Julia Ward Howe sought Peace and Equality

28 Jan

Hello everyone and welcome back to SK.


We are celebrating Julia Ward Howe today, but first an update on last week’s surgery. Many thanks for your well wishes. They are working! Surgeon Deborah Nagle, MD, is “thrilled” with the results. However, our dear one will spend the next few months accepting and learning how to live a “new normal.”


Here’s where family and friends come in. Isn’t it amazing how we can actually feel the pain and suffering of those we love most? We wish there was a giant “Delete” button we could press and make it all disappear. Short of that, we have each other.


OK, we’re getting a bit sappy, so back to our focus: Julia Ward Howe. Like all ambitious and determined individuals, there is a litany of accomplishments, so we’ll only highlight a few here.


Julia was born in NYC in 1819 to a wealthy stockbroker. This allowed her a privileged upbringing and education. She married Samuel Gridley Howe, a physician and founder of the Perkins School for the Blind, who was also 18 years her senior. Together, they had six children. Sam may have been a better physician and sperm donor than a husband. (He was a staunch abolitionist, so he wasn’t ALL bad.)


He did not approve of Julia’s published poems, plays and essays with heavy themes on women’s rights. He forbid her to speak publicly, which she disregarded. (If Julia were alive today, she’d be asking around for a good divorce lawyer.) That not being an option, she used her writing to seek justice for her and all women. Her works were widely read, mainly by women, making Julia realize that she was not the only one stifled by society.


Julia became head of the New England Woman Club. This was no garden club of wide-brimmed hats and white gloves, but a series of lectures and informational hearings on the oppression of women and their rights. She also led the New England Woman Suffrage Association and founded the Women’s Journal, where she published an article on women’s and civil rights every week for 20 years. She later became co-leader of the American Woman Suffrage Association


While Julia Ward Howe was certainly an powerful writer, she is best known from the penning the lyrics to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and campaigning a federal holiday every June 2 called “Mothers Day of Peace.”


The Battle Hymn remains the most famous song to come out of the American Civil War. Julia’s lyrics (see below) replaced two versions of the popular battle song “John Brown’s Body.” The Northern soldiers sang a happy tune regarding the radical abolitionist, the Southerners were not as kind.


Julia and Sam were visiting President Lincoln where she was approached by James Freeman Clarke to rewrite the lyrics to the battle hymn. Here is how the words came to her:


“In spite of the excitement of the day I went to bed and slept as usual, but awoke the next morning in the gray of the early dawn, and to my astonishment found that the wished-for lines were arranging themselves in my brain.”


(My publicist is still waiting for “wished-for lines” to arrange themselves in her brain. Maybe if she got more sleep.)


While Mothers Day of Peace never materialized, we’re giving Julia credit for setting the groundwork for “Mothers Day,” which is still celebrated the second Sunday of May. The concept came to her while visiting with widows and orphans on both sides of the Civil War. She saw first hand how the war annihilated their families, finances and communities. Women lost sons, fathers and husbands, and some, their homes as they could no longer afford to keep them. They were war victims, too.


Her statement for Mother’s Day of Peace is also below. Apologies that we have yet to learn how to better layout our blog pages. Be patient.


Eventually Sam realized trying to keep Julia under wraps was a lost cause, so became more lenient on her activism, not that he could have stopped her anyway. Another honor bestowed Julia Ward Howe is being the first woman to be named to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She died a year later in 1910 of pneumonia.


Have a great day everyone! xo, LMA

Julia Ward Howe’s cry for Mothers Day of Peace

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
great and general interests of peace.

Manuscript Version: Battle Hymn of the Republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
He is trampling out the wine press, where the grapes of wrath are stored,
He hath loosed the fateful lightnings of his terrible swift sword,
His truth is marching on.

I have seen him in the watchfires of an hundred circling camps

They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps,

I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,

His day is marching on.


I have read a burning Gospel writ in fiery rows of steel,

As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal,

Let the hero born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,

Our God is marching on.


He has sounded out the trumpet that shall never call retreat,

He has waked the earth’s dull sorrow with a high ecstatic beat,

Oh! be swift my soul to answer him, be jubilant my feet!

Our God is marching on.


In the whiteness of the lilies he was born across the sea,

With a glory in his bosom that shines out on you and me,

As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,

Our God is marching on.


He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,

He is wisdom to the mighty, he is succour to the brave,

So the world shall be his footstool, and the soul of Time his slave,

Our God is marching on.


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