Julia Ward Howe

27 May 1819–17 Oct. 1910

Julia Ward Howe, photo by J.J. Hawes (ca. 1861), in Reminiscences (1899).

Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, poet, author and philanthropist, born in New York City, 27th May, 1819. Her parents were Samuel Ward and Julia Cutler Ward. Her ancestors included the Huguenot Marions, of South Carolina, Governor Samuel Ward, of Rhode Island, and Roger Williams, the apostle of religious tolerance. Her mother died in 1824. Her father, a successful banker, gave her every advantage of education. She was instructed at home by able teachers; her education including music, German, Greek and French. She became the wife of Dr. Samuel G. Howe in 1843. They went abroad and remained a year, and her first child was born in Rome, Italy. Her father died in 1829, and Mrs. Howe became a Unitarian in religion after rallying from the sorrow caused by his death.

In youth she had shown her literary trend. At seventeen she published a review of Lamartine’s “Jocelyn,” an essay on the minor poems of Goethe and Schiller, and a number of original poems. Her marriage interrupted her literary work for a time. In 1850 she went to Europe, and passed the winter in Rome with her two youngest children. In the fall of 1851 she returned to Boston. In [1854] she published her first volume of poems, Passion Flowers, which attracted much attention. In [1857] she published her Words for the Hour and a blank-verse drama, which was produced in Wallack’s Theater, in New York City, and later in Boston.Her interest in the anti-slavery question dated from 1851. Her third volume, Later Lyrics, included her “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which was written in Washington, D. C., in the fall of 1861. Her book, A Trip to Cuba, written after her visit to Cuba in 1857, is a prohibited volume on that island. Her prominence during the Civil War was due to her celebrated patriotic songs. Her “John Brown” song [“The Battle Hymn,”] was the most popular. It at once became known throughout the country and was sung everywhere. In 1867, with her husband, Mrs. Howe visited Greece, where they won the gratitude of the Greeks for their aid in their struggle for national independence. Her book, From the Oak to the Olive, was written after her visit to Greece. She has been a profound student of philosophy, and has written numerous essays on philosophical themes.

In 1868 she joined the woman suffrage movement. In 1869, before a legislative committee in Boston, she made her first suffrage speech. She has been officially connected from the beginning with the New England, the American, and other woman suffrage organizations. Her husband died in 1876, and since that year she has preached, lectured, written and traveled much in all parts of the United States. Her lectures included “Is Polite Society Polite?” “Greece Revisited,” and “Reminiscences of Longfellow and Emerson.” In 1872 she went to England to lecture on arbitration as a means for settling national and international disputes. In London she held a series of Sunday evening services, devoted to “The Mission of Christianity in Relation to the Pacification of the World.” In 1872 she attended, as a delegate, the Congress for Prison Reform held in London. Returning to the United States, she instituted the Women’s Peace Festival, which meets on 22nd June each year. Several years ago she went to Europe and spent over two years in travel in England, France, Italy and Palestine. In Paris she was one of the presiding officers of the Woman’s Rights Congress in 1878. She lectured in Paris and Athens on the work of the women’s associations in America. In Boston she aided to organize the Woman’s Club and the Ladies’ Saturday Morning Club. In Newport she aided to form the Town and Country Club. She has served as president of the Association for the Advancement of Women for several years.

She maintains her connection with these organizations, and is an active promoter of their interests. She is still a vigorous, active woman. In the clubs which she has formed, the members study Latin, French, German, literature, botany, political economy and many other branches. Her life has been and still is one round of ceaseless activity. Her home is in Boston, Mass.

A Woman of the Century (1893)
ed. Frances E. Willard & Mary A. Livermore

Featured Hymns:

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Published Works:

Passion Flowers (poems, 1854): PDF

Words for the Hour (poems, 1857): PDF

Leonora, or The World’s Own (a play, 1857): PDF

A Trip to Cuba (autobiography, 1859): PDF

Hippolytus (a play, 1941): WorldCat

Later Lyrics (poems, 1866): PDF

Northern Lights (a magazine, 1867): WorldCat

From the Oak to the Olive (autobiography, 1868): PDF

Woman’s Journal (founding editor, 1870–1912): WorldCat

Sex and Education (co-editor, 1874): PDF

Modern Society (speeches, 1880): PDF

Margaret Fuller (biography, 1883): PDF

Is Polite Society Polite? (essays, 1895): PDF

From Sunset Ridge: Poems Old and New (1898): PDF

Reminiscences (autobiography, 1899): PDF

At Sunset (poems, 1910): PDF

see also:

New York Review (essays, before 1843)

Theological Review (essays, before 1843)

New York Tribune (series of letters, 1860)


Julia Ward Howe Collection, Samuel P. Hayes Research Library:

Julia Ward Howe Papers, University of North Carolina at Greensboro:

Julia Ward Howe Collection, Yale University:

Julia Ward Howe Letters, Pennsylvania State University Libraries:

Julia Ward Howe Collection, University of Texas at Austin:

Julia Ward Howe Papers, Library of Congress:

Papers of Julia Ward Howe, University of Virginia:

Samuel Gridley and Julia Ward Howe Papers, Williams College:

Papers of Julia Ward Howe, Harvard University:

Life and Works:

“Julia Ward Howe,” A Woman of the Century (Buffalo: Charles Wells Moulton, 1893), pp. 396-397: Archive.org

Obituary, New York Times (18 Oct. 1910)

Florence Howe Hall, Julia Ward Howe and the Woman Suffrage Movement (1913): PDF

Laura E. Richards & Maud Howe Elliott, Julia Ward Howe, 1819-1910 (1915)

Vol. 1: PDF
Vol. 2: PDF

Deborah Pickman Clifford, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory (1979): WorldCat

Debbie Williams Ream, “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,” American History Illustrated, vol. 27 (Jan.–Feb. 1993), pp. 60-64.

Mary H. Grant, Private Woman, Public Person: An Account of the Life of Julia Ward Howe from 1819 to 1868 (1994): WorldCat

Valarie H. Ziegler, Diva Julia: The Public Romance and Private Agony of Julia Ward Howe (2003): Amazon

Elaine Showalter, The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe (2016): Amazon

Sandra VanBurkleo & Mary Jo Miles, “Julia Ward Howe,” American National Biography: