Family Tree Tuesday – Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist and author. She wrote the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin which was a depiction of life for African-Americans under slavery, it became influential in the United States and United Kingdom. The novel energized anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South. She was influential both for her writings and her public stands on social issues of the day. After the start of the Civil War, Stowe traveled to Washington, D.C. and there met President Abraham Lincoln. Legend has it that, upon meeting her, he greeted her by saying, “so you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” Although little is known about the meeting, except for Stowe’s letter to her husband writing “I had a real funny interview with the President.”
She was born on June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut to Lyman and Roxana Beecher. Roxana Beecher was a deeply religious woman who died when Harriet was only five years old. Lyman Beecher was a Presbyterian minister and co-founder of the American Temperance Society. He gained popular recognition in 1806, after giving a sermon concerning the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Beecher stoked controversy by advocating “new measures” of evangelism that ran counter to traditional Calvinist understanding. These new measures at the time brought turmoil to churches all across America. He was charged with heresy in 1835 by fellow pastor, Joshua Lacy Wilson. The trial took place in his own church, and Beecher defended himself, while burdened with the cares of his seminary, his church, and his wife at home on her death bed. The trial resulted in acquittal, and, on an appeal to the general synod, he was again acquitted, but the controversy engendered by the action went on until the Presbyterian church was divided in two. Beecher took an active part in the theological controversies that led to the excision of a portion of the general assembly of the Presbyterian church in 1837/8, Beecher adhering to the new school branch.
Harriet moved to Cincinnati, Ohio at the age of 21 to join her father. She joined the Semi-Colon Club, a literary salon and social club which was where she met her future husband, Calvin Ellis Stowe. He was an ardent critic of slavery, and the Stowe’s supported the Underground Railroad, temporarily housing several fugitive slaves in their home. Calvin was an American Biblical scholar who helped spread public education in the United States. He was critical in the establishment of the College of Teachers in 1833.
Catharine Beecher, Harriet’s sister was an American educator known for her forthright opinions on female education as well as her vehement support of the many benefits of the incorporation of kindergarten into children’s education. In 1823, Beecher opened the Hartford Female Seminary where she taught until 1832.
Prominent Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, abolitionist, and speaker Henry Ward Beecher was Harriet’s brother. He was an advocate of Women’s suffrage, temperance and Darwin’s theory of evolution, a foe of slavery and bigotry of all kinds. Beecher held that Christianity should adapt itself to the changing culture of times. He was accused of having an affair with a married woman, it became a highly publicized scandal known as the Beecher-Tilton Affair. He was tried on charges that he had committed adultery in 1875, it was one of the most notorious American trials of the 19th century.
Harriet’s half sister Isabella Beecher Hooker was a leader, lecturer, and activist in the American Suffragist movement. Following the Civil War, Isabella carefully ventured into the divided women’s movement with the unsigned “A Mother’s Letter to a Daughter on Women Suffrage,” which relied on the idea that, “women would raise the moral level of politics and bring a motherly wisdom to the affairs of government.” During 1887, Isabella spoke on the need for women to have greater roles in society, including the benefits of female police officers.
Did you know Harriet Beecher Stowe lived next door to Mark Twain? Her house in Hartford, Connecticut where she lived for the last 23 years of her life is located next door to Mark Twain’s house. Both houses are registered as historic places. Mark Twain is also Harriet’s 10th cousin!
Check out Harriet Beecher Stowe’s family tree and see how you may be related!