Julia Ward, daughter of Samuel Ward and Julia Rush Cutler, was born 27 May 1819 in New York City, New York. Julia was the fourth of seven children. She was an aunt to Francis Marion Crawford.
As a child in New York City, Julia received upbringing and education in the homes of eccentric relatives after her mother died of tuberculosis when Julia was only five. Going between the homes of her zealously Calvinist father and uncle and her social, literary aunt helped to instill in her a lifelong conflict between poetic "indulgence" and an abiding fear of frivolity.
In Boston, where she felt bored and ineffective as a homemaker and her husband adamantly opposed her participation in public life, she began to publish poems and plays anonymously, most of which critics panned as dark, melodramatic, or immoral. Despite his resistance to women's political involvement and his anger towards her unflattering descriptions of him in her writing, Samuel Howe nonetheless allowed his wife to assist him in editing his antislavery paper the Commonwealth and to become involved in the abolitionist cause. On an 1861 trip to visit the Union camps near Washington, she penned her famous Battle-Hymn of the Republic publishing it the following year in the Atlantic Monthly. Set to the tune of the folk song "John Brown's Body," the "Battle-Hymn of the Republic" swept the North within a year, allegedly bringing tears to Lincoln's eyes and bestowing upon Julia Ward Howe unexpected celebrity. It was first thought of in late 1861 while she was in Washington, DC and Union troops during the American Civil War were everywhere. Julia was paid $5.00 for the poem. It was soon set to music by William Steffe and became quite popular. Its legacy has lasted for decades.
She also promoted the idea of Mother’s Peace Day starting in May 1872. This later became the annual month of May Mother’s Day celebration.
She was a featured speaker at the Howe Family Gathering in Framingham, Massachusetts in 1871.
Julie died October 10, 1917 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. She is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After her death, a biography put together by her children and published in 1916. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography.
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Categories: American Academy of Arts and Letters | Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts | Abolitionists | US Civil Rights Activists | United States, Poets | National Women's Hall of Fame (United States) | Example Profiles of the Week | Hymn Writers | Notables | Activists and Reformers