About Harriet Elizabeth Stowe (Beecher)
Birth: 14 June - 1 Dec., 1811. Death: Hartford, Hartford Co., Connecticut or Mandarin, Florida.
Author of Uncle Tom's Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) is best known today as the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, which helped galvanize the abolitionist cause and contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War. Uncle Tom's Cabin sold over 10,000 copies in the first week and was a best seller of its day. After the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe became an internationally acclaimed celebrity and an extremely popular author. In addition to novels, poetry and essays, she wrote non-fiction books on a wide range of subjects including homemaking and the raising of children, and religion. She wrote in an informal conversational style, and presented herself as an average wife and mother.
Harriet Beecher Stowe as a writer
Harriet Beecher Stowe's writing career spanned 51 years, during which time she published 30 books and countless shorter pieces. Harriet made time for writing in her life while she was busy raising seven children and managing a household. She was fortunate in having the support of her husband Calvin Stowe who always encouraged his wife in her career. This kind of support from a husband was unusual at the time when women were not expected to have a career outside the home.
A comprehensive bibliography for Harriet Beecher Stowe can be found at the following web site: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/stowe/stowbib.html
Childhood and education
Harriet Elisabeth Beecher was born June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut, where her father, the Reverend Lyman Beecher (1775-1863), was a prominent and influential Congregational minister. Her mother, Roxanna Foote Beecher(1775-1816), who died when Harriet was only five, was always interested in improving herself educationally. Harriet pursued this same goal throughout her life.
In 1820, Lyman preached anti-slavery sermons in response to the issue of whether Missouri should be admitted to the union as a slave or a free state. Lyman's dynamic preaching, religious energy and commitment had a profound impact on all of his children. He encouraged an intellectual environment at home and would often lead family debates on important issues of the day. Lyman Beecher dedicated his life to the saving of individual souls. He believed that unless an individual made a personal commitment to the Christian religion that he/she was doomed. All of Lyman's children carried out Lyman's commitment to their religion, but in a new way. They thought of God as much more loving and forgiving, and believed that the best way of serving God was to take action in society to make a better world. Harriet's career as a writer shows how she acted out this vision.
Harriet was one of eleven brothers and sisters, many of whom became famous reformers. Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), a noted minister in Brooklyn, New York, was active in the abolitionist movement. Catharine Beecher (1800-1878) founded many schools for young women throughout the country and was a prolific author while her youngest sister, Isabella (1822-1907), became active in the women's suffrage movement.
Harriet was first a student and then a teacher at Hartford Female Seminary, a school founded by her sister Catharine. At that time, Hartford Female Seminary was one of only a handful of schools that took the education of girls seriously. Catharine introduced many innovations at the school including teaching physical education and domestic science (home economics), and the practice of student government. At that time girls were expected to remain at home and needed very little education. Catharine helped to change these ideas. She argued that running a home was as complicated as running an office and that young women should be instructed in these duties the same way boys should be instructed in careers outside the home. Catharine also stressed the importance of written expression. Her students spent many hours composing essays. As a result of Catharine's teaching methods, Harriet received an unusually fine education, and, under her sister's guidance, began to develop her talent as a writer.
For more information on the Beecher family, visit the following site: www.newman.baruch.cuny.edu/digital/2001/beecher/
Marriage and children
In 1832 Harriet moved with her family to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Lyman Beecher became President of Lane Theological Seminary. At that time, Cincinnati was considered the western frontier of the United States. In Cincinnati, Harriet met and married Calvin E. Stowe, a professor at Lane. Six of the Stowes' seven children were born in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati was just across the river from Kentucky, a slave state. It was in Cincinnati that Harriet first became aware of the horrors of slavery. Cincinnati was one of the largest cities in the country, twice the size of Hartford at that time. When Harriet and Calvin learned that their servant, Zillah, was actually a runaway slave, Calvin and Henry Ward drove her to the next station on the Underground Railroad. One night, Harriet's friend, Mr. Rankin, saw a young woman run across the river over the ice with a baby in her arms. This story moved Harriet deeply and would later become one of the most famous scenes in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
In Cincinnati, Harriet became a member of the Semi-Colon Club, a local literary society in which members wrote articles which were read and discussed by other participants. Her experiences in this club sharpened her writing style. During her early married years, Harriet began to publish stories and magazine articles to supplement the family income. While she lived in Cincinnati, Harriet co-authored a book, Primary Geography for Children. After the publication of this book Harriet received a special commendation from the bishop of Cincinnati because it conveyed a positive image of the Catholic religion. Harriet's religious tolerance was unusual for Protestants at the time.
