Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Harriet Beecher Stowe 1811 ~ 1896

 


Harriet Beecher Stowe

In the little town of Litchfield, Connecticut, on June 14, 1811, one of the most famous literary women, Harriet Beecher Stowe, was born. She was the seventh child of her parents Rev. Lyman Beecher and Roxanna Beecher. Her father was an eminent divine, but her early childhood days were filled with the privations of great poverty. When Harriet Stowe was but five years of age her mother died and she went to live for a short time with her aunt and grand-mother, until Mr. Beecher's second marriage.

At twelve years of age she was sent to the school of Mr. John P. Brace a well-known teacher, where she soon began to show a great love for composition, and one of her essays, "Can the Immortality of the Soul be Proved by the Light of Nature," was considered quite a literary triumph, and won great admiration from her father who was ignorant of its authorship. Her sister Catherine went to Hartford, Connecticut, where her brother was teaching, and decided she would build a female seminary that women might have equal opportunities with men. She raised the money and built the Hartford Female Seminary, and Harriet Beecher at the age of twelve attended her sister Catherine's school.

She soon became one of the pupil teachers. Mr. Beecher's fame as a revivalist and brilliant preacher took him to Boston, but his heart was in the temperance work and he longed to go West. When called to Ohio to become president of Lane Theological Seminary at Cincinnati he accepted, and perhaps we owe to this circumstance Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous book 'Uncle Tom's Cabin." In 1836, Harriet married the Professor of Biblical Criticism and Oriental Literature in that seminary, Calvin R Stowe. At this time the question of slavery was uppermost m the minds of Christian people. In 1850 the Beecher family and 'the Stowes moved to Brunswick, Maine, where Mr. Stowe had accepted a professorship at Bowdoin College. The fugitive slave law was in operation and the people of the North seemed lacking in effort Mrs. Stowe felt she must do something to arouse the people on this question, and we are told that one Sunday while sitting in church the picture of Uncle Tom came to her mind.

When she went home she wrote the chapter on his death and read it to her two sons, ten and twelve years of age. This so affected them that they burst into tears. After two or three more chapters were ready she wrote to Dr. Bailey, her old friend of Cincinnati days, who had removed his press to Washington and was editing the National Era in that city. He accepted her manuscript and it was published as a serial. Mr. Jewett of Boston feared to undertake the work in book form, thinking it too long to be popular, but Uncle Tom's Cabin was published March 20, 1852, as a book. In less than a year over three hundred thousand copies had been sold. Congratulations came from crown heads and the literary world. In 1853, when Professor Stowe and his wife visited England no crowned head was shown greater honor.

Other books followed from her pen on her return to America, her husband having taken a position as Professor of Sacred Literature in the Theological Seminary at Andover, Massachusetts. Her other works are: "Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands," "Dread," an anti-slavery story; 'The Minister's Wooing," "Agnes of Sorrento," an Italian story; "Pearl of Orr's Island," a New England coast tale; "Old Town Folks," "House and Home Papers," "My Wife and I," "Pink and White Tyranny," but none has added to the fame of her great work, "Uncle Tom's Cabin." This book has been translated into almost all the languages. The latter years of Mrs. Stowe's life was spent between her home among the orange groves of Florida, and her summer residence in Hartford, Connecticut.

On her seventy-first birthday her publishers, Houghton Mifflin & Company, gave her a monster garden party in Newton, Massachusetts, at the home of Governor Claflin. Poets, artists, statesmen, .and our country's greatest men and women came to do her honor, and when her life went out at Hartford, Connecticut, July 1, 1896, we lost one of the famous women of America.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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