Talking History – Julia Ward Howe

I’ve just found that a poem I recorded a long time ago, by Julia Ward Howe, has been used as part of a history podcast. The segment starts off with a lovely combined voice recording of her Mother’s Day Proclamation, and then continues with my own recording of her inspired Mother Mind. The show was released on 7th May, which I think fits in with the US Mother’s Day celebration … though we in Britain did it somewhat earlier on 22nd March.

I must confess, I hadn’t read this poem in a “Mothering Sunday” light at all, nor had I realised the poet had written “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” I am now better informed and have thought about the poem further. I like her idea of a Mothers’ Peace Day observance far more than the commercial orgy of flowers and chocolates. Nothing says “Happy Mother’s Day” like your children being alive, safe and happy, rather than wounded or killed in any kind of war.

More information about the Talking History podcast here. Or listen: [audio:] (03:44)
(Howe is Segment 2, Segments 1 and 3 are titled “The Good Mother: A History of American Motherhood.”)


  • Julia Ward Howe is well-known in the U.S. as the poetess who wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. It is a remarkable poem with truly powerful lines – which, she says, came to her overnight, in a fury of inspiration, while visiting a Union camp – but apropos of your comment about Mother’s Day, one of the Hymn’s lines, “Let us die to make men free”, is now much more commonly sung as “Let us LIVE to make men free”. I suppose that, mother or not, Ms. Howe believed that certain causes, and some kinds of wars, were worth dying in.

    Can we hear you read the Hymn?

  • PS: Again apropos of Mother’s Day, I just remembered another line from the Hymn: “Let the hero born of woman crush the serpent ‘neath his heel….”

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