In 1850 Professor Stowe joined the faculty of his alma mater, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. The Stowe family moved to Maine and lived in Brunswick until 1853.
The publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin, which appeared first in serial form in an abolitionist newspaper, The National Era, in 1851-52, was written largely in Brunswick. In 1852 the story was published in book form in two volumes. Uncle Tom's Cabin was a best seller in the United States, England, Europe, Asia, and translated into over 60 languages. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, which deeply distressed Harriet, was a factor in inspiring her to write Uncle Tom's Cabin. This Act made it a crime for citizens of free states to give aid to runaway enslaved people.
Uncle Tom's Cabin humanized slavery by telling the story of individuals and families. Harriet portrayed the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse endured by enslaved people. When she created the character of Eliza, the slave mother, Harriet drew upon her own experiences. In 1849 Harriet's own son Charley died of cholera when he was only eighteen months old. While remembering Charley's death, Harriet thought about how terrible it would be for a slave mother to lose a child because the child was sold. She wondered how a slave mother would feel, never knowing what happened to her own child. In chapter seven, aptly titled "A Mother's Struggle", she hoped to convey to others the terror the fugitive slave mother would feel:
"If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be torn from you by a brutal trader, tomorrow morning, — if you had seen the man, and heard that the papers were signed and delivered, and you had only from twelve o'clock till morning to make good your escape, — how fast could you walk? How many miles could you make in those few brief hours, with the darling at your bosom, — the little sleepy head on your shoulder, — the small, soft arms trustingly holding on to your neck?"
Harriet's feelings about both the Fugitive Slave Act and the death of Charley are conveyed in Uncle Tom's Cabin in her description of the desperate flight of Eliza, a slave mother. Eliza runs across a frozen river with her son Harry in her arms to save him from being sold. Thus, the book grew out of a combination of personal and political concerns.
Many readers criticized Harriet because she had never visited the South. However, she had heard, from people she knew personally, first hand stories of conditions among the enslaved people. For example, Harriet employed an African-American woman in Cincinnati who told her what is was like to be a woman under slavery.
To learn more about Uncle Tom's Cabin, visit this site: http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/utc/
Uncle Tom's Cabin, Slavery, and the Civil War
According to legend, when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1862 he said, "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War!"
The Civil War grew out of a mixture of causes including regional conflicts between North and South, economic trends, and humanitarian concerns for the welfare of enslaved people. This war, which pitted one section of the country against another, almost destroyed the United States. Uncle Tom's Cabin contributed to the outbreak of war because it brought the evils of slavery to the attention of Americans more vividly than any other book had done before. The book had a strong emotional appeal that moved and inspired people in a way that political speeches, tracts and newspapers accounts could not duplicate.
Immediately after its publication Uncle Tom's Cabin was both lauded as a tremendous achievement and attacked as one sided and inaccurate. Abolitionists and reformers praised the book for its compassionate portrayal of people held in slavery. At the same time, others, who claimed that slavery was sanctioned in the Bible, attacked Harriet and accused her of fabricating unrealistic images of slavery.
During the Civil War, Harriet often disagreed with President Lincoln. Lincoln's concern with preserving the unity of the nation and his willingness to postpone freeing the slaves made her impatient.
The Influence and Popularity of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom's Cabin
After the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet was invited to the British Isles in 1853, where she was greeted enthusiastically. She returned to Britain and Europe in 1856 and 1859.
Through a column in a large New York newspaper, The Independent, she urged the women of the United States to use their influence against slavery by obtaining signatures on petitions, spreading information, and inviting lecturers to speak to community groups on the subject.
From Brunswick, the Stowe's moved to Andover, Massachusetts, where Calvin became a professor of theology at Andover Theological Seminary from 1853 to 1864. After his retirement, the family moved to Hartford, Connecticut. Here Harriet Beecher Stowe built her dream house, Oakholm, but the high maintenance cost and the encroachment of factories caused her to sell it in 1870. In 1873, she moved to her last home, the brick Victorian Gothic cottage-style house on Forest Street, which visitors may see today.
Calvin Stowe, husband (1802 - 1886)
During the Hartford years Calvin wrote the Origin and History of the Books of the Bible (American Publishing Company, 1867). This scholarly work was one of the first books to examine the Bible from an historical point of view. The book sold so well that Calvin received $10,000 in royalties, which was considered a high amount at the time.
