As a writer, poet, reformer and lecturer, Howe worked throughout her life for justice. In 1861, she authored The Battle Hymn as an inspiration to Union soldiers fighting against slavery. Howe's work is now the national anthem for freedom.
Of even greater importance to her, she founded, with Lucy Stone and others, the New England Women's Club, which later became the American Woman Suffrage Association. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, Howe lectured and wrote on women's rights. She fought not only for the right to vote, but also struggled to liberate women from the confinement of the traditional "womanís place" in stifling marriages like her own, where none of her ideas were valued or accepted. She also worked for world peace, founding, in 1891, the American Friends of Russian Freedom, and serving as president, in 1894, of the United Friends of Armenia.
In 1907, Howe became the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has also received three honorary doctorates of letters degrees. The citation for her LL.D. degree from Smith College best explains her importance: "Poet and patriot, lover of letters and learning; advocate for over half a century in print and living speech of great causes of human liberty; [and] sincere friend of all that makes for the elevation and enrichment of women."