Nancy R. Wurzel
Born in New York City on May 27, 1819, Julia Cutler Ward was raised in an environment of wealth and distinction. Her mother, Julia Rush Cutler Ward, was the grandniece of General Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox" of South Carolina, and her father, Samuel Ward, claimed descent from two early governors of Rhode Island. The Wards provided a happy, nurturing home for their six children, but when Julia Ward died following childbirth in 1824, the tenor of the household changed. In accord with his Calvinistic views, Samuel Ward raised his family, especially the three girls, in an austere atmosphere of virtual isolation. As much as she admired her "dear father['s]" philanthropic work and appreciated his generosity, Julia still perceived him as her "jailer" ( Reminiscences 49). Nevertheless, she had almost seven years of formal education before opting for home study, and Samuel Ward provided excellent tutors. Unlike most girls of the antebellum era, Julia continued her education past the age of sixteen, and her diverse curriculum included French, German, Italian, Latin, history, piano, chemistry, mathematics, and philosophy.
Julia's academic accomplishments, seclusion, and religious training encouraged her "introspective tendency" ( Reminiscences57) as well as her love of literature. Like her mother, she composed religious verses, and a selection of her poems was published in the American by the time she was fourteen ( Clifford 23). Only as an adult did Julia discover that her mother had also written and published poetry, a bold decision for the era. In fact, Rufus Griswold later included the work of each in The Female Poets of America ( 1849).
After her father's death in 1839, Julia observed a two-year period of mourning. Nevertheless, the marriage of her brother into the Astor family in 1838