Calvin's reminiscences of his boyhood in Natick, Massachusetts, provided Harriet with the basic material for Oldtown Folks, (published 1869) and Sam Lawson's Oldtown Fireside Stories (published 1872).
Throughout their marriage, Calvin encouraged Harriet in her career as an author. In a letter he wrote to her in 1840 he said, "my dear, you must be a literary woman. It is so written in the book of fate... Make all your calculations accordingly."
The Stowe Children
Harriet and Calvin had seven children. Only three of the children survived them.
The Stowe twins, Eliza (1836-1912) and Harriet (1836-1907), never married and lived with their parents. When the twins were young, Harriet worried that they were becoming too frivolous. Her feelings contributed to the characterization of the young women in her book My Wife and I and We and Our Neighbors. As adults, the twins were competent and responsible women who managed the family home and participated in the social and cultural life of Hartford.
Henry Ellis (1838-1857). Henry drowned at age nineteen while swimming in the Connecticut River at Hanover, New Hampshire, at the end of his freshman year at Dartmouth College. Harriet describes a mother's reaction to her son's death in The Minister's Wooing.
Frederick William (1840-1870?). Frederick had originally hoped to become a doctor and studied medicine. Fred, however, developed a problem with alcoholism. When Fred enlisted in the Civil War, his parents were very worried about his ability to withstand the stress of battle. Fred was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg (1863). After his injury, his alcoholism became much worse. After many unsuccessful attempts to conquer his addiction, Fred went to California in 1870 and was never heard from again. Most historians believe that he died shortly after arriving on the West Coast, but no one will ever know for sure. Fred was the inspiration for the character of Tom Bolton in We and Our Neighbors and My Wife and I. In these books Harriet described alcoholism as an illness. Her attitude was very modern since, at that time, most people believed that alcoholism was a moral failure.
Georgiana May (1843-1890) usually called "Georgie" was probably the most talented of the Stowe children. A mischievous and lively young girl, Georgie provided part of the inspiration for the character of Topsey in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Georgie had a difficult life as an adult. Georgie was given morphine as a painkiller after the birth of her son and became addicted. At that time most doctors were still unaware of the powerful addictive properties of narcotics. Georgie was married to Henry Allen, an Episcopal priest.
Samuel Charles (1848-1849) known as "Charley," died during a cholera epidemic in Cincinnati in 1849. Harriet's feelings about Charley's death led to her description of slave mothers in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Charles Edward (1850-1934) also called "Charley." Our Charley is based on Charles Stowe as a child. Charles Stowe was ordained as a minister in 1878. He married Susan Monroe and had three children. From the mid 1880's until the late 1890's he was minister of the Simsbury, Connecticut, Congregational Church, not far from his parents' home in Hartford.
The Winter Home in Mandarin Florida
In the 1860's the Stowes purchased property in Mandarin, Florida, on the St. John's River, built a house, and began to travel South each winter. While in Florida Harriet helped establish schools for African American children and fostered the development of an ecumenical church open to members of all denominations. Harriet's brother Charles Beecher (1815-1900) joined the Stowes in Florida, to help the cause of the newly freed people.
Harriet Beecher Stowe and her neighbor, Mark Twain
The Stowes moved into their Forest Street home in Hartford in 1873. A year later Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain and his family moved into an elaborate house just across the lawn. Clemens wrote his most famous books while he was living in this house, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The Clemens were a generation younger than the Stowes. Sam Clemens was just about the same age as the Stowe twins, Harriet and Eliza. The two families were friendly and often visited each other.
For more information about Mark Twain, go to www.marktwainhouse.org.
Harriet Elizabeth Beecher was born on June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut. Her father, Reverend Lyman Beecher, was a Congregationalist preacher, and he was well known as a persuasive speaker who championed high moral standards. He did not hide his anti-slavery views from his congregation or his children. Harriet was one of Lyman Beecher's thirteen children. All of them, including Harriet, were brought up with strong moral principles, and all were expected to follow their religious upbringing throughout their lives, which they did. Her mother died when Harriet was four years old, and she developed a close bond with her older sister Catherine. Harriet attended school in Litchfield during these years, then studied under her sister Catherine, and then joined her sister as a teacher herself.
In 1832 both of the sisters moved to Cincinnati when their father was invited to be the president of Lane Theological Seminary there. The move was an eye-opener for Harriet. She witnessed the cruelty of slave auctions. She saw husbands, wives, and children sold to separate bidders. She saw fugitive slaves fleeing across the Ohio River from Kentucky, hoping to find refuge to the north in Canada. She drew upon several of these first-hand experiences when she later wrote the work that would make her famous, Uncle Tom's Cabin.
