Julia Ward Howe

October 17th marks the 100th anniversary of the death of poet and reformer Julia Ward Howe. Howe is probably best known for writing the text of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which was first published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1862.

Howe was born to a wealthy New York family in 1819. Julia was only five when her mother died, leaving her and her siblings to be raised by their overprotective father. Julia developed her intellect on her own and through the influence of her older brother, whose circle of friends included many of the leading minds of the 1830’s. In 1843, Julia met and quickly married Samuel Gridley Howe, a physician and reformer some 20 years her senior. Their marriage was tumultuous and unhappy; Samuel disapproved of his wife’s ambitions outside the sphere of motherhood. They separated in 1852.

Julia began publishing poems despite her estranged husband’s disapproval. Her first book of poetry, published anonymously in 1854, deals frankly with her marriage and was considered controversial.  Julia also became engaged in reform movements including women’s rights and abolition. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” made her famous and launched her as a leading figure in American letters and the reform movement. After her husband died in 1876, Julia lectured all over the world on causes of reform. She edited a woman’s suffrage journal and helped to create Mother’s Day. She died in 1910, aged 91.

Special Collections owns several items related to Julia Ward Howe, including books and a letter which she wrote to newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. These items can be found in the library’s catalog by searching Special Collections’ holdings.

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