Stowe, Harriet Beecher

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Stowe, Harriet Beecher

Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of one of America's most famous and popular books, helped to strengthen the Abolition movement by bringing white Americans and people around the world to the realization of the cruelties and misery endured by black slaves in the 1850s. Her book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, was one of the biggest sellers of the nineteenth century, second only to sales of the Bible. Since its publication, the book has never been out of print.

Stowe was born June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut. She was the seventh child of prominent Congregationalist minister Lyman Beecher and his wife Roxana Foote Beecher, who died when Harriet was five. The Stowes grew up in an environment steeped in a Protestant tradition that demanded living a pious and moral life. Stowe's younger brother, Henry Ward Beecher, eventually became one of the country's most famous preachers and a major leader of the abolition movement. Her sister, Catharine, established several schools for young women throughout the United States.

Stowe attended Catharine's Hartford Female Seminary, one of the only schools open to young women at the time. She received an excellent education, and blossomed as a writer under her sister's tutelage. In 1832, she accompanied her sister and father to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Catharine opened another school and their father became president of Lane Theological Seminary. The following year, in 1833, Stowe coauthored and published her first book—a children's geography—under her sister's name.

"Women are the real architects of society."
—Harriet Beecher Stowe

In 1834, Harriet Beecher married widower Calvin Stowe, a poorly paid professor of biblical literature at Lane. During the first seven years of her marriage, Stowe bore five of the seven children they would ultimately have. In order to support their rapidly expanding family, she began writing magazine articles, essays, and other works. In 1843, Stowe published a collection of short stories called The Mayflower. During the 18 years she lived in Cincinnati, Stowe became an observer of the conflicting worlds of abolitionism and Slavery. Across the Ohio River was the slave state of Kentucky. Stowe's family helped to hide runaway slaves. Her husband and brother aided one runaway by transporting her to the next station on the Underground Railroad, the name given to the system of guides and safe houses that enabled escaped Southern slaves to reach freedom and safety in Northern states and Canada. Stowe was engrossed by firsthand accounts and newspaper and magazine articles detailing the horrors of the slave trade and the terrifying incidents that took place as slaves tried to escape.

In 1850, Calvin Stowe got a teaching position at Bowdoin College and the Stowe family moved to Brunswick, Maine. It was there that Stowe penned most of her soon-to-be classic. In 1851–1852, The National Era, an antislavery paper based in Washington, D.C., published in serial form, Stowe's moving account of several members of a slave family and their desperate attempt to flee from a system that rendered them the property of white owners. Stowe's narrative struck an immediate chord. Despite the newspaper's small circulation, word of mouth and the passing of issues among neighbors immediately gave Stowe's tale a larger audience.

In March 1852, her story was published as Uncle Tom's Cabin, or, Life Among the Lowly. The book became an immediate best-seller with sales reaching 500,000 copies by 1857. With its dramatic narrative and heart-rending scenes of the slave Eliza fleeing across a frozen river with her small son in her arms to prevent him from being sold away from her, Stowe's book helped sway much of the public to support, or at least sympathize with, the abolitionist cause. While many Southerners criticized the book, Stowe's harrowing tale gained an increasingly wider audience. Stowe used her newfound renown to speak and write against slavery. In particular, she urged women to become active and to use their powers of persuasion to influence others on the subject.

Although none of her later writings had the impact of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe continued to write numerous stories, essays, and articles. Between 1862 and 1884 she published almost one book per year. Stowe died on July 1, 1896, in Hartford, Connecticut.

Further readings

Crane, Gregg D. 2002. Race, Citizenship, and Law in American Literature. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Hedrick, Joan D. 1995. Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

Johnston, Norma. 1994. Harriet: The Life and World of Harriet Beecher Stowe. New York: Simon and Schuster.


Abolition; Slavery.

References in periodicals archive ?
Sponsored by the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Uncle Tom's Cabin in the National Era presents transcriptions of all of the installments from the Era in an easy-to-navigate website.
Thus, we have Samson Occom, a Native American theologian with a deep and often ironic understanding of Puritan providentialism; Harriet Beecher Stowe, who, says Peter Thuesen, dealt with her family's intellectual legacy in a manner every bit as serious as Max Weber's; Mark Twain, working through Jonathan Edwards's Freedom of the Will while writing comedic novels; and John Updike, whose heroes wrestle with problems of freedom and limitations in terms far more nuanced and instructive than the current "deciders" in American political culture would allow.
Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Question of Race" in Critical Essays on Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Harriet Beecher Stowe was already writing for small magazines when she was impelled to document the anti-slavery sentiments of her Christian friends and give voice to the unbelievable horrors and effects of slavery "that will make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is.
Certainly, this maxim of Harriet Beecher Stowe will keep one on the right path most of the time.
In Daniel Deronda (her last published novel), Evans took on a very serious subject--"the thoughtless but insidious anti-Semitism she had observed" In a letter to American Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1876, she expressed her anger over the way English upper classes talked about the Jewish people in her country: "Can anything be more disgusting than to hear people called 'educated' making small jokes about .
Northerners such as Dorothea Dix, the crusader for the reform of mental institutions and later superintendent of female nurses for the Union during the war; Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, whom President Lincoln called "the woman that wrote the book that caused this war"; Harriet Tubman, a runaway slave who helped operate the "underground railroad"; and many others enjoy excellent sidebar treatment too.
Over the years attendees have seen and heard portrayals of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Theodore Roosevelt, Abigail Adams, and Nathan Hale by their trees.
American education owes a debt to the Welsh founders of Harvard and Yale Universities; American arts to Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Sinclair Lewis and WD Griffith.
Harriet Beecher Stowe peoples Uncle Tom's Cabin with Black characters that illuminate the moral/immoral qualities of White characters like Mr.
Harriet Beecher Stowe once said, "In the ranks of life, the human heart yearns for the beautiful; and the beautiful things that God makes are his gift to all alike.
America and the Underground Railroad, along with photographs, a picture from an Almanac dated 1839, and a sketching of Harriet Beecher Stowe as a young woman.