to her opposite, man, but in her direct relation to the divine plan and purpose, as a free agent, fully sharing with man every human right and every human responsibility. This discovery was like the addition of a new continent to the map of the world, or of a new testament to the old ordinances."
Activist for many causes
During the 1870s, Howe became an advocate for peace, primarily as a lecturer and preacher within the Unitarian church. In September 1870, she issued an "Appeal to Womanhood throughout the World," calling for a general congress of women to promote the alliance of different nationalities. The document was translated and published in French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Swedish. At a December 1870 meeting in New York to arrange for the "World's Congress of Women in behalf of International Peace," Howe made the opening address. The American branch of the Woman's International Peace Association was formed in 1871 with Howe as president. However, she was unsuccessful in the spring of 1872 in her attempts to arrange a peace conference to be held in London, England. Nevertheless, while in England, she served as a delegate at a prison reform congress. In 1872, Howe initiated a Mothers' Peace Day observance on the second Sunday in June, which continued to be an annual event for several years and was a forerunner of Mother's Day. Among other activities, Howe hosted conventions of ministers to bring people of different denominations together, and she traveled with her husband on trips to Santo Domingo in 1873 and 1875 to preach in a small Protestant church.
Howe's husband died in 1876. Shortly before his death, he confessed to a number of adulterous affairs, and the two managed to put aside their differences. Their marriage had often been strained, but Dr. Howe had come to respect his wife's activism, if not actively support it. Howe published a loving biography of her husband, Memoir of Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe … with Other Memorial Tributes, that year. Howe went on an extensive lecture tour through the West and used the money she earned for a two-year trip to Europe and the Middle East with her youngest daughter, Maud. She published Modern Society, a collection of essays, in 1881, and the biography, Margaret Fuller, in 1883. She continued to preach frequently at her own Church of the Disciples and other Unitarian churches. In an address at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, titled "What Is Religion?" she stated that true religions recognize the equality of men and women as well as people of all faiths.
In 1889, the two branches of the women's suffrage movement finally united, as Stanton and Anthony agreed with Howe to focus specifically on winning the right for women to vote. Together they formed the National American Woman's Suffrage Association. Howe published three more works during the 1890s: Is Polite Society Polite? (1895), a collection of essays; From Sunset Ridge: Poems Old and New (1898); and an autobiographical collection, Reminiscences, 1819–1899 (1899).
When Howe died in 1910, her long-time role as an activist and writer was well known. In 1908, she was the first woman elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters. Shortly before her death, Howe was awarded an honorary degree by Smith College. At the ceremony, Howe was hailed as "poet and patriot, lover of letters and learning; advocate for over half a century in print and living speech of great causes of human liberty."
For More Information
Grant, Mary H. Private Woman, Public Person: An Account of the Life of Julia Ward Howe from 1819–1868. Brooklyn: Carlson Publishers, 1994.
Gray, Janet, ed. She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1997.
Howe, Julia Ward. Reminiscences, 1819–1899. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1899.
Raum, Elizabeth. Julia Ward Howe. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2004.
Richards, Laura E., and Maud Howe Elliott. Julia Ward Howe, 1819 to 1910. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1915. Reprint, Atlanta: Cherokee, 1997.
Williams, Gary. Hungry Heart: The Literary Emergence of Julia Ward Howe. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.
"Julia Ward Howe." Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography.http://www.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/juliawardhowe.html (accessed on June 25, 2004).
"Julia Ward Howe." Women's History.http://womenshistory.about.com/library/bio/blbio_howe_julia_ward.htm (accessed on June 14, 2004).
"Julia Ward Howe: It's Time to Recognize This Woman's Extraordinary Deeds." Seattle Times (June 30, 2001). http://www.lightwatcher.com/old_lightbytes/howe_greatwoman.html (accessed on June 25,2004).
Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe
Author and social reformer
Wrote the words to "Battle Hymn of the
Republic," which became the Union anthem
during the Civil War
Julia Ward Howe accomplished many things as a writer, lecturer, abolitionist, and promoter of women's rights. But she is best remembered as the author of the words to "Battle Hymn of the Republic," the stirring song that became the Union anthem during the Civil War. The song's popularity, combined with her active support of various social causes, made her one of the most famous and respected women of her time.
