Meet Harriet Beecher Stowe

Mary McCauley asked:


My upbringing was in a strict Protestant family. With a father like Lyman Beecher, who was considered one of the leading religious orators of the times, I had no recourse but to be bestowed the heritage of religious ethics. Our entire family was imbued with holy rights and unholy wrongs. Father was most adamant about his views. He was strongly pro Calvinism, and believed firmly in equality of all men.

Another ethic I embraced at an early age was work. No one ever put in longer hours helping around the house, studying,

writing and teaching than I. My sister Catherine, relied on me to assist her at the school for girls which she founded.

When I married Professor Calvin Stowe, the widower of one of my dearest friends, I had already seen several of my short stories published in magazines. For me, writing was a compulsion. It was not unusual for a friend or relative to receive 10 or 20 page letters from me. I poured out my feelings with intensity.

My brother, Henry Ward, who as my father also became a renowned minister, was bombarded with my epistles of soul rendering prose. Within me screamed the Muse who

could not be stilled. I wrote until my hand ached, my mind wearied, and my thoughts finally stilled by pure exhaustion.

I was deeply disturbed by the slavery issue. My father convinced me at an early age that all men are created equal. This conviction led to his ultimate ouster from the Church he loved so dearly. The prevailing attitude in many of the Protestant churches was that there were classes of society and each should act accordingly.

This attitude was unthinkable to me. In my later years I realized that people are classed by their own attitudes, perhaps brought on by the prevailing mode of society, but no one should ever be enslaved by another. Race, creed, economics, or academic quality should not be used to denigrate any of God’s creation. I firmly believed that education was the primary means of ending this injustice.

My joy in life was always my family. My children were my first priority, and the loss of two sons devastated me. Each time I buried myself in my work and wrote with unceasing vigor. In my writing I could lose myself and ease the pain.

Many of the stories I wrote had been serialized in magazines before they were published in books. I had become known as a writer of essays and articles prior to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which by the way I wrote and sent chapters weekly to the National Era magazine. I had

planned to complete the story in six months, but it grew and grew and was finished in a year. I never expected it to make such an impact. That it was ultimately printed in forty languages overwhelms me. I frequently stated that I could not control the story, it wrote itself. In my heart I believed it was written by God, using me as an instrument.

As a published author, I was afforded the opportunity to travel to England and the Continent. I made several sojourns there and delighted in the hospitality. I had never been in robust health, and the sea voyage always rallied me. Perhaps it was the sea air, or perhaps it was the time away from the continual demands of my life.

My son Charles claimed that President Lincoln looked down at me with his coal nugget eyes and said, “so this is the lady who started the great war!”. I don’t recall the incident,but Charles was with me the day I met Mr. Lincoln. If it was said, it is a terrible

accusation to put on anyone. True, my book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, did stir up the hornet’s nest, but the seeds of unrest were planted and a divided nation had been the

harvest before it had been written.

I never felt that I had a hand in bring about the Civil War. The only contribution I might have made was in my letters to some of the noted women of England, enlisting their help to being about Britain’s support of the government of President Lincoln. I was not anti

the South. I thought the people were kind and genteel and that the practice of slavery occurred only because it had been part of their heritage.

To be politically minded was never my first cause. My religious values were paramount in all of my novels. It was my belief that God is all love, and thus, all are loved by God. That we should treat each other with humanity, justice, and love was my foremost philosophy.

On the occasion of my seventy first birthday in 1882, at a party in my honor, I reticently gave a speech where I stated my feelings about life with the comment, “Let us never doubt. Everything that ought to happen is going to happen”. And so it did in my life, so it does in yours.

If I were to live in these times, I would entreat you to be mindful of the good in your

neighbor so that your neighbor will find the good in you.





 Mail this post

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tags: , ,

3 Responses to “Meet Harriet Beecher Stowe”

  1. B. Nash says:

    Dave, I just made a post on my Lincoln blog about the Lincoln statue in the Crown Plaza-are you familar with the work? See the post: “Springfield, the city of Lincoln” at http://abesblogcabin.org/2010/02/page/2

  2. B. Nash says:

    Dave, thanks for the lead to the web site. I had no idea! I’ve never been there. I was planning on making a trip to Chicago tomorrow to take a picture of the seated Lincoln in Grant Park. My plans have fallen through. Anyway, there’s so much to see when it comes to Lincoln!

  3. Dave Wiegers says:

    There is a statue of Lincoln and Stowe together in Hartford, CT near the river front. The Lincoln Financial Group provided funds for the Lincoln Sculpture Walk along the Riverfront Park in downtown HArtford. Check it out:
    http://www.riverfront.org/parks/lincoln/.
    There is a series of 15 pieces that are related to Lincoln. Only 3 or 4 of the pieces actually depict Lincoln, the rest deal with Lincoln more abstractly. One piece is an abstract turkey to symbolize Lincoln recognition of Thanksgiving Day. Another piece is a large wire frame horse that symbolizes his days of riding the circuit as a lawyer in Illinois.

Leave a Reply