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Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Harriet Beecher Stowe was a world-renowned American writer, staunch abolitionist and one of the most influential women of the 19th century. Although she wrote dozens of books, essays and articles during her lifetime, she was best known for her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin Or, Life Among the Lowly, which brought unprecedented light to the plight of enslaved people and, many historians believe, helped incite the American Civil War.

Harriet Beecher Stowe's Early Life

Stowe was born into a prominent family on June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut. Her father, Lyman Beecher, was a Presbyterian preacher and her mother, Roxana Foote Beecher, died when Stowe was just five years old.

Stowe had twelve siblings (some were half-siblings born after her father remarried), many of whom were social reformers and involved in the abolitionist movement. But it was her sister Catharine who likely influenced her the most.

Catharine Beecher strongly believed girls should be afforded the same educational opportunities as men, although she never supported women’s suffrage. In 1823, she founded the Hartford Female Seminary, one of few schools of the era that educated women. Stowe attended the school as a student and later taught there.

Early Writing Career

Writing came naturally to Stowe, as it did to her father and many of her siblings. But it wasn’t until she moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, with Catharine and her father in 1832 that she found her true writing voice.

In Cincinnati, Stowe taught at the Western Female Institute, another school founded by Catharine, where she wrote many short stories and articles and co-authored a textbook.

With Ohio located just across the river from Kentucky—a state where slavery was legal—Stowe often encountered runaway enslaved people and heard their heart-wrenching stories. This, and a visit to a Kentucky plantation, fueled her abolitionist fervor.

Stowe’s uncle invited her to join the Semi-Colon Club, a co-ed literary group of prominent writers including teacher Calvin Ellis Stowe, the widower husband of her dear, deceased friend Eliza. The club gave Stowe the chance to hone her writing skills and network with publishers and influential people in the literary world.

Stowe and Calvin married in January 1836. He encouraged her writing and she continued to churn out short stories and sketches. Along the way, she gave birth to six children. In 1846, she published The Mayflower: Or, Sketches of Scenes and Characters Among the Descendants of the Pilgrims.

"Uncle Tom’s Cabin"

In 1850, Calvin became a professor at Bowdoin College and moved his family to Maine. That same year, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which allowed runaway enslaved people to be hunted, caught and returned to their owners, even in states where slavery was outlawed.

In 1851, Stowe’s 18-month-old son died. The tragedy helped her understand the heartbreak enslaved mothers went through when their children were wrenched from their arms and sold. The Fugitive Slave Law and her own great loss led Stowe to write about the plight of enslaved people.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin tells the story of Tom, an honorable, unselfish slave who’s taken from his wife and children to be sold at auction. On a transport ship, he saves the life of Eva, a white girl from a wealthy family. Eva’s father purchases Tom, and Tom and Eva become good friends.

In the meantime, Eliza—another enslaved worker from the same plantation as Tom—learns of plans to sell her son Harry. Eliza escapes the plantation with Harry, but they’re hunted down by a slave catcher whose views on slavery are eventually changed by Quakers.

Eva becomes ill and, on her deathbed, asks her father to free his enslaved workers. He agrees but is killed before he can, and Tom is sold to a ruthless new owner who employs violence and coercion to keep his enslaved workers in line.

After helping two enslaved people escape, Tom is beaten to death for not revealing their whereabouts. Throughout his life, he clings to his steadfast Christian faith, even as he lay dying.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s strong Christian message reflected Stowe’s belief that slavery and the Christian doctrine were at odds; in her eyes, slavery was clearly a sin.

The book was first published in serial form (1851-1852) as a group of sketches in the National Era and then as a two-volume novel. The book sold 10,000 copies the first week. Over the next year, it sold 300,000 copies in America and over one million copies in Britain.

Stowe became an overnight success and went on tour in the United States and Britain promoting Uncle Tom’s Cabin and her abolitionist views.

But it was considered unbecoming for women of Stowe’s era to speak publicly to large audiences of men. So, despite her fame, she seldom spoke about the book in public, even at events held in her honor. Instead, Calvin or one of her brothers spoke for her.

The Impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Uncle Tom’s Cabin brought slavery into the limelight like never before, especially in the northern states.

Its characters and their daily experiences made people uncomfortable as they realized enslaved people had families and hopes and dreams like everyone else, yet were considered chattel and exposed to terrible living conditions and violence. It made slavery personal and relatable instead of just some “peculiar institution” in the South.

