Many Americans know the famous historical Civil War anthem, the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
But did you know it was written by a female writer and suffragette?
It was Julia Ward Howe, a famous author and activist who dedicated much of her life to social activism.
Julia was born in New York City in 1819. Her father was a prominent banker, and her mother was a poet. After her mom died when she was only five, she was given an education from her aunt, who inspired her love of literature and poetry. She began writing poems at a young age and started publishing material in magazines by the time she was 20.
While visiting friends in Boston in the 1840s, she met and married Samuel Gridley Howe, the director of the Perkins Institute for the Blind. They had six children together, but unfortunately, it wasn’t a very happy marriage. Julia found solace in writing and continued to do so despite her husband wanting her to commit to a life as a housewife.
Although Julia and Samuel were often at odds, they were both passionate about ending slavery in America and wrote journals that advocated for abolition together.
Julia started getting more poetry collections and plays published throughout the 1850s and began writing about the Civil War in the 1860s. After a visit to Washington, D.C., in 1861, she wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as a poem. It was published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862 and then used as lyrics set to music written by William Steffe. Today, it is considered the Union’s Civil War anthem.
After the war ended, Julia threw herself into the women’s suffragette movement. In 1868, she helped found both the New England Suffrage Association and the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association.
Alongside co-leader Lucy Stone, Julia founded the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) in 1869. For 20 years, Julia edited the AWSA’s official journal, the “Woman’s Journal.” From the late 1870s to the 1890s, she served as the president of the Association for the Advancement of Women, which advocated for women to receive a proper education.