Julia Ward Howe


Julia Ward Howe


So many great suffragists were born for the struggle. They were iconoclasts, rebels from the beginning. Many remained unmarried, or married unusual men who respected them. Not Julia Ward Howe. 🧵

She was born wealthy, raised privileged, and nicely educated for a girl of 1830s New York City. She married “well,” to a Bostonian 19 years her senior. They honeymooned in Rome, and soon had their first of six children. They hated each other.

He was busy & accomplished - he ran the Perkins Institute for the Blind and was involved in school and prison reform, aid work, and abolitionism. None of this made Samuel Gridley Howe a feminist. He opposed Julia having any public life. She contemplated divorce, but incompatibility was not grounds for divorce in the 1850s.

Julia never fit in in Boston. Her restlessness, disinterest in domesticity, and sharp wit were all wrong there. She became a poet & a playwright - to her husband’s humiliation. Her plays were full of violent love, betrayal and suicide. They were literally banned in Boston.

Reviewing 20 years of marriage, Ward Howe wrote in her journal: “In the course of that time I have never known my husband to approve of any act of mine which I myself valued.”

Suffrage saved her. After the Civil War she fell in with Lucy Stone and the New England suffragists who became the American Woman Suffrage Association. They were the pro-15th Amendment faction, and eventually became the more respectable, conservative wing of the movement.

She wasn’t an experienced activist like Lucy Stone or ElizCadyStanton or SusanB Anthony, all of whom had been organizing and lecturing on abolitionism & feminism for decades. But Stone was happy to have a prominent woman join the ranks--and Julia finally found a place she fit in.

Julia spent more than 30 years campaigning for suffrage, traveling and lecturing. She continued to write poetry. Her husband died in 1876; Julia lived decades more. She was the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts & Letters, in 1908.

About that song…

The Atlantic Monthly published Julia Ward Howe’s poem “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It wasn’t her first published poem, and didn’t attract much attention until it was set to the tune of “John Brown’s Body” and became a hit in the North.

Legend has it that President Lincoln wept when he heard it. If you're already singing “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…” watch
@JonBatiste's version.

I hope Julia Ward Howe would enjoy.

#suffrage100 #19thAmendment #15thAmendment


Daily Suffragist


October 17, 2020 (and originally 03/02/2020)


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Daily Suffragist, “Julia Ward Howe,” Daily Suffragist, accessed April 15, 2024, https://dailysuffragist.omeka.net/items/show/229.

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