was born in New York City in 1819 and died in Portsmouth, Rhode Island in 1910. On her father's side she was descended from Roger Williams and two governors of Rhode Island. Her mother was the great grand niece of Revolutionary War legend Francis Marion (nicknamed "The Swamp Fox”). Julia's father, Samuel, was a successful Wall Street banker. Her mother, Julia, a published poet, died shortly after giving birth to her seventh child. The Ward children were left to the care of their father.

       Samuel Ward’s concern for the welfare of his children was often overpowering. Julia was from the first an intelligent and inquisitive child. She educated herself and became a formidable intellect in a time when women were very limited in their educational endeavors. Julia benefited from the excellent library her brother shipped from Europe during his travels. Without her father’s knowledge she became acquainted with writers such as Balzac and Sand. Their modern ideas regarding the world contrasted sharply with the puritanical Calvinism espoused by her father. Julia was torn between her love for her father and her ambitions as a writer, a thinker and an individual.

Julia was as fun loving as she was serious. As a wealthy heiress, social contact (though limited by her father) brought her into contact with some of the leading minds of the time. It was her brother Sam who exposed her to people like Longfellow, Dickens, Charles Sumner and Margaret Fuller. When their father died in 1839, it was to Sam's house that Julia and her two sisters moved. Sam had recently married Emily Astor, the favorite grandchild of John Jacob Astor. Under her supervision, Julia and her sisters were introduced to New York society. Too soon tragedy struck, though, and in 1841 Emily Astor and her newborn son both died. Sam and his sisters were cast back into mourning.

Not long after this, in April of 1843, Julia met and quickly married Samuel Gridley Howe, himself famous for his work on behalf of the Greek Revolution, for his reform work for prisoners, and his efforts in education for the blind. Life certainly would have turned out differently had Julia’s parents lived to see her married. And only she could know whether all of the tragedy and confusion in her family caused her to marry someone more quickly than she otherwise would have. However, by summer the newlyweds were embarked on a wedding trip to Europe accompanied by Julia’s youngest sister Annie.

Much current scholarship is devoted to the analysis of the couple’s well-documented and tumultuous relationship. Julia grew from being a coddled and cared-for, yet independent-minded New York heiress, into a wife and mother living in the remote, isolated quarters of the Perkins’ Institute for the blind, in Watertown, Massachusetts (outside Boston), where her husband was engaged with his teaching and philanthropy.

Samuel Gridley Howe was twenty years older than his young wife, and upon their marriage (and against the protestations of Julia's family), he took charge of the income received from her large estate. Julia was not to have charge of her economic affairs until her husband died in 1876. At that point, though, due to a series of bad investments by both her husband and her uncle and brothers, much of the money was spent. Julia found herself a widow with a very meager income. By the end of her own life Julia was a workingwoman, earning her own money and in control of her own life. But at the time of her marriage circumstances were quite different.

Samuel Gridley Howe was a strong willed and autocratic husband. He forbade Julia from working outside of the home. His views on the roles of married women suggested that they forge a career out of ‘wifely duties’ and motherhood. Julia Ward Howe spent the first several years of her marriage engaged in rearing children and reading philosophy, attempting to reconcile herself to her new life in Boston. Her letters to her sisters during this period indicate that this was a difficult time for the couple. Julia expresses depression and sorrow, and she describes the struggles of a 19th century woman seeking independence and understanding.

Trouble between Sam and Julia continued to escalate, and in 1852 the couple separated. Julia and her two youngest children stayed with her sister in Rome while her two eldest daughters remained in Boston with their father. During this period a family dynamic emerged between the couple and their children that would remain throughout their lives.

Not long after her return, she broke with her husband's wishes about making public her work. “Passion Flowers,” a collection of her poems was published anonymously. However the author’s identity soon became know probably because many of the poems were so personally descriptive. While the poetry itself was not very well received, the sentiments presented were sensational. The poems revealed the intimate affairs of a ‘real’ man and woman, hinted at infidelity, openly challenged her husband's authority and generally exposed the author in a manner which Boston society found shocking for a woman. Sam was devastated by what he perceived to be his wife's disobedience and betrayal. Their marriage remained strained. Julia retreated into her previous depression, yet it is clear that she had developed a new resolve.

Julia became very involved in the reform movement and supported issues like abolition, women's rights, prison reform and education. She developed close friendships with members of the Boston intellectual elite -- William Ellery Channing, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and Theodore Parker.

Despite his objections to Julia’s working outside the home, Sam relied heavily on his wife as editor and writer for his newspaper, "The Commonwealth." This short-lived venture was seen by many as incendiary propaganda for the abolition movement. As the Civil War approached, Howe became heavily involved in the funding of John Brown's revolution. When John Brown was captured, Sam fled to Canada to avoid prosecution as a collaborator. An excellent history of this period, and his involvement, can be found in the book, The Secret Six, by Edward Renahan.

While Sam objected to Julia’s work, he did not always stop her from attending to it; and while Julia was prevented from attending to some of the work she wished to engage in, she managed to free herself from her husband’s demands and secure her own interests. She was fluent in seven languages and a serious scholar of philosophy. When her poem, the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," was published in 1861, it brought her instant celebrity, and the song would make her one of the most famous women in 19th century America.

Julia continued her study and work for reform. Women’s Suffrage was the cause she was most involved in and she began to be known for her strong and outspoken views. Julia was the mother of seven children, one of whom, Sam Jr., died during infancy. Her marriage had now settled into a workable arrangement. Her fame brought her even more autonomy, and her ambitions were beginning to be realized. By the time her husband died in 1876, she had established a career for herself as a preacher, a reformer, a writer and a poet.

In the first journal entry after her husband's death Julia wrote, "Start my new life today," and indeed she did. For the next forty some years she was a strong force. She answered to no one except herself and God. Julia traveled the world promoting Women's Rights, Peace, Prison and Education Reform as a preacher, lecturer and dignitary. She was seen as a bridge between Society and Reform and used her celebrity and social status to further her ideology.

Among her many contributions to American society is her famous "Battle Hymn of the Republic," which has become a national anthem of sorts. She was also co-editor and writer for The Woman's Journal, which lobbied for suffrage and human rights. She was instrumental in creating Mother's Day, which she envisioned as a day of solemn council where women from all over the world could meet to discuss the means whereby to achieve world peace. They would also convene as mothers, keeping in mind the duty of protecting their children. She became the first woman elected to the Society of Arts and Letters, and the biography of her, written by her children, won the Pulitzer Prize.

In addition to her reform work, Julia Ward Howe wrote travel books, children's fiction and music. Oscar Wilde paid her a visit in Newport. William Dean Howell's regretted not knowing her better. Emerson wished she were from Boston. And Samuel Clemens was a cohort and friend. Julia Ward Howe's letters and diaries read like a who’s-who of 19th century history, and her ideas are as pertinent today as they were during her own lifetime.

There is so much more to be known and understood about the life of Julia Ward Howe. As current scholars note, there is much to be studied regarding gender and sexual politics. Gary Williams, author of “The Hungry Heart: The Literary Emergence of Julia Ward Howe," has recently published a manuscript of hers dealing explicitly with gender politics in a work entitled, "The Hermaphrodite."

Julia Ward Howe had her faults, and none is more notable than her vanity. She thought very well of herself and was not afraid to voice her less than generous assessments of others. She often revealed her own ignorance and stubbornness, and perhaps this accounts for the solitude she encountered during her early years in Boston. However, over time, she outlived many of her detractors and her status as an American icon became almost mythical. Some refer to her as "The Queen of America."