Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)
v Harriet Stowe was a writer, and an abolitionist. An abolitionist is a political activist who opposes slavery. They fight for equal rights.
v She wrote more than 20 books, including novels, memoirs, articles, and published letters, sometimes under the pen name Christopher Crowfield.
v Harriet’s most famous for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which described the lives of slaves in the southern
. The story was first
told as a serial in the newspaper, The
National Era. United States
v Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the best selling book of the 19th century. It sold over 300,000 copies in less than a year, and a play based on the book soon opened in
. Plus, over 300 women in New York named their babies
“Eva”, after a character in the book. At the same time, it made many people in
the south very angry. Boston
v After the Civil War began, Harriet and her family were invited to the White House, to meet President Lincoln. According to her son,
greeted her saying, “so you are the little woman who wrote the book that
started this great war.” Harriet only said, “I had a real funny interview with
the President.” Lincoln
v Besides writing, she actively helped escaped slaves become free, taking part in the Underground Railroad, a secret organization that smuggled escaped slaves north to
where they could be free. Canada
v Harriet also fought for women’s rights, saying, “The position of a married woman . . . is, in many respects, precisely similar to that of the negro slave. She can make no contract and hold no property; whatever she inherits or earns becomes at that moment the property of her husband . . . Though he acquired a fortune through her, or though she earn a fortune through her talents, he is the sole master of it, and she cannot draw a penny . . . In the English common law a married woman is nothing at all. She passes out of legal existence.”
v After she died, the Episcopal Church honored her with a feast day in their calendar, on July 1.
Harriet Elisabeth Beecher was born in
. Her parents
were very religious. Her father was a Presbyterian minister, and co-founder of
the American Temperance Society, to get Americans to stop drinking hard
alcohol. Her mother died when she was five. Her family was very socially
minded. Her sister became a teacher who started a school, while her three
brothers all became ministers and abolitionists. Connecticut
She married Calvin Stowe, a professor and widower, at the age of twenty-five. They had seven children, including twin daughters. Harriet fought all her life for equal rights, for both men and women. She died at age eighty-five, possibly from Alzheimer’s.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin:
This is an anti-slavery novel in which the main character, a slave named Tom, is bought and sold to a variety of different masters, being torn from his family and friends, and totally at the mercy of fate. While he is dutiful and helpful, his kindness and wisdom are often lost on those around him, who treat him as an animal, eventually beating him to death. Throughout the story, many people have a change of heart, ending their racist beliefs, and promising to be better, to be Christian brothers and sisters to black people.