During this time in Ohio, Harriet also met Calvin Stowe, a clergyman, educator, and staunch abolitionist. She married him in 1836, and they had seven children. Harriet was an avid writer, contributing to periodicals and local publications, in addition to her poetry, children's books, and novels. In 1850 Calvin Stowe accepted a position at Bowdoin College in Maine, and the Stowe's moved east. The anti-slavery movement was heating up, especially in the Northeast, after the passage of The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which forced Northern law enforcement officers to aid in the recapture of runaways. Anyone of color was suspect, whether or not they were runaways. Many former slaves feared for their own safety, and many were fleeing to Canada, along with the fugitive slaves. Harriet saw the power of the pen as her way to force the nation to look at its immoral system. Her answer to all the injustice that she witnessed was her belief in herself as a writer and her belief that people would side with her if they knew the truth. She needed to tell the nation what it should have already known, that slavery was unjust, immoral, and evil. This was her mission when she wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Attempting to get her work published, she accepted a Washington anti-slavery newspaper's offer to publish it in serial form. It ran in The National Era as a series of 40 installments, to a readership that was already anti-slavery anyway. But the serial did attract the attention of a Boston publisher, J.P. Jewett. He contacted Harriet, and they agreed to publish it as a novel. When it was published in 1852, it was an immediate success. By 1857 Uncle Tom's Cabin had sold over a half a million copies. It gained international fame and has been published in scores of languages. Although she wrote dozens of novels and stories in her lifetime, none reached the heights that Uncle Tom's Cabin did. This one work spawned such an unprecedented amount of enthusiasm, indignation, and controversy that it certainly accomplished her mission: to bring the immorality of slavery to the forefront of American thought.
We do not know for sure whether Abraham Lincoln really said these words, but it has often been said that when he met Harriet Beecher Stowe, he greeted her as "the little lady who made this big war". True or not, Uncle Tom's Cabin certainly had a tremendous influence on America's view of slavery, and it ensured that Harriet Beecher Stowe and her novel would become a permanent part of American history. Harriet Beecher Stowe died in 1896 at Hartford, Connecticut. She lived to be 85 years old.
Everyone should have a copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin in their home. Click here to purchase the Modern Library edition of this very important American novel.
After Uncle Tom's Cabin was published, Harriet Beecher Stowe was deluged not only with encouragement and praise, but also with criticisms and questions about her novel. In response, she wrote and published A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin: Presenting the Original Facts and Documents upon Which the Story is Founded. It is a testimonial to her powerful influence on American history that this supplement to Uncle Tom's Cabin is still available today.
1860 United States Federal Census:
- Name: Harriet B Stone [Harriet B Stowe]
- Age in 1860: 48
- Birth Year: abt 1812
- Birthplace: Connecticut
- Home in 1860: Andover, Essex, Massachusetts
- Gender: Female
- Post Office: Andover
Household Members: Name Age
- Calvin E Stone 58
- Harriet B Stone 48
- Harriet Stone 23
- Eliza Stone 23
- Frederick Stone 20
- Georgianna Stone 16
- Charles Stone 10
- Hepsibath Stone 80
- Catherine Stone 49
- Ann Noland 19
- Adaline Turner 35
- Anna Sullivan 22
1870 United States Federal Census
Name: Harriet B Stowe
Birth Year: abt 1812
Age in 1870: 58
Home in 1870: Hartford Ward 2, Hartford, Connecticut
Post Office: Hartford
Household Members: Name Age
Calvin E Stowe 68
Harriet B Stowe 58
Harriet B Stowe 33
Eliza T Stowe 33
Charles E Stowe 20
Sarah White 25
Ann Mcmann 33
1880 United States Federal Census
Name: Harriet Beecher Stowe
Home in 1880: Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut
Estimated birth year: abt 1812
Relation to Head of Household: Wife
Spouse's name: Calvin E.
