The Abolitionists: Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe

(1811 - 1896)

Author Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in Litchfield, Connecticut on June 14, 1811 to a deeply religious family. For a time she lived in Ohio, later moving to Maine when her husband began teaching at Bowdoin College. Together they supported the Underground Railroad. Their home in Brunswick, Maine became a temporary refuge, or ‘station’, for slaves making their way to freedom in the Northern United States and Canada.

During her lifetime, Stowe wrote more than 30 books. It was Uncle Tom’s Cabin that thrust her into the national spotlight and gave her a place in history. The story was first published a chapter at a time in a weekly magazine. In 1852, it came out in book form.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin gave readers a window into the pain of slavery by showing its effects on families. Readers watched as Stowe’s characters experienced the harshness of slave life, grappled with the difficult decision of whether to escape, and suffered the cruelty of a particularly fierce master. Stowe’s informal style of writing appealed to people in a way that political speeches could not.

Stowe’s novel stirred up so much interest that eight printing presses were kept busy around the clock keeping up with the demand for copies of the book. It was translated into thirty languages.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin demanded that the United States fulfill its promise of freedom and equality. It galvanized the abolitionist movement and has been attributed as a cause of the Civil War.

Harriet Beecher Stowe once met President Abraham Lincoln, in 1862. Legend has it that when he met her, President Lincoln said, “You’re the little woman who made this great war!”