Julia Ward Howe

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Julia Howe (Ward)

Birthdate: (91)
Birthplace: New York, NY, USA
Death: October 17, 1910 (91)
Oak Glen (her home), Portsmouth, Rhode Island
Place of Burial: Cambridge, MA, USA
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Samuel Ward, III and Julia Rush Ward (Cutler)
Wife of Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe
Mother of Julia Romana Anagnos; Florence Marion Hall (Howe); Henry Marion Howe; Laura Elizabeth Richards; Maud Howe Elliott and 1 other
Sister of Samuel Cutler Ward; Annie Maillard (Ward); Louisa Cutler Ward and Henry Ward

Occupation: American abolitionist, social activist, and poet, most famous as the author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", suffragette, abolitionist
Managed by: Owen Thomas Cooke
Last Updated:

About Julia Ward Howe


Julia Ward Howe, little known today except as author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," was famous in her lifetime as poet, essayist, lecturer, reformer and biographer. She worked to end slavery, helped to initiate the women's movement in many states, and organized for international peace—all at a time, she noted, "when to do so was a thankless office, involving public ridicule and private avoidance."

Julia Ward Howe's accomplishments did not end with the writing of her famous poem, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." As Julia became more famous, she was asked to speak publicly more often. Her husband became less adamant that she remain a private person, and while he never actively supported her further efforts, his resistance eased.

She saw some of the worst effects of the war -- not only the death and disease which killed and maimed the soldiers. She worked with the widows and orphans of soldiers on both sides of the war, and realized that the effects of the war go beyond the killing of soldiers in battle. She also saw the economic devastation of the Civil War, the economic crises that followed the war, the restructuring of the economies of both North and South.

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe took on a new issue and a new cause. Distressed by her experience of the realities of war, determined that peace was one of the two most important causes of the world (the other being equality in its many forms) and seeing war arise again in the world in the Franco-Prussian War, she called in 1870 for women to rise up and oppose war in all its forms. She wanted women to come together across national lines, to recognize what we hold in common above what divides us, and commit to finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts. She issued a Declaration, hoping to gather together women in a congress of action.

She failed in her attempt to get formal recognition of a Mother's Day for Peace. Her idea was influenced by Anna Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker who had attempted starting in 1858 to improve sanitation through what she called Mothers' Work Days. She organized women throughout the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides, and in 1868 she began work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors.

Anna Jarvis' daughter, also named Anna Jarvis, would of course have known of her mother's work, and the work of Julia Ward Howe. Much later, when her mother died, this second Anna Jarvis started her own crusade to found a memorial day for women. The first such Mother's Day was celebrated in West Virginia in 1907 in the church where the elder Anna Jarvis had taught Sunday School. And from there the custom caught on — spreading eventually to 45 states.

Finally the holiday was declared officially by states beginning in 1912, and in 1914 the President, Woodrow Wilson, declared the first national Mother's Day.

Julia Ward Howe (May 27, 1819 – October 17, 1910) was a prominent American abolitionist, social activist, and poet, most famous as the author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".


Born Julia Ward in New York City, she was the fourth of seven children born to Samuel Ward (May 1, 1786 – November 27, 1839) and Julia Rush Cutler. Among her siblings was Samuel Cutler Ward. Her father was a well-to-do banker. Her mother, granddaughter of William Greene (August 16, 1731 – November 30, 1809), Governor of Rhode Island and his wife Catharine Ray, died when Julia was five.

In 1843, she married Samuel Gridley Howe (1801 – 1876), a physician and reformer who founded the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts.[1] They announced their engagement quite suddenly on February 21; though Howe had courted Julia for a time, he had more recently shown an interest in her sister Louisa.[2]

Her book, Passion-Flowers, was published in December 1853. The book collected intensely personal poems and was written without the awareness of her husband, who was then editing the Free Soil newspaper The Commonwealth.[3]

Social activism

The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Julia Ward Howe was inspired to write her "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" after she and her husband visited Washington, D. C. and met Abraham Lincoln at the White House in November 1861. During the trip, her friend James Freeman Clarke suggest she write new words to the song "John Brown's Body", which she did on November 19.[4] The song was set to William Steffe's already-existing music and Howe's version was first published in the Atlantic Monthly in February 1862. It quickly became one of the most popular songs of the Union during the American Civil War.

After the war Howe focused her activities on the causes of pacifism and women's suffrage. In 1870 Howe was the first to proclaim Mother's Day, with her Mother's Day Proclamation. From 1872 to 1879, she assisted Lucy Stone and Henry Brown Blackwell in editing Woman's Journal.

After her husband's death in 1874, Howe focused more on her interests in reform. She was the founder and president of the Association of American Women, a group which advocated for women's education, from 1876–1897. She also served as president of organizations like the New England Women's Club, the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, and the New England Suffrage Association, and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).[5]

From 1891 to 1909 she was interested in the cause of Russian freedom. Howe supported Russian emigre Stepniak-Kravchinskii and became a member of the Society of American Friends of Russian Freedom (SAFRF).


Howe died on October 17, 1910, at her home, Oak Glen, in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, at the age of 91.[6] Her death was caused by pneumonia. She is buried in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[7]

After her death, her children collaborated on a biography, published in 1916. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography.[8]


On January 28, 1908, Howe became the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Howe was inducted posthumously into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

She has been honored by the U.S. Postal Service with a 15¢ Great Americans series postage stamp issued in 1987.

The Julia Ward Howe School of Excellence in Chicago's Austin community is named in her honor.

