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Julia Ward Howe

John ElliottBegun c. 1910, finished c. 1925

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Born New York City

For years Julia Ward Howe yearned to take a more active part in public affairs. But her husband, the noted Boston reformer Samuel Gridley Howe, insisted that she confine herself to running their home. In 1861, however, she unwittingly transformed herself into a minor celebrity by writing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Composed during a visit to Washington, this fiercely martial poem, dedicated to the Union cause, was set to the music of "John Brown's Body." By 1865 it had become the North's unofficial wartime anthem.

After the Civil War, Howe finally broke the constraints imposed by her husband to become one of the best-loved figures in the growing women's suffrage movement. This portrait was begun in Howe's last years by her son-in-law, who attempted to portray her as she might have looked years earlier, writing the "Battle Hymn."

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