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Julia Ward Howe photo

Julia Ward Howe


Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) was born in New York City to Samuel Ward, Jr., a stockbroker, and Julia Rush, a poet who died of tuberculosis when Julia was five. Howe was educated at schools for young ladies and tutored at home until the age of 16. Her father died in 1839, and five years later Julia married Samuel Gridley Howe, head of the Perkins Institute for the Blind. The couple had six children, the last of whom was born in 1859.


In South Boston Howe cared for her household while her husband participated in prison and school reform and abolitionism. Prohibited from public work by her husband, she attended lectures, privately studied foreign languages, religion, and philosophy, and wrote poetry and drama.


Howe wrote her most famous work, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, in 1861 while in Washington, DC with her husband, who was helping distribute supplies to Massachusetts regiments. It was published in the Atlantic Monthly in February 1862, set to the music of John Brown’s Body, and became the rallying song for the North during the final year of the Civil War.


By 1868, Howe’s husband no longer opposed her involvement in public life. She founded and served as president of the New England Woman Suffrage Association, and became co-leader, with Lucy Stone, of the American Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. In January 1876, Howe’s husband died, and her public involvement expanded rapidly.


Until her death in 1910 at the age of ninety-one, Howe continued to found and preside over numerous organizations dedicated to improving opportunities for women in education, politics, and the professions. She also went on speaking tours in the United States, Europe and the Middle East.


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Taken on March 20, 2008