Sheltered girlhood in New York City
Julia Ward Howe was born on May 27, 1819, in New York City. She was the third of six children born to Samuel Ward, a wealthy banker, and his wife Julia Cutler Ward. Howe was a bright and strong-willed child with a lively wit. She loved both music and drama from an early age. But young girls were relatively sheltered in those days. They did not receive the same level of education or personal freedom given to boys. Instead, they were trained to be well-mannered ladies who could run a household and care for children.
When Howe's mother died in 1824, her father became even more restrictive with his daughters. He did not allow them to attend parties, see plays, or read popular books because he wanted to protect them from harmful outside influences. But Howe loved to read and dreamed of becoming a writer. She often rebelled against her father's rules, especially when she spent time with less-strict relatives on the Atlantic coast each summer. Her oldest brother and several other family members encouraged her to pursue her writing.
Samuel Ward died in 1839, leaving a fortune estimated at six million dollars. Within a short time, Howe's beloved brother Henry Ward died as well. She became deeply depressed and spent the next two years recovering her spirits. After her period of mourning ended, however, she began to enjoy her newfound freedom. She socialized with all kinds of important people in New York. Along with her sisters, she became known as an excellent hostess in the city's literary and cultural circles.
Joins the fight against slavery
Julia Ward married a prominent older man, Samuel Gridley Howe, in 1843. He was a medical doctor who ran a hospital for the deaf and blind in Boston, Massachusetts. He was also a social reformer who worked to improve conditions and treatment methods for his patients. Although Samuel Howe respected his wife's intelligence, he still believed that women's primary role should be as homemakers and mothers. For this reason, he was not particularly supportive of Howe's efforts as a writer. Partly as a way to please her husband, Howe had six children over the next fifteen years.
Shortly after their marriage, the Howes traveled to the South. They visited a plantation there and saw the effects of slavery. Black people were taken from Africa and brought to North America to serve as slaves for white people beginning in the 1600s. The basic belief behind slavery was that black people were inferior to whites. Under slavery, white slave-holders treated black people as property, forced them to perform hard labor, and controlled every aspect of their lives. States in the Northern half of the United States began outlawing slavery in the late 1700s. But slavery continued to exist in the Southern half of the country because it played an important role in the South's economy and culture.
Following their trip to the South, the Howes joined a growing number of Northerners who believed that slavery was wrong. They became active in the movement to abolish (put an end to) slavery in the United States. Their anger over slavery increased in 1850, when Southerners in the U.S. Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act. This measure granted slaveowners sweeping new powers to capture and reclaim escaped slaves. It also required people in the North to assist the slaveowners in retrieving their property. Many Northerners resented the Fugitive Slave Act. They were able to ignore slavery when it was confined to the South, but not when they saw black people being captured and carried off in chains within their own cities. The Fugitive Slave Act ended up increasing the antislavery and anti-Southern feelings of many people in the North.
In 1852, the Howes took over management of an abolitionist magazine, the Commonwealth, for a year. In 1859, Samuel Howe was one of six prominent Northern abolitionists who provided financial backing for John Brown's Raid. John Brown (1800–1859; see entry) was a radical abolitionist who believed that violence was a necessary part of the fight against slavery. He came up with an ambitious plan to raid a federal armory (a storage facility for weapons and ammunition) in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, and use the captured weapons to arm slaves and start a violent uprising throughout the South. Brown's plan failed, however, and he was captured and executed. But his actions added to the bitter feelings between the North and the South that led to the Civil War.
Despite the lack of support from her husband, Howe wrote several poems and plays during the 1850s. Her first book of poetry, Passion Flowers, was published in 1853. Her husband refused to speak to her for several weeks after the book came out. He was angry about one poem that seemed to discuss their relationship and her struggles to express her independent spirit. In 1857, Howe published a travel journal called A Trip to Cuba. At that time, Cuba was the source of many new slaves that were brought into the United States illegally (although slavery was still legal, importing new slaves had been outlawed in 1808). She discussed the issue of slavery in the book and pointed out its negative effects on society. But she still made it clear that—like many Northerners—she believed that black people were inferior to whites.
