“Say firmly : We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall 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.”
Again, in the sight of the Christian [sic]* world, have the skill and power of two great nations exhausted themselves in mutual murder. Again have the sacred questions of international justice been committed to the fatal mediation of military weapons. In this day of progress, in this century of light, the ambition of rulers has been allowed to barter the dear interests of domestic life for the bloody exchanges of the battle field. Thus men have done. Thus men will do. But women need no longer be made a party to proceedings which fill the globe with grief and horror. Despite the assumptions of physical force, the mother has a sacred and commanding word to say to the sons who owe their life to her suffering. That word should now be heard, and answered to as never before.
Arise, then, Christian [sic] women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly : We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall 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, 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 the 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 vindicate 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 council.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, man as the brother of man, each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women, without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient, and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.
— Julia Ward Howe
*sic1 sik/ adverb used in brackets after a copied or quoted word that appears odd or erroneous to show that the word is quoted exactly as it stands in the original, as in a story must hold a child’s interest and “enrich his [sic ] life.”
Julia Ward Howe was born on May 27, 1819, in New York City. She became a writer, penning several books and also working on the abolitionist newspaper The Commonwealth with her husband Samuel. Howe is known for writing the lyrics to the iconic song “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and later was highly active in the women’s suffrage movement. She died on October 17, 1910, in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
Early Life and Career
Julia Ward Howe was born Julia Ward in New York City on May 27, 1819, to Julia Rush, a poet, and Samuel Ward Jr., a stockbroker. During her childhood, Ward’s mother passed away, and the girl had a controlled, limited social life due to her father’s conservatism. Ward was taught at home by tutors and attended a girls’ school into her teens.
After her father’s death, Howe moved to Boston, Massachusetts. In 1843, she married Samuel Gridley Howe, a doctor who was also a teacher for the blind. The couple went on to have six children. Their marriage, however, was often not a happy one, as Julia wished to live a life beyond the realm of the home, while her husband had rigid ideas of what a woman’s role should be. Nonetheless, Howe worked as a writer.
In the 1840s, Howe wrote a novel, The Hermaphrodite, which went unpublished for some time. She also penned the books of poetry Passion Flowers (1854) and Words for the Hour (1857) and the play Leonora, or the World’s Own (1857). Howe worked with her husband as editor on the abolitionist paper The Commonwealth as well.
Writing ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’
Upon visiting a camp near Washington, D.C., in November 1861, as part of a trip where Samuel was transporting supplies, Howe sang popular tunes along with troops and spectators. The tunes they sang included “John Brown’s Body,” a marching song for the Union army. Howe was inspired to write new lyrics for the song in the early morning twilight while at her hotel.
The words became the poem “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” published in the Atlantic Monthly in February 1862. Set to music, the Christian-based work would become a famous, rousing cry for the Union during the Civil War and was also used in the anti-slavery and suffrage movements.
A Suffrage Activist
Howe became very active in civic life after the Civil War, working for and forming a number of women’s rights and suffragist organizations. She helped to establish the New England Woman Suffrage Association in 1868 and later worked with the American Woman Suffrage Association and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs International. Fellow suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with the National Woman Suffrage Association, had a different ideological and strategic approach than Howe.
A renowned lecturer, Howe was also an advocate of women being involved in peace movements. She published in 1870 her “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World,” which pushed for a women’s peace congress. Howe also ardently called for an end to the Franco-Prussian War.
Author, Editor and World Traveler
Howe continued her editorial pursuits as well, founding the literary journal Northern Lights and serving as founder and longtime editor of Woman’s Journal. Other books that she published included Sex and Education (1874), Modern Society (1881) and Margaret Fuller (1883), a biography. She also became the first woman to be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, in 1908.
Howe was a globetrotter who traveled throughout the United States in her lifetime, also visiting Cuba (as recounted in her 1860 book A Trip to Cuba), Europe and the Middle East. Cherished as an American icon, Howe died on October 17, 1910, in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
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