It also sparked outrage. In the North, the book stoked anti-slavery views. According to The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Frederick Douglass celebrated that Stowe had “baptized with holy fire myriads who before cared nothing for the bleeding slave.” Abolitionists grew from a relatively small, outspoken group to a large and potent political force.

But in the South, Uncle Tom’s Cabin infuriated slave owners who preferred to keep the darker side of slavery to themselves. They felt attacked and misrepresented—despite Stowe’s including benevolent slave owners in the book—and stubbornly held tight to their belief that slavery was an economic necessity and enslaved people were inferior people incapable of taking care of themselves.

In some parts of the South, the book was illegal. As it gained popularity, divisions between the North and South became further entrenched. By the mid-1850s, the Republican Party had formed to help prevent slavery from spreading.

It’s speculated that abolitionist sentiment fueled by the release of Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped usher Abraham Lincoln into office after the election of 1860 and played a role in starting the Civil War.

It’s widely reported that Lincoln said upon meeting Stowe at the White House in 1862, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war,” although the quote can’t be proven.

READ MORE: What Abraham Lincoln Thought About Slavery

Other Anti-Slavery Books

Uncle Tom’s Cabin wasn’t the only book Stowe wrote about slavery. In 1853, she published two books: A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which offered documents and personal testimonies to verify the accuracy of the book, and Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, which reflected her belief that slavery demeaned society.

In 1859, Stowe published The Minister’s Wooing, a romantic novel which touches on slavery and Calvinist theology.

Stowe’s Later Years

In 1864, Calvin retired and moved his family to Hartford, Connecticut—their neighbor was Mark Twain—but the Stowes spent their winters in Mandarin, Florida. Stowe and her son Frederick established a plantation there and hired formerly enslaved people to work it. In 1873, she wrote Palmetto Leaves, a memoir promoting Florida life.

Controversy and heartache found Stowe again in her later years. In 1869, her article in The Atlantic accused English nobleman Lord Byron of an incestuous relationship with his half-sister that produced a child. The scandal diminished her popularity with the British people.

In 1871, Stowe’s son Frederick drowned at sea and in 1872, Stowe’s preacher brother Henry was accused of adultery with one of his parishioners. But no scandal ever reduced the massive impact her writings had on slavery and the literary world.

Stowe died on July 2, 1896, at her Connecticut home, surrounded by her family. According to her obituary, she died of a years-long “mental trouble,” which became acute and caused “congestion of the brain and partial paralysis.” She left behind a legacy of words and ideals which continue to challenge and inspire today.


Catharine Esther Beecher. National Women’s History Museum.
Harriet B. Stowe. Ohio History Central.
Harriet Beecher Stowe House. National Park Service.
Harriet Beecher Stowe Obituary. The New York Times: On this Day.
Meet the Beecher Family. Harriet Beecher Stowe House.
The Impact of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’ The New York Times.

Campus History

Harris-Stowe State University traces its origin back to 1857 when it was founded by the St. Louis Public Schools as a normal school and thus became the first public teacher education institution west of the Mississippi River and the 12th such institution in the United States. The earliest predecessor of Harris-Stowe State University was a normal school established for white students only by the Public School System of the city of St. Louis. This school was later named Harris Teachers College in honor of William Torrey Harris who had been a Superintendent of Instruction in the St. Louis Public Schools and also a United States Commissioner of Education.

The College began offering in-service education for St. Louis white teachers as early as 1906. In 1920, Harris Teachers College became a four-year undergraduate institution authorized to grant a Bachelor of Arts in Education Degree.

A second predecessor institution was Stowe Teachers College , which began in 1890 as a normal school for future black teachers of elementary schools in the city of St. Louis. This normal school was also founded by the St. Louis Public School System and was an extension of Sumner High School. In 1924, the Sumner Normal School became a four-year institution with authority to grant the baccalaureate degree. In 1929, its name was changed to Stowe Teachers College, in honor of the abolitionist and novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe. These two teacher education institutions were merged by the Board of Education of the St. Louis Public Schools in 1954 as the first of several steps to integrate the public schools of St. Louis. The merged institution retained the name Harris Teachers College.

Later, in response to the many request s from alumni of Stowe Teachers College and members of the greater St. Louis community, the Board of Education agreed to restore to the College's name the word "Stowe" and to drop the word "Teachers." In 1979, the General Assembly of the State of Missouri enacted Senate Bill 703 under which Harris-Stowe College became the newest member of the State system of public higher education. The institution's name was again changed by the addition of the word "State" and became officially known as Harris-Stowe State College. In addition to the name change, the College's baccalaureate degree was changed to Bachelor of Science in Education. In compliance with the new state standards and teacher certification requirements, the College' s T eacher Education curriculum was modified and three separate Teacher Education majors were approved: Early Childhood Education, Elementary School Education and Middle School/High School Education.