"Battle Hymn of the Republic"
In 1861, the long-standing dispute between the North and South over slavery and other issues finally erupted into war. The Southern states seceded (withdrew) from the Union and formed a new country that allowed slavery, called the Confederate States of America. But Northern politicians would not allow the South to leave the Union without a fight. In the fall of that year, Howe made a trip to Washington, D.C. Along the way, her train passed a number of military camps where soldiers were stationed to protect the capital. Once there, she joined a large group of Union supporters who went to watch General George B. McClellan (1826–1885; see entry) review his troops at nearby Munson's Hill, Virginia. As the spectators watched the troops parade by, however, Confederate forces launched a surprise attack.
As both the Union soldiers and the spectators tried to flee to the safety of Washington, the roads became jammed. Howe and her friends were stuck in their carriage for several hours. They passed the time by singing popular army songs, including one called "John Brown's Body" that featured the chorus "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!" Some of the soldiers who heard this song stopped to compliment Howe. Then one of her friends suggested that she could write better words to the tune.
Howe returned to her Washington hotel room and went to sleep. In the middle of the night, she awoke with new words to the song filling her head. "As I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind," she recalled. "Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, 'I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.' So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and . . . scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper."
The new lyrics said that God was on the side of the North, and that He would help them destroy their enemies. Howe's version began: "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord / He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored / He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword / His truth is marching on." Howe's poem was published in the literary magazine Atlantic Monthly in early 1862, and she received five dollars for it. Before long, people all across the North were singing her words to the tune of "John Brown's Body." In 1863, shortly after the Union's July victory in the bloody Battle of Gettysburg, Army Chaplain Charles Caldwell McCabe (1836–1906) sang it at an official function with President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865; see entry) in the audience. With tears in his eyes, Lincoln stood up and asked McCabe to sing it again. It soon became the unofficial anthem of the Union war effort.
Joins the women's rights movement
With the success of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," Howe became one of the most famous women of her time. After the war ended in a Union victory in 1865, she continued to write and began lecturing on a variety of social issues, including women's rights. In 1868, Howe helped organize the New England Woman's Club. She acted as its president for the next forty years. This group focused on educating women so that they could speak in public, make formal reports, and influence people's opinions about social issues.
Howe also became a strong supporter of efforts to grant women the right to vote. "All that I had felt regarding the sacredness and importance of the woman's part in private life now appeared to me equally applicable to the part which she should bear in public life," she stated. She came to believe that women were equal to men. She saw the right to vote as key to women's advancement, as well as the advancement of American society. She did not want to change the traditional role of women as wives and mothers, but believed that political activity would make women better companions for their husbands and better instructors for their children.
Howe continued to write and lecture on literary and cultural topics for the rest of her long life. In recognition of her achievements, she was the first woman elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1873, she held the first Mother's Peace Day celebration in Boston. This holiday was intended to show women's support for world peace. Some historians claim that it provided the original source for today's Mother's Day holiday. Howe died in October 1910, at the age of ninety-one.
Where to Learn More
Clifford, Deborah Pickman. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Biography ofJulia Ward Howe. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979.
Currie, Stephen. Music in the Civil War. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 1992.
Grant, Mary H. Private Woman, Public Person: An Account of the Life ofJulia Ward Howe from 1819 to 1868. Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Publishers, 1994.
Richards, Laura E., and Maud Howe Elliott. Julia Ward Howe, 1819–1910. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1915. Reprint, Atlanta: Cherokee, 1990.
Williams, Gary. Hungry Heart: The Literary Emergence of Julia Ward Howe. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.
Daniel Decatur Emmett, Author of the Confederate Anthem "Dixie"
Musician Daniel Decatur Emmett was born in 1815 in Ohio. He remained in the North throughout his life and supported the Union during the Civil War. For this reason, it seems strange that a song he composed about the South, "Dixie," became the most popular patriotic song among Confederate troops.
