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Julia Ward Howe Papers

Identifier: MSS 0133

Scope and Contents

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.


  • 1891-1898 and undated


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information. Please see our Sensitive Materials Statement.

Biographical or Historical Information

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.


0.01 Linear Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials



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.

Method of Acquisition

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).

Related Materials

More Julia Ward Howe papers are available at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania.

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Repository Details

Part of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives Repository

P.O. Box 26170
320 College Ave.
Greensboro NC 27402-6170 US