Harriet Beecher Stowe


A picture of the author Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Elizabeth Beecher Stowe (1811 - 1896) was an American author, social activist and abolitionist whose writing profoundly impacted public sentiments to oppose slavery. Her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, was a harsh condemnation of the cruelty of slavery that reached and galvanized millions of Americans and Brits when it was published in 1852. Stowe wrote thirty books, short stories (many historical fiction), and essays on various social issues.

Stowe was born in Connecticut, the seventh of thirteen children, in a prominent religious family. Her father was a Calvinist minister, her mother died when she was five. Stowe attended the Hartford Female Seminary, then followed her father when she was twenty-one years old to live in Cincinnati, Ohio. She joined a literary salon and began her writing career. The booming Ohio River drew migrants from all over the country, including free blacks. Stowe met a number of African-Americans who suffered during the Cincinnati riots of 1829, and their experiences contributed to her later writings in support of abolishing slavery.

Harriet married Calvin Ellis Stowe in 1836, a widowed seminary professor who supported anti-slavery. They both were ardent supporters of the Underground Railroad, and housed dozens of fugitives on their passage North towards Canada. The Stowes raised seven children. They moved to Brunswick, Maine where her husband was a professor at Bowdoin College. Stowe became profoundly sympathetic to the slaves after her eighteen month old son died and The Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, which required all escaped slaves be returned to their home state. She became an ardent abolitionist, dedicating her life to writing and advocating to win freedom for all African-Americans. Stowe published her first installment of Uncle Tom's Cabin in the National Era in 1851, when she was 40 years old. Stowe remarked, "I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak... I hope every woman who can write will not be silent."

For more information about Ms. Stowe, visit: The American Literary Blog: A Word for Freedom and Humanity.

Younger readers may enjoy Uncle Tom's Cabin: Young Folks' Edition (1913) in our collection, Books for Young Readers. Visit American History and the African American Library for other important figures and their writings which helped shape America.

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