My husband comes, a saucy elf,
And eyes the saucepan on the shelf;
Says he, “Why don’t you cook yourself?”
Cookery bookery, oh!
Julia Ward Howe
“Julia Ward Howe is renowned as the poet who woke up one night in an inspired state to pen the lyrics of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the song that would become the victorious psalm of the Civil War,” writes Nina Martyris.
But what few know is that the writer, reformer and mother of six who wrote those stirring words – “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord” – was adrift in a lonely war of her own, against a husband who sought to control every aspect of her life, from what she wrote to what she ate.
According to a new biography, Howe’s husband Samuel – that’s him on the right – was a dyspeptic soul who wanted his wife to cook and keep house, but banned “all fried abominations.” Their daughter Maud recalled that “pastry, high seasoning, ham, cocoanut cakes – all rich foods were anathema maranatha,“ and even at the age of 91, Howe was writing pleading letters to her doctor, asking for his permission to consume ham and pastry over her family’s objections.
– Petra (about to raise a ham and cheese croissant in JWH’s honor)
Images via The Yellow House Papers: The Laura E. Richards Collection, Gardiner Library Association and Maine Historical Society, Coll. 2085, RG10, F6; Samuel Gridley Howe, 1857. Courtesy of Perkins School for the Blind Archives.