In 1981, the College received s tate approval for a new degree program — the Bachelor of Science in Urban Education. This program is the only one of its kind at the undergraduate level in the United States and is designed to prepare non-teaching urban education specialists who will be effective in solving the many urban-related problems facing today's urban schools. In 1993, the State Governor signed into law Senate Bill 153, which authorized the College to expand its mission in order to address unmet needs of m etropolitan St. Louis in various applied professional disciplines. In response to that authority, Harris-Stowe developed two new baccalaureate degree programs:

  1. Business Administration , with professional options in Accounting, Management Information Systems, General Business and Marketing
  2. Secondary Teacher Education , with subject-matter options in Biology, English, Mathematics and Social Studies.

Finally, on August 25, 2005, by mandate of the State of Missouri, Harris-Stowe State College obtained university status. Today the University hosts collaborative graduate degree programs with Maryville University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Webster University. The University continues to expand, adding new campuses and buildings as part of its 21st-century initiative to offer opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students seeking a variety of degrees.

Thus, from its beginnings as two normal schools in the mid and late 19th century to its present status as a s tate institution of public higher education, Harris-Stowe State University and its predecessor institutions have always been in the forefront of teacher education. Now, with its mission expanded to include other professional disciplines, the University will provide greatly needed additional opportunities to metropolitan St. Louisians in other important fields of endeavor. The University will continue its quest for excellence in all of its offerings and strive even more to meet the complex and demanding challenge of preparing students for effective roles in this region's various professions.

Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Fighter for Social Justice

March is Women’s History Month and today is International Women’s Day. To celebrate both events we are hosting an # ArchivesHerstory party! Today’s post comes from Michael J. Hancock in the National Archives History Office.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was an abolitionist, author, and figure in the woman suffrage movement. Her magnum opus, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), was a depiction of life for African American slaves in the mid-19th century that energized antislavery forces in the North and provoked widespread anger in the South.

She wrote more than 20 books and was influential both for her writing and her public stance on social issues of the day, including women’s right to vote.

After Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, which punished anyone who offered food or temporary shelter to runaway slaves, and following the loss of her 18-month-old son, Samuel, Stowe was inspired to write about the abomination of human bondage.

She used the personal accounts of former slaves to write her antislavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin: or Life Among the Lowly . When it first appeared in installments in the abolitionist newspaper The National Era between June 5, 1851 and April 1, 1852, it met with hostility by slavery proponents.

Stowe expected that she would write the story in three or four installments, but she eventually wrote more than 40. The novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was then published as a two-volume book in 1852. It was a best seller in the United States, Britain, and Europe and was translated into over 60 languages.

The book received both high praise and harsh criticism and propelled Stowe and the issue of slavery into the international spotlight.

Slavery proponents argued that the novel was nothing more than abolitionist propaganda. In the South, and in the North too, people protested that the depiction of slavery had been melodramatically twisted. Southerners particularly promoted the idea that the institution of slavery was benevolent and benign. Responding to charges that the book was a distortion, Stowe published another book, A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin , which documented the actual cases upon which her book was based to refute critics’ claims that her work was fabricated and based on supposition.

Shortly after the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin , F. W. Thomas, the editor of a German newspaper in Philadelphia, began to print excerpts from the book without paying the required royalties. Stowe filed a claim with the Federal court in Philadelphia and provided a written deposition detailing her authorship to Justice Robert Grier, a notorious enforcer of the Fugitive Slave Act. He eventually ruled in her favor.

28d. Harriet Beecher Stowe &mdash Uncle Tom's Cabin

This was Abraham Lincoln's reported greeting to Harriet Beecher Stowe when he met her ten years after her book Uncle Tom's Cabin was published. Although the President may have been exaggerating a bit, few novels in American history have grabbed the public spotlight and caused as great an uproar as Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Across the north, readers became acutely aware of the horrors of slavery on a far more personal level than ever before. In the south the book was met with outrage and branded an irresponsible book of distortions and overstatements. In such an explosive environment, her story greatly furthered the Abolitionist cause north of the Mason-Dixon Line and promoted sheer indignation in plantation America.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was born into a prominent family of preachers. Her father, Lyman Beecher, was one of the most renowned ministers in his generation. Her brother Henry Ward Beecher was already an outspoken Abolitionist, and by the mid 1850s would become the driving force behind aiding the Free-Soil cause in " bleeding Kansas " (not permitting slavery in the new territory). While living for a short while in Cincinnati, Stowe became exposed to actual runaway slaves. Her heart ached at the wretched tales she heard. She began to write a series of short stories depicting the plight of plantation slaves.

