Julia Ward Howe

Social activist and poet, as well as prominent abolitionist, Julia Ward Howe is perhaps most famous as the author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Photo: Julia Ward Howe, 1908, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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Born in New York City, Julia Ward Howe’s family already had a long history of involvement in American politics. Her father’s side descended from Rhode Island politicians, including Roger Williams, and her mother was the great grand niece of the Revolutionary War legend Francis Marion (“The Swamp Fox”). Always curious and intelligent from a young age, Julia was torn between her social obligations as a young woman and her ambitions as a writer and activist.

In 1843, Julia married physician and reformer Samuel Gridley Howe. Julia gained fame when her words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” were published in 1862 in Atlantic Monthly set to the tune of “John Brown’s Body.” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was soon considered the unofficial song of the Union Army.

After the Civil War ended, Julia focused her activism on suffrage and pacifism. Julia was the first to proclaim Mother’s Day (in 1870) and was the first woman inducted into the Academy of Arts and Letters.

–Christie Finn

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