Julia Ward Howe, “The Dearest Old Lady”





Many will always consider men as the key makers of the American history and neglect the fact that women participated in making key changes that define America today. Women participated in many things including indirectly change of the constitution to allow women to vote among others. One of most remembered women in America is Julia Ward Howe. Julia Ward was an artist, a poet, a social activist, an abolitionist and known for composing the civil war anthem.

Julia Ward Howe was born in New York City on May 27, 1819 to a successful wall street banker Samuel as his father. Besides her father being a banker she was the fourth born of a famous poet Julia Rush Ward which explains why she loved poetry; perhaps she learnt the art from her mother. Being born in a well to do family, she was educated privately and became one of the elite women during the time of civil war and also during the era of women suffrage. She was a descendant of the founder of Rhodes Island which was founded in 1636 by Rodger Williams. After he mother died while she was five years, she was then schooled by her aunt who made it sure she had education in languages, science and literature. The famous poet started her career as early as twenty years when she her first poem was published in magazines with an anonymous author.

Her writing skills grew further after her father died back in 1839. She begun to visit notable writers and other people in social circles in Boston. Among then includes, Margret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It is through the travels the she gained much exposure to the outside world which would then make her careers and her pioneer life successful.

Julia Ward was a great poet and song writer she is remembered for her Cold War song titled “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” which she wrote in 1861. During this year, Julia overheard troops of men who were against slavery from the Northern side singing John Brown’s body and she was keen enough to get the words of the song. The activity inspired her to write a song with lyrics which were going to show the unity and righteousness of the people from the North who viewed slavery as an act against human rights. The song become famous and everyone from the North and other parts of the song would sing it and referred it to as glory, glory hallelujah since the words were part of the song. The song was sung in churches, camp meetings, among other social and political gatherings as it gave hope on victory. Julia Ward being an abolitionist it was definite that the song encouraged the people that slavery would one day come to an end. The song itself had civil war in it and people connected it with abolition, the key explanations why people war fighting the war and the fact that judgement for doing wrong things would one day be passed upon the people of the south. Julia Ward is greatly remembered for her abolitionist efforts which were clearly seen in the song.

Besides writhing the famous song, Julia Ward Howe inspired many poets and writers since she wrote other poems, songs and books. Among them include Passion-Flowers, from sunset ridge and books such as “The Life of Margret Fuller” being one of the key people who inspired her literacy works. Indeed, her works pioneered literature since the poems and songs published by her are still studied today in English and campus literature across the world. In 1876 she also wrote a flattering history of her husband, Dr. Samuel Howe when he died even after making confessions of being involved with many women. She got married to Howe in 1848 with six children. Her husband played a role in her poetry works since they wrote some pieces together. Also, from her marriage she wrote dark educative poems about how she felt unhappy with her marriage life.

Howe advocated for international peace through her essays, poems and books. Howe won the hearts of many. In 1908, as a result of her efforts in literature she was the first woman to be elected into the American Academy of Arts and letters. The election and writing of the cold war song made her one of the most recognized women in America around the world.

Further, she is also famous for her efforts in fighting for women rights. Initially, women in the United States were less privileged more so after the country gained independence and the inequality went on until early 20th century. Women could not vote, it was hard for a woman to get employed to do technical jobs since many wanted women to stay back at home and do house chores. Together with other women such as Elizabeth Candy Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Julia Ward pioneered the success of women being granted the right to vote in early twentieth century. To add on this, Julia Howe was a successful abolitionist who contributed in the abolition of slave trade and advocated for reforms in the prison system of the United States in the late nineteenth century.

Howe championed women rights by founding Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association as well as the New England Suffrage Association in 1868 which would then ease and form a platform for women to advocate for their rights. Besides the two, she together with Lucy Stone they founded the American Women Suffrage association to champion for the fifteenth amendment since the other organization of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton was divided on whether to champion for the amendment. As an active member of the Women Suffrage, Howe is also greatly remembered for aiding in the establishment of the Woman’s Journal AWSA’s newspaper, where as a good literature person, she edited it for 20 years.

In her works of advocating for peace, Howe presided over the Women’s International Peace Association which took place in 1871. She lectured for the Unitarian Church and institutions and whenever she went she advocated for peace. She helped organize the Association for the Advancement of Women in 1873 which would them enhance education for women making them to become qualified to enter into professions and pursue different careers in college. It is through her that many women became literate and started to advocate for their rights in 1890s and 1900s.

There are many things to remember Julia Ward for as a great woman. From the above points on why she is important, she is iconic for the great efforts she made in changing the rights of women and fighting for women to get a better place in the political world. Howe stands out for being a greater elite who knew what to do with her education and not being self-centered with the knowledge she had. Many people fail to help others when they have a chance to. For this case, Howe helped the slaves, women and generally Americans in advocating for peace and fighting for people’s rights. She is important today for fighting for the rights of women and creating an elite society of women. Maybe if she would have not, then women would have been granted equal rights later in the mid-20th century.

Besides all the above, she was a hygienic woman who worked together with the U.S Sanitary commission, she helped to ensure that soldiers and women lived in clean conditions. Also, the organization ensured clean hospital environment during the Civil War era. Because of her legendary works she was awarded an Honorary degree at Smith College making her total degrees to be three. Many termed her as “Dearest Old Lady in America,” before she met her death on 17th October 1910.

Just like Howe people need to use their knowledge to ensure the country moves forward and at least make other people’s lives become better. Howe did all her works with passion and that is why she became successful. She is remembered till today and that is why all people should always strive to make a positive change once they have education.


Mead, Walter Russell. “Recent Books: The United States: The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe: A Biography.” Foreign Affairs 95, no. 3 (2016): 172.

Barrett, Anna. “SOUTHERN LADIES AND SUFFRAGISTS: Julia Ward Howe and Women’s Rights at the 1884 New Orleans World’s Fair.” (2016): 369-371.

Howe, Julia Ward. “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” To-day: monthly magazine of scientific socialism 3, no. 14 (1885): 88-88.

Williams, Gary. Hungry Heart: The Literary Emergence of Julia Ward Howe. Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1999.

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