Encouraged by her sister-in-law, Stowe decided to pen a novel. First published as a series in 1851, it first appeared as a book the following year. The heart-wrenching tale portrays slave families forced to cope with separation by masters through sale. Uncle Tom mourns for the family he was forced to leave. In one heroic scene, Eliza makes a daring dash across the frozen Ohio River to prevent the sale of her son by slave traders. The novel also takes the perspective that slavery brings out the worst in the white masters, leading them to perpetrate moral atrocities they would otherwise never commit.

The reaction was incredible. Uncle Tom's Cabin sold 300,000 copies in the North alone. The Fugitive Slave Law , passed in 1850, could hardly be enforced by any of Stowe's readers. Although banned in most of the south, it served as another log on the growing fire.

The book sold even more copies in Great Britain than in the United States. This had an immeasurable appeal in swaying British public opinion. Many members of the British Parliament relished the idea of a divided United States. Ten years after the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin , the British people made it difficult for its government to support the Confederacy, even though there were strong economic ties to the South. In the end, Mr. Lincoln may not have been stretching the truth after all.

" I have been the mother of seven children, the most beautiful and most loved of whom lies buried near my Cincinnati residence. It was at his dying bed and at his grave that I learned what a poor slave mother may feel when her child is torn away from her."

Harriet Beecher Stow, in a letter to Eliza Cabot Follen, February 16, 1852
Learn More.

Harriet Beecher Stowe - HISTORY

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) published more than 30 books, but it was her best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin that catapulted her to international celebrity and secured her place in history. She believed her actions could make a positive difference. Her words changed the world.


Discover more information on the Beecher family here, and visit the Newman Baruch library at CUNY.

Harriet Elisabeth Beecher was born June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, CT to the Rev. Lyman Beecher (1775-1863) and Roxanna Foote Beecher (1775-1816), the sixth of 11 children.

The Beechers expected their children to shape the world around them:

  • All seven sons became ministers, then the most effective way to influence society
  • Oldest daughter Catharine pioneered education for women
  • Youngest daughter Isabella was a founder of the National Women’s Suffrage Association
  • Harriet believed her purpose in life was to write. Her most famous work exposed the truth about the greatest social injustice of her day, human slavery
Family Life

When Harriet was five years old, her mother died and her oldest sister
Catharine assumed much of the responsibility for raising her younger
siblings. Harriet showed early literary promise: At seven, she won a
school essay contest, earning praise from her father. Harriet’s later
pursuit of painting and drawing honored her mother’s talents.

Her father’s second wife, Harriet Porter Beecher (1800-1835), was a
beautiful woman slightly overwhelmed by the eight boisterous children
she inherited. Her own children, Isabella, Thomas and James, added to
the noisy household.

In Litchfield, and on frequent visits to her grandmother in Guilford, CT, Harriet and her sisters and brothers played, read, hiked, and joined their father in games and exercises. Many of these childhood events were incorporated in her last novel Poganuc People (1878).

Daguerreotype, Beecher Family Portrait, Matthew Brady Studios, 1859


As a young girl, Harriet took part in lively debates at the family table. By discussing current events and social issues, Harriet learned how to argue persuasively.

She began her formal education at Sarah Pierce’s academy, one of the earliest institutions to encourage girls to study academic subjects in addition to the traditional ornamental arts.

In 1824, Harriet became first a student and then a teacher at Hartford Female Seminary, founded by sister Catharine. There, she furthered her writing talents, spending many hours composing essays.

In 1832, 21-year-old Harriet Beecher moved with her family to Cincinnati, OH when her father

Lyman was appointed President of Lane Theological Seminary. There she met and married Calvin Stowe, a theology professor she described as “rich in Greek & Hebrew, Latin & Arabic, & alas! rich in nothing else…”

Six of Stowe’s seven children were born in Cincinnati. In the summer of 1849, Stowe experienced for the first time the sorrow of many 19th century parents when her 18-month-old son, Samuel Charles Stowe, died of cholera. Stowe later credited that crushing pain as one of the inspirations for Uncle Tom’s Cabin because it helped her understand the pain enslaved mothers felt when their children were sold away from them.

In 1850 Calvin Stowe joined the faculty of his alma mater, Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, ME. The Stowe family moved and lived in Brunswick until 1853.