Emmett had no formal music education but was blessed with great natural talent. As a teenager, he wrote a manual that was used by drum students for many years, Emmett's Standard Drummer. He later used his skills as a songwriter and performer to form one of the first minstrel shows. In this form of entertainment—which was popular in the mid-1800s—white performers painted their faces and did impersonations of black music and dance.
Around 1860, Emmett wrote a song called "I Wish I Was in Dixie's Land." Dixie was a nickname for the South that probably came from the term Mason-Dixon line. This line originally marked the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania, but came to mean the line dividing North from South during the debate over slavery. The song began, "I wish I was in the land of cotton / Old times there are not forgotten / Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land!"
The rousing song "Dixie" soon became very popular around the country. In 1861, the Southern states seceded (withdrew) from the Union and formed a new country that allowed slavery, called the Confederate States of America. A band played "Dixie" when Jefferson Davis (1808–1889; see entry) was inaugurated (sworn in) as the president of the Confederacy. Before long, Emmett's tune had become the most popular marching song for Southern troops as they went to fight in the Civil War.
Since Emmett supported the North, the popularity of "Dixie" among Southerners embarrassed him. He spent the next few years struggling to prove his loyalty to the Union. When the war ended in a Northern victory in 1865, however, U.S. president Abraham Lincoln admitted that "Dixie" was one of his favorite songs. Lincoln declared that the North had captured the song along with the South, and that it now belonged to the whole nation. Emmett continued to work as songwriter, conductor, and theater manager during and after the war. He retired in 1888 and died in 1904.
Howe, Julia Ward
HOWE, Julia Ward
Daughter of Samuel and Julia Cutler Ward; married Samuel G.Howe, 1843; children: six
Julia Ward Howe was born into a wealthy New York City family. A combination of tutors and private schools provided her with an excellent education in literature and the Romance languages. She later taught herself German and studied the German philosophers. During her sheltered childhood and youth, her only vent for her emotions was the writing of religious poetry. Howe's life of seclusion ended when she married Samuel Gridley Howe, the director of the Perkins Institute for the Blind. She bore six children in 16 years.
Throughout the 1850s and 1860s, Howe struggled to establish a literary career despite her husband's disapproval. She felt required to publish her first book of verse, Passion Flowers (1854), anonymously. The poems, regular in meter and rhyme, vary in theme and purpose. Passion Flowers contains a number of powerful emotional poems with themes of conflict, disappointment, and inadequacy. Although some of the poems in Words for the Hour (1857) continue to reflect Howe's inner turmoil and unhappiness, most of the verses are conventional in tone. Later Lyrics (1866) introduces what was to become Howe's primary poetic form: commemorative verses designed to celebrate a public event or notable personality. Howe's final book of poetry, From Sunset Ridge (1898), reprinted some of her early poems in addition to publishing new commemorative verse.
Other writing ventures included articles for the abolitionist newspaper Commonwealth, a brief stint as editor of Northern Lights, two travel books, travel letters to the New York Tribune, two wordy and unsuccessful plays, and a series of philosophical essays designed to be read as parlor lectures. Howe's one substantial literary success was the publication of her "Battle Hymn of the Republic," in Atlantic Monthly (February 1862). The poem gained increasing popularity as the century progressed, but Howe's publishers forced her to recognize that the audience for her poetry was dwindling. By 1870 Howe was casting around for other ways to express herself.
In 1868 Howe embarked on two new projects that departed dramatically from the literary salonière image she had cherished for so long. She helped found the new American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). She was an officer of the AWSA and its successor, the National American Woman Suffrage Association, for 41 years. Howe also helped found the first woman's club in the Northeast, the New England Woman's Club, and served as its president for 38 years.
In the early 1870s, Howe added to her list of causes by initiating a women's campaign for world peace. She made speeches, wrote letters, and circulated brief addresses that she composed herself. None of this material found favor with any publisher, but it helped establish Howe's reputation as a woman activist, her vocation for the rest of her life.
