Diva Julia: The Public Romance and Private Agony of Julia Ward Howe

Diva Julia: The Public Romance and Private Agony of Julia Ward Howe

by Valarie H. Ziegler, Valarie H. Zielger
     
 

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Julia Ward Howe, celebrated in her own day, remains known as the author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and as an early proponent of Mother's Day. Ziegler's biography contrasts Howe's public image with the private struggle she endured as an ambitious woman trapped in a confining and desperately unhappy marriage.

The sheltered daughter of a wealthy New York

Overview

Julia Ward Howe, celebrated in her own day, remains known as the author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and as an early proponent of Mother's Day. Ziegler's biography contrasts Howe's public image with the private struggle she endured as an ambitious woman trapped in a confining and desperately unhappy marriage.

The sheltered daughter of a wealthy New York family, Julia Ward married the dashing Samuel Gridley Howe in 1843, when she was twenty-three. By all accounts it was a romantic match, but what looked to be a fairy-tale marriage turned out to be a nightmare. Although Julia was a published author at the time of their marriage, her husband expected her to give up her writing and devote herself entirely to family life. He wanted her to have children, and she wanted to be famous, to continue to write and publish. Howe's children published books celebrating the family's life, but private papers record the discrepancies between the ideal public picture and reality.

Howe's quest for autonomy and respectability was blocked by Victorian America, and Ziegler's account of Howe's life and struggles makes for a remarkable read.

Valarie H. Ziegler is Professor of Religious Studies at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
In her biography, Diva Julia, Valarie H. Ziegler, who teaches religious studies at DePauw University, elucidates the complicated truths behind the Howes' ''celebratory public images'' of a ''noble Victorian family'' headed by parents devoted to each other and to public service. — Sherie Posesorski
Publishers Weekly
Among the many wise decisions Ziegler (The Advocates of Peace in Antebellum America) makes in her revealing treatment of Julia Ward Howe's life, the most compelling is her consistent effort to let Howe speak for herself. And why not? Poet, playwright, political activist and philosopher Howe (1819-1910) was brilliantly articulate: "the soul whose desires are not fixed upon the unattainable is dead even while it liveth." If desiring the easily attainable is, indeed, death, then Howe was ecstatically alive. Ziegler's fluid narrative depicts her as the first "superwoman," juggling a tumultuous marriage to social activist Samuel Gridley Howe, the domestic strains of five children and always a desire to write and participate in the intellectual world. Her first success was a controversial book of poetry, Passion Flowers, which Ziegler meticulously analyzes. Refreshingly, Ziegler handles close readings skillfully but is simultaneously able to meaningfully discuss the larger implications of Howe's message during difficult times, especially for women. Howe was instrumental in the abolitionist and suffragist movements, as well as in the nascent global peace movement, so it isn't surprising that much has been written on her. Howe's own children wrote extensively on her remarkable life of ideas and action, but no one has been so thorough or bold as Ziegler. She moves past the apparent implications within Howe's work and avoids painting a cheery picture where there is none. Instead, she presents an honest look at Howe's personal struggles to do great public works, and her biography is the better for it. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781563384189
Publisher:
Bloomsbury Academic
Publication date:
10/01/2003
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author


Valarie H. Ziegler is Professor of Religious Studies at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

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