Stowe Home, Brunswick, Maine

After the Civil War, the Stowes purchased a house and property in Mandarin, FL on the St. John’s River and began to travel south each winter. The relatively mild winters of northern Florida were a welcome respite from Hartford’s cold and the high costs of winter fuel.

The Beechers and the Stowes knew that racial equality required more than legislation it also required education. Stowe’s brother Charles Beecher (1815-1900) opened a Florida school to teach emancipated people and he had urged Calvin and Harriet Stowe to join him.

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 (1873), describing the beauties and advantages of the state. Stowe and her family wintered in Mandarin for more than 15 years before Calvin’s health prohibited long travel.

Stowe was less than half way through her life when she published Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She continued to write and work to improve society for most of her days. From Brunswick, the Stowes moved to Andover, MA, where Calvin was a professor of theology at Andover Theological Seminary (1853-1864).

After his retirement, the family moved to Hartford, CT. 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 1870. In 1873, 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.

Stowe wrote some of her best known works, after Uncle Tom’s Cabin, while living in Hartford: The American Woman’s Home (1869), Lady Byron Vindicated (1871) and Poganuc People (1878).


A comprehensive bibliography for Harriet Beecher Stowe can be found at the University of Pennsylvania website.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s writing career spanned 51 years. She published 30 books and countless short stories, poems, articles, and hymns. She learned early that her writing contributed to the family income. With her writing, Stowe could publicly express her thoughts and beliefs in a time when women were discouraged from public speaking, and could not vote or hold office.

Stowe’s publishing career began before her marriage with:

  • Primary Geography for Children (1833)
    Her sympathetic approach to Catholicism, unusual for its time, won her the praise of the local bishop.
  • New England Sketches (1835)
    A short story collection.

These were followed after marriage by:

  • The Mayflower: Sketches of Scenes and Characters among the Descendants of the Pilgrim (1843)
  • The Coral Ring (1843)
    A short story which promoted temperance and an anti-slavery tract.
  • Numerous articles, essays and short stories published regularly in newspapers and journals

In 1851, The National Era publisher Gamaliel Bailey contracted with Stowe for a story that would “paint a word picture of slavery” and that would run in installments in the abolitionist newspaper. Stowe expected Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life Among the Lowly to be three or four chapters. She wrote more than 40.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin brought Stowe financial security and allowed her to write full time. She published multiple works each year including three other antislavery works: The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1853) documenting the case histories on which she had based Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856), a forceful anti-slavery novel, and The Minister’s Wooing (1859) encouraging a more forgiving form of Christianity.

Other Notable Works
  • The American Woman’s Home
    A practical guide to homemaking, co-authored with sister Catharine Beecher
  • Lady Byron Vindicated
    Which strove to defend Stowe’s friend lady Byron while immersing Stowe herself in scandal.

Isabella Holmes Beecher Hooker (1822-1907)
An ardent member of the woman’s suffrage movement, Isabella Holmes Beecher Hooker joined in the cause along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

Isabella was the first child of Lyman Beecher and his second wife, Harriet Porter Beecher.

Isabella began her education at Catharine Beecher’s Hartford Female Seminary and lived with her sister Mary Perkins. In 1841 she married John Hooker, a descendant of Thomas Hooker, the founder of Hartford. John Hooker was a lawyer and an abolitionist.

In the early 1860s Isabella got involved in the woman’s suffrage movement. Isabella joined Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony as a member of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association in 1869. She was a founding member of the Connecticut Woman’s Suffrage Association. Isabella’s ideas of equality were influenced by John Stuart Mills’ On Liberty and the Subjection of Women.

In 1871, Isabella organized the annual convention of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association in Washington D.C. and presented her argument before the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate. Her husband, John Hooker, believed in his wife and supported her activities. He helped Isabella draft a bill to the Connecticut Legislature giving married women the same property rights as their husbands. The bill passed in 1877. Isabella annually submitted a bill granting women the right to vote, but it did not pass in her lifetime.

Due to inclement weather, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is closed today, Monday, December 2.


Along with their interest in literature, Harriet and Calvin Stowe shared a strong belief in abolition. In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law, prompting distress and distress in abolitionist and free Black communities of the North. Stowe decided to express her feelings through a literary representation of slavery, basing her work on the life of Josiah Henson and on her own observations. In 1851, the first installment of Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, appeared in the National Era. Uncle Tom&aposs Cabin was published as a book the following year and quickly became a best seller.

