Julia Ward Howe: More than the Battle Hymn

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Julia Ward Howe: More than the Battle Hymn "Mine Eyes have seen the coming of the Glory of the Lord…." Almost effortlessly the rest of the familiar tune comes rolling off the tongue. The battle Hymn of the Republic, a traditional and powerful patriotic hymn, will undoubtedly remain that way for years to come. However is the average American able to place a face with that tune? Julia Ward Howe was the bright mind behind the Battle Hymn, but she did not stop there. Howe's life and poetry succeeded in meshing contrasting religions and beliefs, as well as strengthen and challenge the freedoms of women during her time. In New York City, in the year 1819, Julia Ward was born into a strict Episcopalian Calvinist Family. Loosing her mother at a young age, Julia was raised by her father and an aunt. Not long after her mothers death Julia's father, a successful banker in the city, passed away, leaving Julia in the sole custody of her uncle. During her childhood she had been brought up believing in the strict and conservative views of Calvinism. Julia's mind was filled with the ideas and principles behind predestination and ramus logic, always encouraged to look for the hand of God first and then base everything else in society off of the premises she was taught (30). After the death of her father, Julia began searching for deeper meaning. She went through an intense period of revival as she attended church and became more and more involved with religious activities in the city. She soon began to notice, however, that men dominated this new conviction. Men wrote the sermons, men published the books, and men told her what she needed to do to become closer to God. Soon Julia's strict Calvinist kick would end (48). Prompted by Mary Ward, Julia took a winter "off" from any outside influences to get her thoughts in order. After this time she began to read and research Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson's introduction into Transcendentalism offered Julia the presence of God without the dominating male authority. Transcendentalism theory stressed the immanence of God and his active presence in everyone's life. She agreed with the idea that the bible was not meant to be taken literally, but that one's own intuition could lead to an understanding of God. These new and radical views for her time, coupled with her Calvinist upbringing, seems like it would be the recipe for disaster.

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