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Julia Ward Howe

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Julia Ward Howe


Julia Ward Howe (27 May 1819, New York City – 17 October 1910, Portsmouth, R.I.) was a prominent American abolitionist, social activist, poet, and the author of Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Howe’s father Samuel Ward III was a Wall Street stockbroker, banker, and strict Calvinist. Her mother was the poet Julia Rush Cutler. Howe was educated by private tutors and schools for young ladies until she was sixteen. Her eldest brother, Samuel Cutler Ward, traveled in Europe and brought home a private library. She had access to these books, many contradicting the Calvinistic view. She became well-read, though social as well as scholarly. She met because of her father's status as a successful banker, Charles Dickens, Charles Sumner, and Margaret Fuller.

Julia Ward Howe was inspired to write 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 suggested she write new words to the song John Brown's Body, which she did on November 19. 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.

Now that Howe was in the public eye, she produced eleven issues of the literary magazine Northern Lights, in 1867. After the war she focused her activities on the causes of pacifism and women's suffrage. She helped found the New England Women’s Club and the New England Woman Suffrage Association. In 1869, she became co-leader with Lucy Stone of the American Woman Suffrage Association. Then, in 1870, she became president of the New England Women’s Club. After her husband's death in 1876, she focused more on her interests in reform. She was the founder and from 1876 to 1897 president of the Association of American Women, which advocated for women's education. She also served as president of organizations like the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, the New England Suffrage Association, and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).

In 1870 she founded the weekly Woman’s Journal, a suffragist magazine which was widely read. She contributed to it for twenty years. That same year, she wrote her "Appeal to womanhood throughout the world", later known as Mother's Day Proclamation. It asked women from the world to join for world's peace. In 1874, she edited a coeducational defense titled Sex and Education. She wrote a collection about the places she lived in 1880 called Modern Society. She continued to write until her death.

In 1908 Julia was the first woman to be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a society; its goal is to "foster, assist, and sustain excellence" in American literature, music, and art.

Julia Ward Howe’s accomplishments mostly reside in her contribution to women’s rights.

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