There is some difference of opinion as to which of our patriotic hymns or songs is distinctively the national anthem of America. Senator Hoar seems to have made up his mind in favor of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Writing of its author, Julia Ward Howe, in 1903, he said: “We waited eighty years for our American national anthem. At last God inspired an illustrious and noble woman to utter in undying verse the thought which we hope is forever to animate the soldier of the republic:—
“’In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.’”
Mrs. Julia Ward Howe is as widely known for her learning and literary and poetic achievements as she is for her work as a philanthropist and reformer.
She was born in New York City, in a stately mansion near the Bowling Green, on May 27, 1819. From her birth she was fortunate in possessing the advantages that wealth and high social position bestow. Her father, Samuel Ward, the descendant of an old colonial family, was a member of a leading banking firm of New York. Her mother, Julia Cutter Ward, was a most charming and accomplished woman. She died very young, however, while her little daughter Julia was still a child. Mr. Ward was a man of advanced ideas, and was determined that his daughters should have, as far as possible, the same educational advantages as his sons.
Of course, in those early days there were no separate colleges for women, and they would not be admitted to men’s colleges. It was impossible for Mr. Ward to overcome these difficulties wholly, but he did the next best thing he could for his girls. He engaged as their tutor the learned Dr. Joseph Green Cogswell, and instructed him to put them through the full curriculum of Harvard College.
On her entrance into society the “little Miss Ward,” as Julia had been called from her childhood, at once became a leader of the cultured and fashionable circle in which she moved. In her father’s home she met the most distinguished American men of letters of that time. The liberal education which she had received made the young girl feel perfectly at her ease in such society. In addition to other accomplishments, she was mistress of several ancient and modern languages, and a musical amateur of great promise.
In 1843 Miss Ward was married to Dr. Samuel G. Howe, director of the Institute for the Blind in South Boston, Massachusetts. Immediately after their marriage Dr. and Mrs. Howe went to Europe, where they traveled for some time. The home which they established in Boston on their return became a center for the refined and literary society of Boston and its environment. Mrs. Howe’s grace, learning, and accomplishments made her a charming hostess and fit mistress of such a home.