During the decades of the 1870s and 1880s, Howe wrote prodigiously. She wrote personal letters, increasing the bonds between women's organizations and encouraging the founding of new clubs. She took extended lecture trips several times a year, during which she spoke extensively on women's issues. In 1873 she helped found the Association for the Advancement of Women, a forerunner of the General Federation of Women's Clubs. In connection with her presidency of this organization, she wrote numerous papers on topics of concern to women.
Howe's feminist theory pervaded her lectures, articles, and even her occasional sermons. It was an articulate blend of conventional notions about women's natural domesticity and moral superiority with more radical views concerning women's spiritual and intellectual equality with men. She saw traditional femininity as a power base that women should strengthen by broader education and work experience. As a means to these ends, she advocated a better distribution of power within the family and the state, opportunities for higher education for women, support for working women, and access to the professions. Howe believed that America would achieve the glory to which she aspired during the 19th century only when women had received the opportunities and respect they deserved.
As her sermons and lectures gained renown, Howe came to see herself as a guardian of American virtue. Two of her published lectures—Modern Society (1881) and Is Polite Society Polite? (1895)—reflect her convictions concerning the manners and morals of the New England elite, combined with a new emphasis on woman's role in maintaining these values.
When, in the 1890s, old age limited Howe's mobility, she began a new career as an essayist for popular and religious magazines. She wrote about everything from "The Joys of Motherhood" to "Lynch Law in the South." The exposure that these publications provided built up a new, gratifying reputation for Howe as "Queen of America" and "America's Grand Old Lady."
Although Howe's writings for public consumption were numerous, very few of them were published by a commercial establishment. The small fraction of her work that was published is not her best writing. The reams of articles and lectures that were never published, however, contain lively images and vigorous, convincing arguments. Howe's major contribution was her ability to galvanize thousands of women into cooperative action on behalf of their sex. Her flair for "finding the right word," as she put it, helped improve the status of women for generations, long after her poems and plays were forgotten.
The World's Own (1857). A Trip to Cuba (1860). From the Oak to the Olive (1868). Memoir of Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe (1876). Margaret Fuller, Marchessa Ossoli (1883). Reminiscences, 1819-1899 (1899). At Sunset (1910).
Clifford, D., Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Biography of Julia Ward Howe (1979). Elliott, M., The Eleventh Hour in the Life of Julia Ward Howe (1911). Grant, M. H., Private Woman, Public Person: An Account of the Life of Julia Ward Howe from 1819-1868 (1994). Gray, J. and C. W. E. Bigsby, She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the 19th Century (1997). Hall, F., The Story of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (1916). Johnson, W. D., Serious Sentimentalism: A Rhetoric of Antebellum American Women's Verse (dissertation, 1995). Kane, P., Poetry of the American Renaissance: A Diverse Anthology from the Romantic Period (1995). Kelly, M., ed., Woman's Being, Woman's Place: Female Identity and Vocation in American History (1979). Mead, E., Julia Ward Howe's Peace Crusade (1910). Richards, L., and M. Elliott, Julia Ward Howe, 1819-1910 (1915). Richards, L., Two Noble Lives: Samuel Gridley Howe and Julia Ward Howe (1911). Schriber, M. S., Telling Travels: Selected Writings by Nineteenth-Century American Women Abroad (1995). Tharp, L., Three Saints and a Sinner (1956). Williams, G. Hungry Heart: The Literary Emergence of Julia Ward Howe (1999). Zink-Sawyer, B. A., The Preachers and the Suffragists: The Role of Preachers in the Ideological Transformation of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States (dissertation, 1998).
AA. AW. CAL. DAB. FPA. NAW (1971). NCAB. Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995).
—MARY H. GRANT
Howe, Julia Ward
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 (1801–1876), a physician, pioneer teacher of the blind, and reformer. Although some of her Boston friends included poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), 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 (1861–65; 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 (1870–71; 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 (1820–1906) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902), 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 (1818–1893), 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 (1925–1968) 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, 1819–1899. Boston; New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1899. Reprint, New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969.
Richards, Laura E., and Maud Howe Elliott. Julia Ward Howe, 1819–1910. 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.
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.
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).
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. □