Stowe’s emotional portrayal of the impact of slavery, particularly on families and children, captured the nation&aposs attention. Embraced in the North, the book and its author aroused hostility in the South. Enthusiasts staged theatrical performances based on the story, with the characters of Tom, Eva and Topsy achieving iconic status.

After the Civil War began, Stowe traveled to Washington, D.C., where she met with Abraham Lincoln. A possibly apocryphal but popular story credits Lincoln with the greeting, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” While little is known about the meeting, the persistence of this story captures the perceived significance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the split between North and South.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Changed History

When the Fugitive Slave Act went into effect, panic spread among blacks. Outrage spread among the abolitionists. Isabella Beecher wrote an impassioned letter to her sister-in-law, Harriet Beecher Stowe. "Oh Hatty," she wrote. "If I could use a pen as you can, I would write something that will make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is."

Years later, Hatty’s older children still remembered the scene when their mother read Isabella’s letter out loud to them in the parlor and they never forgot the fervency of her determination to write the book. Hatty wrote feverishly, as one possessed — and she was — she was consumed by her passion and her sense of calling to this crucial task. She devoured everything she could find about slavery and listened to former slaves so that she could tell their stories.

The book that Hatty wrote was first published in serial stories. They became an overnight sensation. One of her biographers wrote: "It was a powerful novel, filled with memorable characters and incidents drawn from life, and, unlike any novel before, its hero, Uncle Tom, was a black man — a courageous slave, moreover, whose dignity and strength grew not out of resignation but from a profound Christian faith." Langston Hughes, black author and poet, described Uncle Tom as a "gentle black Christ who turned the other cheek."

The book catapulted the problem of slavery into the national spotlight. Harriet described slavery as "the next worst thing to Hell." She also put a human face on slavery — copies of the series were passed around "as if the tear stains on them were sacred." Through Uncle Tom, readers came to understand that slaves were human beings who were suffering cruelly. Her book has been called "one of the most effective pieces of reform literature ever published." When Harriet Beecher Stowe met Abraham Lincoln, he remarked, "So, this is the little lady who started this big war!"

Such is the power of the pen. When the book was published March 13, 1852, it broke all sales records: selling 3,000 copies the first day, eventually more than 3 million copies were sold worldwide, and it has been translated into more than 20 languages. Tolstoy considered the book to be a "great work of literature." Alfred Kazin wrote that the book "is the most powerful and most enduring work of art ever written about American slavery." Elizabeth Barrett Browning declared that Harriet’s powerful writing had, more than any other man or woman of her era, "moved the world for good."

What made the book so powerful?

Harriet asserted that "she did not write ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin‘ God wrote it and she served merely as His instrument." She also believed that the book "had its root in the awful scenes and bitter sorrow" of the summer that her son died. She explained, "It was at his dying bed and at his grave that I learned what a poor slave mother may feel when her child is torn away from her." Mrs. Stowe went on to write, "I felt I could never be consoled for [the death of her baby, Charley, in 1849] unless this crushing of my own heart might enable me to work out some great good to others." Her obedience to that call and her faithfulness to that mission produced "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" — a book that not only "moved the world," but was also a novel "unparalleled among works of fiction for its impact on contemporary opinion."

Harriet’s background prepared her to write hymns and stories with deeply spiritual messages her father was Lyman Beecher a famous preacher and seminary president. Beecher was reputed to have fathered more brains than any other man in America — all of his sons became outstanding, influential clergymen and three of his four daughters became famous and influential. Harriet’s brother, Henry Ward Beecher, was a distinguished preacher and reformer and her husband was a respected theologian and Bible scholar.

Harriet described herself as "a little bit of a woman, somewhat more than forty, about as thin and dry as a pinch of snuff, never very much to look at in my best days and looking like a used up article now."

In many respects, Harriet’s description was accurate by then she was "used up" physically. For almost 30 years, she produced a book a year and writing, on top of all her other responsibilities, was like "rowing against wind and tide." And, while "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" was a remarkable success and booksellers couldn’t keep up with the demand for the book, there were outspoken critic of the book as well. Harriet was called a "wicked authoress" and a "vile wretch in petticoats" the book was called "detestable and monstrous" and Harriet lived with constant threats and barrages of obscene letters.

Harriet never lost her masterful use of language. Toward the end of her life, she wrote, "I feel about all things now as I do about the things that happen in a hotel, after my trunk is packed to go home." She had fought the good fight, had been faithful to her talent and calling, now she was ready to leave for a better place. She suffered a mild stroke, afterwards writing to Oliver Wendell Holmes, "I make no mental effort of any sort my brain is tired out. … And now I rest me, like a moored boat, rising and falling on the water, with loosened cordage and flapping sail." When she died, there was a lovely wreath on her grave with a simple card from "The Children of Uncle Tom," sent by former slaves in Boston.

