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Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Under her tutelage young Harriet learned the catechism, read her prayer book, the Bible, works by Samuel Johnson , and Arabian Nights. When she was six, her father remarried. With Lyman she had a son Frederick , who died of scarlet fever and a daughter Isabella Young Harriet was often entrusted to care for her when she was not attending classes at the Litchfield Academy under Mr. Harriet was becoming a voracious reader and competent writer, while also learning the practical arts of knitting and sewing.

Quick Facts

The Beecher household was bustling and happy once again. Harriet studied composition, Italian, French, and Latin, and developed a great love of poetry. After a time she also worked as an assistant teacher there.

The next year her father moved to Boston, Massachusetts and Harriet soon joined him there. Their home, located on Gilbert Avenue, is now a National Historical museum.

In Harriet won a writing contest in the Western Monthly Magazine. In Harriet married widowed clergyman Calvin Ellis Stowe , a professor at her father's theological seminary; they would have seven children: twin daughters Eliza Taylor and Harriet Beecher , Henry Ellis , Frederick William , Georgiana May , Samuel Charles [Charley] , and Charles Edward It was while living from in Cincinnati that Harriet and her husband encountered first-hand the reality of slavery; bordering the slave state Kentucky, they met escaped slaves and heard stories of their appalling treatment and desperate plight for freedom.

There was much public outcry against slavery, the Underground Railroad was formed, pamphlets were published, riots broke out, and mobs tried to wield their power politically, either for or against. While teaching with her sister Catherine she had co-authored An Elementary Geography , but her first novel The Mayflower was published in While a cholera epidemic was ravaging Cincinnati in , Calvin was suffering ill-health and sought a cure at Brattleboro. Her youngest child Charley died of cholera in July of ; Our Charley would be published in Stowe wrote to fellow author and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass for advice on the series.

It was attracting growing attention, including Boston publisher John P. He proposed a book publishing deal before Harriet had even finished her series. Harriet entered a prolific period of writing. In the Stowes moved to their home on Forest Street in Hartford, Connecticut where Mark Twain and his family were neighbors and they soon became friends.

During these later years Harriet also embarked on an ambitious reading tour for the American Literary Lecture Bureau of Boston. Toasts, speeches, letters, and poems were read in honour of Stowe, her life and works. Biography written by C. Newly expanded railroads made shipping citrus fruits north a potentially lucrative business. Stowe purchased an orange grove which she hoped her son Frederick would manage. Harriet Beecher Stowe loved Florida, comparing its soft climate to Italy, and she published Palmetto Leaves , describing the beauties and advantages of the state.

She continued to write and work to improve society for most of her days. After his retirement, the family moved to Hartford, CT.


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There, Harriet Beecher Stowe built her dream house, Oakholm, in Nook Farm, a neighborhood full of friends and relatives. The high maintenance cost and encroaching factories led her to sell her mansion in In , Harriet, along with her husband and two adult daughters, settled into a brick Victorian Gothic cottage on Forest Street where she remained for 23 years. While living in Hartford, Stowe undertook two speaking tours, one along the east coast, the second taking her to the western states.

Promoting progressive ideals, she worked to reinvigorate the art museum at the Wadsworth Atheneum and establish the Hartford Art School, later part of the University of Hartford. She published 30 books and countless short stories, poems, articles, and hymns. To people in the nineteenth century it was an act of God, a biblical plague. When Charley fell ill, Harriet wrote to Calvin that she had little hope of his recovery.

There was no medical intervention available at the time, and all Harriet could do was watch helplessly while her eighteen-month-old child was wracked by convulsions and lost all the fluids in his body. She later wrote that there were circumstances of such bitterness in the manner of Charley's death that she didn't think she could ever be reconciled for it unless his death allowed her to do some great good to others.

She also wrote that losing Charley made her understand what a slave woman felt when her child was taken away at the auction block. This law, like the Compromise of of which it was a part, was an attempt to hold the nation together around the contradiction of slavery in a democratic country. It required citizens to assist the sheriff in catching runaway slaves, stipulating fines and imprisonment for those who refused. No longer could the North pretend that "the peculiar institution" was just the South's problem. The Fugitive Slave Law brought slavery home to the doorsteps of northerners, who had to decide what they would do if a fugitive slave came knocking at their door for assistance.

Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin to encourage citizens to disobey what she took to be an unchristian law and to engage white parents, many of whom, she knew, had lost a child, in the deep question of what a slave parent feels. She wrote to Gamaliel Bailey, editor of the National Era , proposing what she thought at the time would be a series of three or four sketches. But 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.

The Carthagenian women in the last peril of their state cut off their hair for bow strings to give to the defenders of their country, and such peril and shame as now hangs over this country is worse than Roman slavery, and I hope every woman who can write will not be silent. In the first scene, a slave master in Kentucky, Mr. Shelby, is negotiating with a slave trader, Mr. Shelby is not an unkind master — he even lets his slaves read and practice religion — but Mr. Shelby is in debt and Haley holds the note he must make good. Shelby agrees to sell Tom, the slave who has raised him and who, because of his exceptional loyalty, trustworthiness, and Christian character, is very valuable.

While Stowe engages in strategic satire of the scale of values being applied to Tom, Haley observes that he is not quite enough to cover the debt.

Harriet Beecher

At this point in the negotiation into the room comes Harry, the five-year-old child of slave woman Eliza. Taken with the boy and thinking to raise him for the "fancy trade," Haley agrees that if Shelby will include him, he will write off his note.


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Meanwhile, listening on the other side of the wall is Eliza, the child's mother, who understands that Mr. Shelby plans to sell her child.

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Harriet Beecher Stowe

She resolves to steal away with him in the night. She packs up some articles of food and some of Harry's toys and sets out, carrying the child as long as her arms will bear and then setting him down and rolling an apple ahead of her to make him run as fast as his legs will carry him. At a memorable point in her flight, Eliza comes to the Ohio River, the boundary between the slave state of Kentucky and the free state of Ohio.

She approaches the ferry man and asks him to take them across. He points to the cakes of ice careening on the river and says that if they put a boat in the water it will be broken to pieces.

Early Life

At this point Eliza hears the voices of the slave catchers in close pursuit, and in a desperate act, holds tight to her child and leaps onto an ice cake, somehow managing to get from that ice cake to the next and the next. When Uncle Tom's Cabin was put on stage at the National Theater in New York, it was said that there was "not one dry eye" when Eliza reached the other side of the river. Of course, Stowe knew that if she could evoke that depth of response from a white audience, she did not need to make arguments about slavery. She had already succeeded in making them see the subjectivity of a black person.

Harriet Beecher Stowe - Books, Uncle Tom's Cabin & Facts - Biography

In the process, she transformed her loss of Charley into Eliza's gain of Harry. When Eliza reached the other side of the river with Harry, it was as if Stowe was setting her own child down gently on the other side after his terrible death. Propelled by Stowe's grief and her prophetic voice, Uncle Tom's Cabin took the world by storm. When it was published in book form in March of it sold , copies in the U. Sales in the British Isles topped a million and a half. Realizing the power of Stowe's pictorial prose, supporters of slavery rose up to denounce the book.

In response to charges that she misrepresented the institution of slavery she had been to the South just once, for a three-day visit to Kentucky , she wrote A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin.