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Finding Aid for the Julia Ward Howe Papers, 1891-1898 and undated

For reference questions, please contact university_manuscripts@uncg.edu.


Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) was a prominent social activist and poet, most famous for penning the Battle Hymn of the Republic. The Julia Ward Howe Papers date from 1891 to 1898 and contain letters and photographs.

Administrative Information

Collection Number

MSS 133


1 folder.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Julia Ward Howe Papers (MSS 133), University Archives and Manuscripts, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Acquisitions Information

Items removed from Reminiscences, 1819-1899, by Julia Ward Howe (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1899), which was a gift to Special Collections by Eugene L. Schwaab (date unknown).

Biographical Note

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) was a prominent social activist and poet best known for penning The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Howe was born in New York City to Samuel Ward, Jr., a stockbroker, and Julia Rush, a poet who died of tuberculosis when Julia was just five years old. Howe was educated at schools for young ladies and by tutors at home until the age of sixteen. Her father died in 1839. Julia married Samuel Gridley Howe, head of the Perkins Institute for the Blind, in 1843; the couple had six children, the last of which was born in 1859.

In South Boston Julia cared for her household and children while her husband participated in prison reform, school reform and abolitionist activities. Unhappy in her new surroundings and prohibited by her husband from participating in public reform work, she attended lectures, privately studied foreign languages, religion, and philosophy, and wrote poetry and drama. Her husband’s resistance to her growing public life and reputation led to difficulties in their marriage, and Julia contemplated divorce more than once during the 1850s.

By far Howe’s most famous work, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, was published in the Atlantic Monthly in February 1862. She wrote the poem in 1861 while in Washington, DC with her husband, who was helping distribute supplies to Massachusetts regiments. Set to the music of “John Brown’s Body,” her poem became the rallying song for the North during the final year of the Civil War.

By 1868, when Howe’s husband no longer opposed her involvement in public life, she seized the opportunity to become active in reform after years of relative isolation. Founder and president of the New England Woman Suffrage Association, she became co-leader, with Lucy Stone, of the American Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. In January 1876, when her husband died, Howe’s public involvement expanded rapidly. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s (and until her death in 1910 at the age of ninety-one), she founded and presided over numerous organizations dedicated to improving opportunities for women in education, politics, and the professions. She also went on speaking tours not only in the United States, but in Europe and the Middle East as well.

Description of Collection

The Julia Ward Howe Papers date from 1891 to 1898 and contain letters and photographs. Correspondents include several prominent social reformers of the time, including her husband, Samuel G. Howe; Mary Livermore, a reformer, writer, and suffrage leader; and Edward Everett Hale, an author, abolitionist, and minister. Also included in the collection is a manuscript note with a fragment of The Battle Hymn of the Republic signed by Howe. The three photographs in the collection are of Julia Ward Howe [circa 1908], Edward Everett Hale [circa 1905], and Lucy Stone [undated]; the silhouette is of Captain Samuel Ward, Howe’s father.

Related Materials

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See more UNCG manuscript collections related to women's studies.

More Julia Ward Howe papers are avaliable at Harvard University, Radcliffe College, and the University of Pennsylvania.