Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe books and biography


Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Elizabeth Beecher Stowe, born (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American Congregationalist, abolitionist and writer of 30 books; the most famous being Uncle Tom's Cabin which describes life in slavery, and which was first published in serial form from 1851 to 1852 in an abolitionist organ, the National Era, edited by Gamaliel Bailey. Although Stowe herself had never been to the American South, she subsequently published A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, a non-fiction work documenting the veracity of her depiction of the lives of slaves in the original novel. She also wrote the preface to editions of Josiah Henson's autobiography, the slave on whom her main character is often considered to be based. Her second novel was Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp: another anti-slavery novel.



Born in Litchfield, Connecticut of Welsh descent and raised primarily in Hartford, she was the daughter of Lyman Beecher, an abolitionist Calvinist preacher from Boston and Roxana Foote Beecher, and the sister of renowned minister, Henry Ward Beecher. She had two other prominent and activist siblings, a brother, Charles Beecher, and a sister, Catharine Beecher. In 1832, her family moved to Cincinnati, another hotbed of the abolitionist movement, where her father became the first president of Lane Theological Seminary. There she gained first-hand knowledge of slavery and the Underground Railroad and was moved to write Uncle Tom's Cabin, the first major American novel with an African-American hero.

In 1836 Harriet Beecher married Calvin Ellis Stowe, a clergyman and widower. Later she and her husband moved to Brunswick, Maine, when he obtained an academic position at Bowdoin College. Harriet and Calvin had seven children, but four of the seven died before she did. Her first children, twin girls Hattie and Eliza, were born on September 29, 1836. Four years later, in 1840, her son Frederick William was born. In 1848 the birth of Samuel Charles occurred, but in the following year, he died during a cholera epidemic. Because of the pain she felt when she lost her son Samuel, she attributed it to how a mother in slavery would have felt being sold away from her children at the selling block. This was the biggest factor behind her writing Uncle Tom's Cabin, seen in her character Eliza Harris who runs away from slavery when her son was going to be sold away from her.

Writing "Uncle Tom's Cabin"

In 1850, the reinstatement of the Fugitive Slave Law stirred Stowe to the abolitionist side. After this reinstatement her sister-in-law wrote her saying, "Harriet, if I could use a pen as you can, I would write something that would make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is." After reading this aloud to her children Harriet dramatically crumpled the paper in her hand and said, "I will write something if I live."

After this Stowe began researching slavery as best as she could. She interviewed slaves and slave owners with all points of views, and read several books. In 1851, with the help of William Lloyd Garrison, the editor of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, Stowe began publishing fictional sketches. These appeared in serialised form during 1851 in the Cincinnati abolitionist newspaper, The National Era under the title "Uncle Tom's Cabin or Life Among the Lowly". Her main character is widely believed to have been based on Josiah Henson who published his own account of being enslaved. After prompting from readers, Congregationalists, and her husband, who believed in her story's power to change the mind, she published her sketches as a two volume book in 1852, with an introduction by the promient Congregationalist, Rev. James Sherman of Surrey Chapel, in her London editions. Within a week of its release, her book sold a phenomenal 10,000 copies. Just two years later, in 1854, her book was translated into 60 different languages.

Stowe's book had an astounding effect on the Northern states of America. Thousands more flocked to the abolitionist side. However, the rift dividing the north and south deepened. The south denied that the book was a true account of southern life, and took it as an accusation. The south even went to such severe measures as to ban the book and arrest anyone in possession of it. In their defense the south wrote mocking books praising the good of slavery such as "Aunt Phillis's Cabin; or Southern Life as it is." In response Stowe gathered all her information and wrote, "A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin." This book was written to prove she researched her topic. Yet, though written to the south, it was not read as widely there as elsewhere.

However, all the way across the Atlantic in Great Britain the message of Uncle Tom was also embraced, supported from its inception by the powerful advocate Rev. James Sherman in London. In 1853 Harriet went on a tour of Europe, speaking on her book. Upon her arrival in England she was given a very warm welcome and was presented with an address, known as the Affectionate and Christian Address, from the Anti-Slavery Society, with over half a million signatures from noble women, down to the peasants. This was given to her in 26 volumes. The head of the Anti-Slavery Society, the Duchess of Sutherland, became very close friends with Harriet as well. Come to the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Hartford, Connecticut to see these volumes. Her reply to this address was printed in the Atlantic Monthly.

