Biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe was an author and a social activist, best known as the woman who changed how Americans viewed slavery. Harriet Elizabeth Beecher was born on June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut as the sixth of eleven children. She had achieved the national fame for her anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which had sparked an enormous ruckus before the Civil War.
Harriet’s father, Lyman Beecher was a well-known minister. Her mother, Roxana Beecher, died when Stowe was only five years old. Her mother’s death caused her to feel great sympathy for those children who were separated from their mothers under slavery. According to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Harriet had honored her mother’s talents by pursuing in drawing and painting. In the meantime, Harriet’s older sister, Catharine, had taken on the role as mother to her and her younger siblings. Being in an intelligent and ambitious family, Stowe had received a remarkable education for a girl. Having her father as a minister, religion was a powerful force throughout her life. Lyman Beecher drove his children along the straight path of devotion to God. Stowe has committed herself to memorize twenty-seven hymns and two long chapters in the Bible, (Gerson 36). By the time Stowe was six, her father had entered into his second marriage with Miss Harriet Porter of Portland. She had welcomed Lyman’s children as if they were her own. This new marriage restored feelings in Stowe’s empty heart because of the loss of her mother. At the age of 21, Harriet met Calvin Stowe, a theology professor. They met when Harriet and her family moved to Cincinnati, where her father became President of Lane Theological Seminary. It was there, Beecher and Stowe got married and eventually had seven children.
Lyman Beecher taught religion at Sarah Pierce’s Litchfield Female Academy. Stowe began her education at the Academy, where she was one of the first to encourage girls to study academic subjects and not simply arts. Stowe became a student, and then taught at Hartford Female Seminary which was founded by her older sister, Catharine. She learned subjects such as math, history, geography, logic, moral philosophy and Latin. As Stowe grew older, her morals and education advanced. At the age of thirteen, Stowe confessed to her father that she had been converted after hearing one of his sermons, which soon became an obvious theme in Stowe’s writing. When the family had moved to Cincinnati, Stowe wrote a children’s text which was used in Catharine’s school (Fembio). Stowe continued to teach at her sister’s school and joined the Semi Colon Club, where Stowe had taken part in frequent literary discussions and found her very first audience of her work. Stowe started to further advance her writing talents by “spending many hours composing essays,” (Coil 46).
Stowe had finally hit it big when she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. “It wasn’t written just for the pay” (Coil, 24). Stowe’s antislavery views were inspired by her father’s Christian beliefs in human equality. Everything fell into place for Stowe when she got the opportunity to witness closely the unfair and brutal the slave system was. Stowe felt that writing the novel would rouse people from their pride, shock them, and rattle their souls (Coil, 25). Stowe’s sister-in-law had suggested that Harriet use her skills to aid the cause of abolition. Stowe wanted to show Northerners the real character of slavery. Her novel sold more copies than any book had before and it raised many questions. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was written to require the readers to confront and think about racism. The New York Times mentioned that Stowe was receiving quite the attention from the publication of her novel, but refused a contract with her publisher that involved taking a risk. Stowe instead signed a standard contract that only gave her ten percent of the sales of her book.
Later in her career, Harriet Beecher Stowe had been...
Cited: Coil, Suzanne M. Harriet Beecher Stowe. New York: Franklin Watt, 1993. Print.
“Harriet Beecher Stowe.” Women in History. Lakewood Public Library. Web. 13 Jan 2013.
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