HARRIET BEECHER STOWE
- WRITER & ANTI-SLAVERY CAMPAIGNER -
Now, here is a woman who was not only a famous author.
She was born 14 June 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut to a strongly religious family. She was educated at a girls school and received a wide-ranging education. When she was 21, she moved to Ohio where she became involved in various literary circles and became concerned with social issues of the day.
Harriet married Calvin Ellis Stowe on 6 January 1836. Stowe was committed to abolishing slavery, and with Harriet, they took part in the Underground Railroad which temporarily housed fugitive slaves.
Through experiences such as this, Harriet gained a close hand knowledge of the institution of slavery. In 1833, she visited a slavery auction in Kentucky, an experience that profoundly moved her. She felt it her Christian duty to write about the injustice of slavery.
In 1851, she published her first instalment of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the newspaper the National Era. By 1952, its popularity had led to its publication in book form. The book became a best-seller, selling over 300,000 copies in the first year alone.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a realistic account of the pain and injustice of slavery. It helped galvanise opinion in the country. It popularised the anti-slavery movement in the north. In the south, it predictably enraged opinion and led to opposition to the book.
Religion was an important influence on her life. She was brought up with her father’s strict Calvinism, but as she became older she followed her own path, which included high-church Episcopalianism. After the death of her two sons, she also became interested in spiritualism (the practice of seeking contact with spirits who have passed away). Her Christian faith was very important to her life and writing.
She died on 1 July 1896 in Hartford, Connecticut aged 85. Her house the Harriet Beecher Stowe House was next door to fellow author Mark Twain.
Clancy's comment: Good for her. Wow, 300,000 copies sold in the first year!