At the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861, Great Britain's consideration to join the South in this onslaught moved Stowe to reply to the British people reminding them of their commitment to the slaves. However, due to various factors, Britain withdrew their promise to the South and remained neutral throughout the war. In her journal Harriet wrote about her feelings about the War. She said, "It was God’s will that this nation-both North and South- should deeply and terribly suffer for the sin of consenting to and encouraging the great oppressions of the South…the blood of the poor slave, that had cried so many years from the ground in vain, should be answered by the blood of the sons from the best hearthstones through all the free states." In 1862, because President Abraham Lincoln didn't fulfill his promise and sign the Emancipation Proclamation, Harriet Beecher Stowe decided she would talk to him herself. She gathered up her children and went to Washington, D.C. Written in letters from her daughter Hatty, who was present at the meeting between Harriet and Lincoln, it is family lore that states the first thing Lincoln said to Harriet in their meeting was, "So you're the little lady who wrote the book that started this great war." Because there is no written documentation of this conference nobody knows what was said to persuade President Lincoln to sign. However, we do know that shortly after this, on January 1, 1863 he made a proclamation to the nation that the slaves were free, which however, cannot be attributed to the meeting with Harriet Beecher Stowe.

On the day of this announcement Harriet Beecher Stowe was standing in the balcony of a hall awaiting the announcement. Once it had been made, a man stood up in the crowd and pointed at her saying "Look it's Mrs. Stowe, the woman who ended slavery." The crowd stood and applauded her while she just waved politely.

Later life

Harriet Beecher Stowe later said in her journal, "I wrote what I did because as a woman, as a mother I was oppressed and brokenhearted, with the sorrows and injustice I saw, because as a Christian I felt the dishonor to Christianity because as a lover of my country I trembled at the coming day of wrath." Many historians consider “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” a significant force in leading to the Civil War, which ended in the abolition of slavery in America. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s influence reached people of all walks of life, from government officials, to nobility, down to the common man. In her lifetime she wrote prolifically, yet her influence went beyond words. She aided runaway slaves after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law. Following the Civil War she built and established several schools and boarding homes for newly freed slaves.

Harriet then moved back to Hartford, Connecticut into a community called Nook Farm. She lived there for the last 23 years of her life. Harriet Beecher Stowe died on July 1, 1896 and, like Rosa Parks of our time, was given a dignitary’s funeral. She was buried on the grounds of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.[1]

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s ideas of freedom helped bring about in turn a series of events, that influenced the lives of people around the globe. She entered the world of slavery through her writing and awakened the conscience of millions.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House (Connecticut) in Hartford, Connecticut is the house where Harriet lived for the last 23 years of her life. In this 5,000 sq. ft. cottage style house, there are many of Harriet's original items and items from the time period. In the research library, which is open to the public, there are numerous letters and documents from the Beecher family. The house is opened to the public and offers house tours on the half hour. [1]

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati, Ohio is the former home of her father Lyman Beecher on the former campus of the Lane Seminary. Harriet lived here until her marriage. It is open to the public and operated as an historical and cultural site, focusing on Harriet Beecher Stowe, the Lane Seminary and the Underground Railroad. The site also presents African-American history. The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati is located at 2950 Gilbert Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45206. [2]


  • When Stowe met Abraham Lincoln on December 2nd, 1862 (during the Civil War), he reportedly greeted her, "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!"
  • "The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone."

