Cover image for Diva Julia : the public romance and private agony of Julia Ward Howe
Diva Julia : the public romance and private agony of Julia Ward Howe
Ziegler, Valarie H., 1954-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Harrisburg, Pa. : Trinity Press International, [2003]

Physical Description:
xi, 228 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS2018 .Z54 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The compelling story of an ambitious woman trapped in the confines of nineteenth-century expectations-especially those of her own husband. The complex life of the Battle Hymn of the Republic author comes into focus in this new biography, which was the recipient of the inaugural Trinity Prize.

Author Notes

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

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Ziegler (religious studies, DePauw Univ.) asserts that Julia Ward Howe's career is defined by an acute conflict between autonomy and Victorian notions of female respectability. This conflict was especially tumultuous and extravagant in the pre-Civil War years of her marriage to Samuel Gridley Howe, who insisted that his wife forgo her formidable and demonstrated talents for poetry, philosophical speculation, and public expression in favor of the true womanly fulfillment to be found in devoting herself entirely to him and their six children. After her husband's death in 1876, Ward Howe fashioned a successful public speaking career, especially in the service of the women's movement; she also reconceived her own past and became a "sage of domesticity," eliding the restrictions of and anger at her own experience of marriage and maternity. Her children and grandchildren heightened this revision in their accounts of the exemplary Howe family. As one would expect, both Ziegler's account of Ward Howe's maddening dilemma and the content of Ward Howe's early works make for more compelling reading than do the iconic versions of her life. Ziegler's portrayal of the Howes' revisions shows them to be striking products of Victorian gender ideology and family politics. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All collections; all levels. M. L. Robertson Sweet Briar College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1

p. 15

Childhood Days: Life with Fatherp. 16
Diva Julia: Life after Fatherp. 23
Chapter 2

p. 31

The Love Boatp. 31
My Voice Is Frozen to Silencep. 38
A Debt We Owe to Naturep. 40
So Fierce an Opponentp. 48
The Happy Homep. 54
Chapter 3

p. 61

Quite a Little Romancep. 62
Roman Holidayp. 71
An Irreparable Lossp. 76
Passion-Flowersp. 78
I Spoke in Fablesp. 85
The Childrenp. 92
Chapter 4

p. 97

War Workp. 98
The Beautiful Boyp. 100
The Same Old Song and Dancep. 103
Oppositionp. 107
Giving Peace a Chancep. 113
The Final Curtainp. 118
Chapter 5

p. 125

Rambling Rossap. 127
Like Mother, Like Daughter?p. 132
A Death in the Familyp. 136
The Ideal Wife and Motherp. 148
Poet, Seer, and Woman Toop. 153
In Memoriamp. 156
Strike Home!p. 163
Notesp. 169
Selected Bibliographyp. 213
Indexp. 219