Skip to main content

Julia Ward Howe

Begun by
John Elliott, 1858 - 1925
Finished by
William Henry Cotton, 22 Jul 1880 - 5 Jan 1958
Sitter
Julia Ward Howe, 27 May 1819 - 17 Oct 1910
Date
Begun c. 1910, finished c. 1925
Type
Painting
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
Stretcher: 108 x 72.1 x 2.5cm (42 1/2 x 28 3/8 x 1")
Frame: 123.2 x 87.3 x 7cm (48 1/2 x 34 3/8 x 2 3/4")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; transfer from the Smithsonian American Art Museum; gift of Maud Howe Elliott to the Smithsonian Institution, 1933
Object number
NPG.65.31
Exhibition Label
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."
Provenance
The sitter; her daughter Maud Howe Elliott [Mrs. John Elliott]; gift to Smithsonian [NCFA] 1933; transferred 1965 to NPG.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
Exhibition
American Origins
On View
NPG, East Gallery 112