Harriet Beecher Stowe - HISTORY

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Isabella Holmes Beecher Hooker (1822-1907)
An ardent member of the woman’s suffrage movement, Isabella Holmes Beecher Hooker joined in the cause along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

Isabella was the first child of Lyman Beecher and his second wife, Harriet Porter Beecher.

Isabella began her education at Catharine Beecher’s Hartford Female Seminary and lived with her sister Mary Perkins. In 1841 she married John Hooker, a descendant of Thomas Hooker, the founder of Hartford. John Hooker was a lawyer and an abolitionist.

In the early 1860s Isabella got involved in the woman’s suffrage movement. Isabella joined Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony as a member of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association in 1869. She was a founding member of the Connecticut Woman’s Suffrage Association. Isabella’s ideas of equality were influenced by John Stuart Mills’ On Liberty and the Subjection of Women.

In 1871, Isabella organized the annual convention of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association in Washington D.C. and presented her argument before the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate. Her husband, John Hooker, believed in his wife and supported her activities. He helped Isabella draft a bill to the Connecticut Legislature giving married women the same property rights as their husbands. The bill passed in 1877. Isabella annually submitted a bill granting women the right to vote, but it did not pass in her lifetime.

Due to inclement weather, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is closed today, Monday, December 2.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

The theme of this year’s Teaching American History Saturday webinars is American Minds. Prominent scholars will discuss individuals who made significant social, cultural, or political contributions to the American identity. On 7 December 2019, join panelists Chris Burkett (Ashland University), Bill Allen (Michigan State University), and David Krugler (University of Wisconsin) to explore the life, ideas, letters, and impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Below, you’ll find selected passages from each of the readings to be discussed — we hope these will inspire you to read more in each text in order to better understand Stowe’s work.

Review of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Rambler, November 1852

(Note that already in 1852 the reviewer says at least nine editions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin had already been published!)

The story comes before us as an attack upon slavery, on account of the horrors inherent in and necessary to the system but perhaps the unfitness of a work of fiction as an instrument of religious or political propagandism was never more strikingly exemplified. … As far as we can judge, the present abolition of slavery in the southern states of America would be a greater evil than its continuance and our objection to books like the one under consideration, as well as to the use that is being made of it, and the whole conduct of the abolitionist party in general, is this, that they are injuring the cause they wish to serve, and that by their means the sympathies of the good are misdirected, and their attention diverted from the true bearings of the case, and the only true source of remedy.

Letter to Daniel Goodloe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, 9 February 1853

As to all this little flutter of crimination and recrimination between England and America, about slavery and the state of the poor in England, I fancy it will do good on both sides. It will not hurt our respectable sister, Mrs. Bull, to know that her housekeeping is open to investigation as well as ours, and the only way that truth ever comes out is by this kind of sifting. The discussion will undoubtedly strength the hands of those who are seeking to elevate the lower classes of England, and so good will be done all around.

Letter to Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, 8 March 1853

I desire to express, dear Madam, my deep sense of the value of the services which you have already rendered my afflicted and persecuted people, by the publication of your inimitable book on the subject of slavery. That contribution to our bleeding cause, alone, involves us in a debt of gratitude which cannot be measured and your resolution to make other exertions on our behalf excites in me emotions and sentiments, which I scarcely need try to give forth in words. Suffice it to say, that I believe you to have the blessings of your enslaved countrymen and countrywomen and the still higher reward which comes to the soul in the smiles of our merciful Heavenly father, whose ear is ever open to the cries of the oppressed.

Harriet Beecher Stowe - HISTORY

Hanover students from His229 "Women in American History" (Fall 2015), taught by Sarah McNair Vosmeier, transcribed these letters. The originals are in the Beecher-Stowe Family Papers, at the Schlesinger Library of Harvard University. Images of the letters are available online.

(NB: The text below has been minimally edited -- to supply paragraph numbers and occasionally to clarify sentence and paragraph breaks.)

Harriet Beecher Stowe, letter to Calvin Stowe, 23 May 1844
Transcription by Ashley Eden (HC 2017), Cait Kennedy (HC 2016), and Jennifer Gilly (HC 2018) from an online image.

May 23.

