Julia Ward Howe’s Real Life’s Work Was Spreading ‘Helpful Philosophy’

Famous for Writing ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ the Poet Sought to Uplift American Life

Julia Ward Howe’s fame rests largely on “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Written at one of the Civil War’s darkest moments, the poem appeared on the front page of the February 1862 issue of the abolitionist Atlantic Monthly, and quickly became the best-known anthem of the Union cause. It appeared in newspapers across the North and West, while preachers incorporated it into their sermons. President Lincoln wept as he heard it sung in the Capitol in 1864.

Yet Howe hoped to be remembered for much more. By its very …