Father's birthplace: Connecticut
Mother's birthplace: Connecticut
Occupation: Authoress Uncle Toms Cabin
Marital Status: Married
Race: Black (white)
Household Members: Name Age
Calvin E. Stowe 78
Harriet Beecher Stowe 68
Harriet Beecher Stowe 43
Eliza T. Stowe 43
Falecha Primus 21
Phoebe Laurence 20
American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI)
Name: Harriet E. Beecher
Birth Date: 1811
Page Number: 514
Reference: Foote fam. des. of Nath. Foote of Wethersfield, Ct, [et al.] By nath goodwin. Hartford, 1849. (360p.):1591
U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900
Name: Harriet Elizabet Beecher
Birth Year: 1811
Spouse Name: Calvin E. Stowe
Number Pages: 1
Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American abolitionist and author. Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) depicted life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the U.S. and Britain and made the political issues of the 1850s regarding slavery tangible to millions, energizing anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South. Upon meeting Stowe, Abraham Lincoln allegedly remarked, "So you're the little lady who started this great war!
Harriet Beecher was born in Litchfield, Connecticut on June 14, 1811. She was the daughter of outspoken religious leader Lyman Beecher and Roxana Foote, a deeply religious woman who died when Stowe was four years old. She was the sister of the educator and author, Catharine Beecher, clergymen Henry Ward Beecher, Charles Beecher, and Edward Beecher.
Harriet enrolled in the seminary run by her eldest sister Catharine, where she received a traditionally "male" education. At the age of 21, she moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to join her father, who had become the president of Lane Theological Seminary, and in 1836 she married Calvin Ellis Stowe, a professor at the seminary and an ardent critic of slavery. The Stowes supported the Underground Railroad and housed several fugitive slaves in their home. They eventually moved to Brunswick, Maine, where Calvin taught at Bowdoin College.
In 1850 Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law prohibiting assistance to fugitives. Stowe was moved to present her objections on paper, and in June 1851 the first installment of Uncle Tom's Cabin appeared in the antislavery journal National Era. The forty-year-old mother of seven children sparked a national debate and, as Abraham Lincoln is said to have noted, a war. Stowe died on July 1, 1896, at age eighty-five, in Hartford, Connecticut.
Widowed in 1886, Stowe's elder years were spent in Hartford, Connecticut, where she enjoyed the neighborliness of Mark Twain and Oliver Wendell Holmes, and occasionally, a little too much wine. "I won't be any properer than I have a mind to be," said the octogenarian authoress. When she died at 85, survivors included her unmarried twin daughters, her youngest son, and her favorite brother, the celebrated Henry Ward Beecher.
Landmarks related to Harriet Beecher Stowe
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. Her father was a preacher who was greatly affected by the pro-slavery riots that took place in Cincinnati in 1834. Beecher Stowe 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.
In the 1870s and 1880s, Stowe and her family wintered in Mandarin, Florida, now a suburb of modern consolidated Jacksonville, on the St. Johns River. Stowe wrote Palmetto Leaves while living in Mandarin, arguably the most effective and eloquent piece of promotional literature directed at Florida's potential Northern investors at the time. The book was published in 1873 and describes Northeast Florida and its residents. In 1870, Stowe created an integrated school in Mandarin for children and adults. This was an early step toward providing equal education in the area and predated the national movement toward integration by more than a half century. The marker commemorating the Stowe family is located across the street from the former site of their cottage. It is on the property of the Community Club, at the site of a church where Stowe's husband once served as a minister.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Brunswick, Maine is where Uncle Tom's Cabin was written while Harriet and Calvin lived there when Calvin worked at Bowdoin College. Although local interest for its preservation as a museum has been strong in the past, it has long been an inn and German restaurant. It most recently changed ownership in 1999 for $865,000.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Hartford, Connecticut is the house where Harriet lived for the last 23 years of her life. In this 5,000 sq ft (460 m2) cottage style house, there are many of Beecher Stowe'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.
Burial: Academy Cemetery, Andover, Essex County, Massachusetts, USA
Partial list of works
The Mayflower; or, Sketches of Scenes and Characters Among the Descendants of the Pilgrims (1834)
Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852)
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)
Men of Our Times (1868)
Old Town Folks (1869)
Little Pussy Willow (1870)
Lady Byron Vindicated (1870)
My Wife and I (1871)
Pink and White Tyranny (1871)
Woman in Sacred History (1873)
Palmetto Leaves (1873)
We and Our Neighbors (1875)
Poganuc People (1878)
The Poor Life (1890)
Posted by Walter Ashworth 6th cousin
Harriet Beecher Stowe's Timeline
June 14, 1811
Litchfield, Litchfield, Connecticut, United States
January 6, 1836
Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, United States
September 29, 1836
September 29, 1836
Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, United States
May 25, 1843
Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, United States
Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, United States
July 8, 1850
July 1, 1896
Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut, USA