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Howe, Julia Ward (1819-1910)

Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe, born in New York City, was the daughter of a Wall Street broker and banker and a mother who was a poet. Her mother died when she was five. She was educated by governesses and at young ladies’ schools.

Julia published essays on Goethe and Schiller before she married Samuel Gridley Howe, director of the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston. Although they had six children, the marriage was tempestuous. He opposed her having any public role and also resented her having a legacy of $3,000 per year.

Julia Ward Howe was a friend of the prophetic preacher Theodore Parker. During the Civil War, her poem, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. It was an instant hit when sung to the tune of “John Brown’s Body.”

The embattled President Lincoln wept when he first heard it sung.

Books of poetry by her are Passion Flower (1854), Later Lyrics (1866), and From Sunset Ridge: Poems Old and New (1899).

Julia Ward Howe became a transformer of culture. She was the co-leader, with Lucy Stone, of the American Woman Suffrage Association; served as president of the American Association for Women; and helped to found the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.

She was the founder of the weekly Woman’s Journal, and contributed for twenty years to its encouragement of coeducation, as well as advocating legal racial, and gender equality.

She wrote a biography of Margaret Fuller, and she was the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Julia Ward Howe was a Unitarian who sometimes preached from the pulpit of Boston’s esteemed Church of the Disciples, of which she was a member.

At her last party, before she died at the age of ninety-one, she insisted on sampling the champagne.

Only 4,000 people could be admitted to the memorial service honoring her that was held in Symphony Hall.


The Text of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
“As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free;
While God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.


 


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