Partial list of works

  • Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851)
  • A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (1853)
  • Dred, A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856)
  • The Minister's Wooing (1859)
  • The Pearl of Orr's Island (1862)
  • As "Christopher Crowfield"
    • House and Home Papers (1865)
    • Little Foxes (1866)
    • The Chimney Corner (1868)
  • Old Town Folks (1869)
  • The Ghost in the Cap'n Brown (1870)
  • Lady Byron Vindicated (1870)
  • My Wife and I (1871)
  • Pink and White Tyranny (1871)
  • We and Our Neighbors (1875)
  • Poganuc People (1878)

See also

  • Origins of the American Civil War
  • Abolitionism
  • Slavery


  1. ^ Find-A-Grave Entry on Harriet Beecher Stowe, buried on Phillips Academy Campus

References and further reading

  • Adams, John R. (1963). Harriet Beecher Stowe. Twayne Publishers, Inc.. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 63-17370. 
  • Jeanne Boydston, Mary Kelley, and Anne Margolis, The Limits of Sisterhood: The Beecher Sisters on Women's Rights and Woman's Sphere (U of North Carolina Press, 1988),
  • Matthews, Glenna. "'Little Women' Who Helped Make This Great War" in Gabor S. Boritt, ed. Why the Civil War Came - Oxford University Press pp 31-50.
  • Constance Mayfield Rourke; Trumpets of Jubilee: Henry Ward Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lyman Beecher, Horace Greeley, P.T. Barnum (1927).
  • Thulesius, Olav (2001). Harriet Beecher Stowe in Florida, 1867-1884. McFarland and Company, Inc.. 
  • Weinstein, Cindy. The Cambridge Companion to Harriet Beecher Stowe. Cambridge UP, 2004. ISBN 978-0-521-53309-6
  • Wilson, Edmund. Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War (1962) pp 3-58
  • Bailey, Gamaliel. Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Book Review. Washington, D.C.: The National Era, 1852. (4/3/06)
  • Brown, David. The Planter; or, Thirteen Years in the South. Philadelphia: H. Hooker, 1852. (4/3/06)
  • Douglass, Frederick. Letter to Harriet Beecher Stowe. (1/14/06)
  • London Times Review, 1852. American Slavery. English opinion of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” (3/15/06)
  • Slavery in the South. Cambridge: John Barlett, 1852. (4/3/06)
  • Stearns, Reverend E.J. Notes on Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Philadelphia: Grambo &Co., 1853. (4/3/06)
  • Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. USA: 1852. New York: Barnes and Nobles Classics: 2003.
  • Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Letters. (10/20/05)
  • Stowe, Charles Edward. The Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe: Compiled from her letters and journals. Massechusetts: H.O. Houghton & Co.: 1889.
  • The Patent Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Mrs. Stowe in England. New York: Pudney & Russell, 1853. (4/3/06)
  • Adams, John R. Harriet Beecher Stowe. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc.: 1963.
  • American Council of Learned Societies. Harriet Elizabeth Beecher Stowe. 1928-1936. (11/10/05)
  • Bland, Celia. Harriet Beecher Stowe: Antislavery Author. USA: Chelsea House Publishers: 1993.
  • Claybaugh, Amanda. Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Introduction. New York: Barnes and Nobles Classics: 2003.
  • Coil, Suzanne M. Harriet Beecher Stowe. USA: Franklin Watts: 1993.
  • Damon, Duane. When this Cruel War is Over: the Civil War Home Front. USA: Lerner Publications Company, 1996.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation. (4/3/06)
  • Furnas, J.C. Goodbye to Uncle Tom. New York: William Sloane Associates: 1956.
  • Garrison, Webb. Brady’s Civil War: A Collection of memorable Civil War images photographed by Mathew Brady and his assistants. USA: The Lyons Press, 2000.
  • Gossett, Thomas F. Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture. Texas: Southern Methodist University Press: 1985.
  • Grolier. The Civil War: Volume 4: Florida- Hill, Ambrose P. USA: The Brown Reference Group Publications, 2004.
  • Hedrick, Joan D. Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life. USA: Oxford University Press: 1994.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe. (12/13/05)
  • Johnston, Johanna. Harriet and the Runaway Book. USA: Harper and Row Publishers: 1977.
  • Marck, John P. Harriet Beecher Stowe: her Life and Writings. (4/3/06)
  • Sundquist, Eric J. New Essays on Uncle Tom’s Cabin. USA: Cambridge University Press: 1986.
  • The Classical Text: Harriet Beecher Stowe. (10/21/05)
  • Welcome to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. (10/20/05)

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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