19th Century Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Julia Ward (1819–1910) was a heiress and aspiring poet when she married Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, an internationally-acclaimed pioneer in the education of the blind. Together the Howes knew many of the key figures of their era, from Charles Dickens to John Brown. But he also wasted her inheritance, isolated and discouraged her, and opposed her literary ambitions. Julia persisted, and continued to publish poems and plays while raising six children.
Authorship of the Battle Hymn of the Republic made her celebrated and revered. But Julia was also continuing to fight a civil war at home; she became a pacifist, suffragist, and world traveler. She came into her own as a tireless campaigner for women’s rights and social reform. Esteemed author Elaine Showalter tells the story of Howe’s determined self-creation and brings to life the society she inhabited and the obstacles she overcame.
It is not often that I switch from historical fiction to historical non-fiction, but in the case of this book, THE CIVIL WARS OF JULIA WARD HOWE, I'm glad I did. This book truly read like a novel at times and it was so interesting, that I eagerly flipped pages. Julia was born into wealth, but married a man of the middle class. What began as a loving relationship, slowly turned into a relationship of restriction and oppressiveness for Julia. Her talent as a poet/writer was continually suppressed by her husband. And although he didn't want to have anything to do with her money at first, that changed too, and he began to take advantage by purchasing and selling property with her funds. She was rarely happy and the marriage continued to deteriorate. Nevertheless, despite all her struggles, all the suppression, all the suffocation and stifling she endured, Julia rose courageously. She gained resounding success with her poem THE BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC, and acquired great fame as a suffragette fighting for women's rights. She worked tirelessly for her charities too.
I completely came to admire this wonderful woman and am so proud of her achievements. This book is definitely recommended for women everywhere as it gives us all hope that we can endure and persevere no matter the adversity we may face!