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Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910)
Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) was a prominent American abolitionist, social activist, and poet most famous as the author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Born Julia Ward in New York City, she was the fourth of seven children born to Samuel Ward (1786 – 1839) and Julia Rush Cutler. Her father was a well-to-do banker. Her mother died when she was five and when she was young she learned many languages such as Italian.
In 1843 she married a hero of the Greek revolution, physician Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe nicknamed Chev, who founded the Perkins Institute for the Blind. The couple made their home in South Boston, had six children (five of whom lived to adulthood), and were active in the Free Soil Party. She was a member of the Unitarian church.
Howe’s “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, set to William Steffe’s already-existing music, was first published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862 and quickly became one of the most popular songs of the Union during the American Civil War.
In 1870 Howe was the first to proclaim Mother’s Day, with her Mother’s Day Proclamation.
After the war Howe focused her activities on the causes of pacifism and women’s suffrage. From 1872 to 1879, she assisted Lucy Stone and Henry Brown Blackwell in editing Woman’s Journal
On January 28, 1908 Howe became the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Howe was inducted posthumously into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.
Howe died in October of 1910 of pneumonia at her home, Oak Glen, in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, at the age of 91. She is buried in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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