"Riveting" -- The New York Times Book Review
"A biography with the verve and pace of a delicious novel...a polemic and a pleasure." -- The Boston Globe
The first biography to reveal Julia Ward Howe--the author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic --as a feminist pioneer who fought her own battle for creative freedom and independence. Read more...
"Riveting" --The New York Times Book Review
"A biography with the verve and pace of a delicious novel...a polemic and a pleasure." --The Boston Globe
The first biography to reveal Julia Ward Howe--the author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic--as a feminist pioneer who fought her own battle for creative freedom and independence.
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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-01-04
- Reviewer: Staff
In this flowing narrative, Showalter (A Jury of Her Peers), emeritus professor of English at Princeton University, examines the life of Julia Ward (1819–1910) and her marriage to Samuel Gridley Howe (1801–1876) in the context of 19th-century America. Julia Ward Howe is often portrayed as the matronly lyricist of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” but her early reputation as a beautiful young talent earned her the nickname of Diva. Howe’s need for attention and difficult personality resulted in a tumultuous relationship with her equally needy and impressive husband, a hero of the Greek Revolution who later founded the Perkins School for the Blind. Showalter argues that the Howes’ marriage superficially mirrors the American Civil War, with Howe fighting for her right to write poetry and study philosophy, and losing battles over where she lived and how many children she bore. Nearing 50 and unsuccessful with her speaking engagements, Howe joined the suffrage movement, earning Showalter’s designation as a major American heroine. Showalter skillfully reveals the depths of Howe’s pain and talent, though she gives only cursory historical context for the abolitionist’s racist comments. Nevertheless, Howe’s resilience and success in light of her family’s efforts to thwart her ambition make her worthy of Showalter’s admiring biography. Agent: Elaine Markson, Elaine Markson Literary Agency. (Mar.)