Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe


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Harriet Beecher Stowe


Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, on June 14, 1811. Her father was a well known fiery Puritan minister named Lyman Beecher. Her mother was named Roxanna Foote. They would have 13 children. Harriet or Hatty as she was called, was the 7th. Harriet received an excellent education that started at Pierce Academy. There she discovered a love for reading and writing, earning prizes for her essays. After her mother died of tuberculosis, Harriet was raised by her oldest sister Catherine. Catherine was way ahead of her time. She believed that women should have the same educational opportunities as men. A few years later, she opened a school for girls in Hartford, Connecticut, and Harriet became a student. She called the school the Hartford Female Seminary. Then when she was still in her teens she began teaching.

In 1832, the Beecher family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where her father taught at Lane Theological Seminary. There she found the subject of slavery was a hot topic. When some of the students of Lane Theological Seminary formed antislavery groups she listened to their arguments. Soon afterward she took a trip to Kentucky to see plantation life first hand. Before long she was again teaching as well as writing. At this time, Harriet wrote magazine articles and completed her first book, a geography text. While living in Cincinnati, Harriet became close friends with Eliza Stowe and her husband Calvin Ellis Stowe. Then when Eliza died in 1834, she and Calvin became close friends. Eventually, their relationship turned romantic and they married in 1836. Calvin worked as a professor of Biblical literature. They would have seven children. At the time Harriet was supporting her family by writing articles with romantic themes.

Harriet and her husband moved to New Brunswick, Maine in 1850. While she was there the Southern legislature passed the Fugitive Slave Act. The Fugitive Slave Act gave the slave owners new powers in capturing escaped slaves. It also mandated that the people in the North aid the slave owners in the retrieving of their property (the slaves). The new act angered Harriet, so she decided to do something about it. With her families encouragement she began writing a novel about slavery at night while her children slept. It was her intention to show people the true horrors of slavery. Before she started writing she read several books about the subject including “American Slavery as It Is” by Theodore Dwight Weld. She also exchanged letters with Frederick Douglass. Her book was called “Uncle Tom's Cabin” and it became the most important antislavery literature in American history. By the time the Civil War broke out it had sold 1 million copies. The book follows the lives of several slaves who work for an evil man named Simon Legree. It paints a bleak picture of the evils and the savagery of slavery. The book was so successful that it caused countless Northerners to join the abolitionist movement. In the South there were several attempts to ban it, but the demand was great. Then when the Civil War broke out Harriet was among the first to call on President Lincoln to free the slaves so that they could fight for the North. She was especially excited when the war ended and the 13th Amendment was passed banning slavery.

In 1864, Harriet was very wealthy from the sales of her books. She and her husband built a beautiful home in Hartford, Connecticut. At the time they began spending winters in Florida. Then in 1873, she sold her large house in Hartford and traded it for a smaller one that was next door to Samuel Clemens. Clemens wrote under the pen name Mark Twain.