Her home in Rhode Island, Oak Glen, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Works and collections


   * Passion-Flowers (1854)
   * Words for the Hour (1857)
   * From Sunset Ridge: Poems Old and New (1898)[5]
   * Later Lyrics (1866)
   * At Sunset (published posthumously, 1910)[5]

Other works

   * The Hermaphrodite. Incomplete, but probably composed between 1846 and 1847. Published by University of Nebraska Press, 2004
   * Modern Society (essays, 1881)[5]
   * Margaret Fuller (Marchesa Ossoli) (biography, 1883)[5]
   * Woman's work in America (1891)
   * Is Polite Society Polite? (essays, 1895)[5]
   * Reminiscences: 1819–1899 (autobiography, 1899)[5]

See also Quill and ink.svg Poetry portal

   * Gardiner, Maine Howe's home for many years
   * Samuel Gridley and Julia Ward Howe House


  • 1. ^ Richards, Laura E., and Maud Howe Elliott. Julia Ward Howe, 1819–1910, vol. I. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1916.
  • 2. ^ Williams, Gary. Hungry Heart: The Literary Emergence of Julia Ward Howe. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999: 33. ISBN 1-55849-157-0
  • 3. ^ Williams, Gary. Hungry Heart: The Literary Emergence of Julia Ward Howe. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999: 134–135. ISBN 1-55849-157-0
  • 4. ^ Williams, Gary. Hungry Heart: The Literary Emergence of Julia Ward Howe. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999: 208. ISBN 1-55849-157-0
  • 5. ^ a b c d e f g Ziegler, Valarie H. Diva Julia: The Public Romance and Private Agony of Julia Ward Howe. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2003: 148–149. ISBN 1-56338-418-3
  • 6. ^ Ehrlich, Eugene and Gorton Carruth. The Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982: 71. ISBN 0-19-503186-5
  • 7. ^ Corbett, William. Literary New England: A History and Guide. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1993: 106. ISBN 0-571-19816-3
  • 8. ^ Ziegler, Valarie H. Diva Julia: The Public Romance and Private Agony of Julia Ward Howe. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2003: 11. ISBN 1-56338-418-3

Further reading

   * Representative women of New England. Boston: New England Historical Pub. Co., 1904.
   * Richards, Laura Elizabeth. Julia Ward Howe, 1819–1910. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1916. 2 vol.
   * Clifford, Deborah Pickman. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Biography of Julia Ward Howe. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1978.

External links * Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Julia Ward Howe

  • Wikisource has original works written by or about: Julia Ward Howe
  • Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Julia Ward Howe

Works and papers

   * Works by Julia Ward Howe at Project Gutenberg
   * Howe Papers at Harvard University
   * Articles by Howe Archive at "Making of America" project, Cornell University Library
   * Poetry at Representative Poetry Online (University of Toronto)
   * Mother's Day Proclamation (1870)
   * Julia Ward Howe.org Electronic archive of Howe's life and works
   * Finding Aid for the Julia Ward Howe Papers at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
   * Free scores by Julia Ward Howe in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)


   * Julia Ward Howe, biography by Laura E. Richards, online at the University of Pennsylvania
   * Biography Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography
   * Julia Ward Howe at Answers.com


   * National Women's Hall of Fame
   * Julia Ward Howe at the Songwriters Hall of Fame
   * Plaque on the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. marking where Howe wrote the Hymn
   * Welcome to Howe Elementary School at www.mtlsd.org


   * A profile of her father
   * A profile of her paternal grandfather

Source: Downloaded May 8, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Ward_Howe

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Original Proclamation of Mother's Day

By Julia Ward Howe, 1870

Arise then...women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: "We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, For caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, Will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice." Blood does not wipe our dishonor, Nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil At the summons of war, Let women now leave all that may be left of home For a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace...

Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God - In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask That a general congress of women without limit of nationality, May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient And the earliest period consistent with its objects, To promote the alliance of the different nationalities, The amicable settlement of international questions, The great and general interests of peace.

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Few names of women are more widely known than that of Julia Ward Howe, essayist, poetess, philanthropist and public speaker. She was born in New York City, May 27, 1819, her parents being Samuel Ward and Julia Cutter Ward. Her ancestors included the Huguenot Marions, of South Carolina, Governor Sam Ward, of Rhode Island, and Rober Williams, the apostle of religious tolerance. Her father, a banker, gave her every advantage of a liberal education. She was instructed at home by capable teachers in Greek, German, French and music, and the ambitious and earnest girl improved her opportunities. In 1843 she became the wife of Dr. Samuel G. Howe and went abroad for a season. She had, when only seventeen years of age, produced several clever essays and reviews, and in 1852 published her first volume of poems. A drama in blank verse, written in 1853, was produced in both New York and Boston. Other works followed, and during the war Mrs. Howe became nationally prominent because of her stirring patriotic songs. In 1867 she visited Greece with her husband, where they won the gratitude of the people of that country because of aid extended in the struggle for national independence. In 1868 Mrs. Howe first took part in the suffrage movement. She has since preached, written and lectured much, and, notwithstanding her many works the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" is, perhaps, most widely known and most likely to remain a permanently admired masterpiece in American literature, but in all she has written there has been displayed the same earnestness and poetic gift and the same finished scholarship."


Wrote "Battle Hymn of the Republic" after visiting Abraham Lincoln in November, 1861.

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Julia Ward Howe's Timeline

May 27, 1819
New York, NY, USA
March 22, 1844
Age 24
Rome, Metropolitan City of Rome, Lazio, Italy
August 25, 1845
Age 26
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
March 2, 1848
Age 28
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
February 27, 1850
Age 30
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Age 35
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Age 38
October 17, 1910
Age 91
Portsmouth, Rhode Island
Cambridge, MA, USA