My Dear Husband

<1>So you complain of me, - well , before this time you must have received my two letters, & been suitably delighted & so you might have been had you appreciated the bustle & turmoil & confusion of mind in which I wrote -- The fact is that I do not feel that our ardent & amiable friend Mrs B -- realised what she undertook in taking this house, my family, & other boarders

<2>She is ardent & executive, but not consecutive & systematic - - has not the talent alone to arrange and regulate a large establishment as ours will necessarily be. This has thrown a large part of the labour of arranging upon me, & gives me still a larger share of anxiety . . . . Still on the whole she is extremely capable in particular things and very amiable & willing to receive advice & suggestions. She has also a very amiable good girl tho not a very smart one - - Mr Boardman is always gentle disinterested & obliging -- takes excellent care of Fritz & of all out of door business. We had to day the offer of two more boarders, ladies, in one entry chamber which with Mr & Mrs McG. nurse & child increases our family to the account of six - We sit in the morning a long table which goes quite across the dining room for then children & all come - - at other times they sit at the second table We are expecting Henry Eunice & their children at anniversary also Sarah Beecher & little George --

<3>May 25 Received a letter yesterday from Charles at Ft Wayne -- a [illegible] revival has commenced & he is almost beside himself with joy & can scarcely believe his own eyes but feels as the seventy did when they found that they could work miracles "Lord even the devils are subject unto us" - - You can see the letter if you go to Hartford. Aunt Esther has a copy of it sent her -- Father rejoices you can guess how much -- To day have been busy most of the day, helping about family matters -- do hope we shall get done sometime, & when we are, every bed room in the house will be carpeted finished & occupied you will scarcely find room for yourself if you want to come back -- How strange this mode of life seems to me! -- I scarce know myself & in the bewilderment scarce mis you since I feel as if I was somebody else -- Whether after all we shall make any thing with all our trouble may be doubted If we get thro a little cheaper it is the most I hope

<4>-- Bye the bye I think the Evangelist owes me something will you enquire about it for me -- They sent me Feb 7 [1833?] -- , [strikeout: Those pieces were worth, I think. 17. $25 -- [strikeout: after] after receiving the two dancing school pieces - - Those pieces were worth about 17 -- then there was a short piece worth about $7 Then the Dickens piece was about 12 or thirteen & the last Missionary piece $25 making what they owe me about Thirty one or two dollars -- I have some more pieces partly written which I shall send on soon -- Those dancing pieces with which the account begins [strikeout: conn] are [strikeout: in] sometime after Feby 11 -- 1833 -- Now if you can go to the Evan office & look over a volume you can soon find how the account stands - $25 being paid -- The pieces are The dancing school 2 no. The pilgrim (or some such name) -- Dickens -- The Western Missionary -- I have not got the titles right but the subject matter is so -- I am obliged to let Mr Boardman have some money he wants it for current expenses - & I shall want the command of that money -- I intend to write more soon & have three pieces now already planned & shall write more I sent my preface to Dodd. I think it is a pretty good one considering - - & if he will send me a ten dollar bill for it just as a fee I'l say "thank ye sir" & take it -- [strikeout: The g]

<5>Now if you want to see a sketch of my manner of life it is thus & so -- Rise at 1/2 past 5 - - breakfast 6. Morning prayer meeting till 7. Work in garden till eight -- then come in the house review knives spoons castors & all the table paraphanalia count & see that every thing is in proper order -- 1/2 past [paper torn: nine?] call the children into school sing a hymn pray with them and give them a bible lesson half an hour long -- the Life of Christ freely described in the style of Charles' lectures -- they are very much interested -- They then spend a half an hour on their texts & bible lessons for sunday -- Then read in a class & then sew till dinner time -- They are pretty good children -- nothing very smart has been said by any of them tho' lately -- To day little Miss Eliza by dint of frisking & figuring about, instead of learning her lesson contrived to lose her dinner privileges & to have only bread & water in her own apartment -- After dinner I noticed Hatty gliding very quietly up stars with her own saucer full of custard which she had saved up for Eliza -- The child is always doing such things & yet strangers suppose she is not nearly so affectionate as Eliza

<6>-- Our affairs proceed prosperously on the whole -- I think Mr & Mrs McG -- will really be quite an addition to our circle -- I am very tired to night & must go to bed farewell

<7>By the way Kate must wants me to say to you, be sure & get Johnny Ross' Experience down in writing - & I do hope you will not lose the opportunity.

<8>Monday no letter for a week - I hasten to send this lest you should have missed some of my others - - - -

<9>Give me love to all dear N England friends wherever you meet them & do not fail to attend to the business part of my letter - - I long for the time when you will retrn & we shall be once more a united family together.

Yours afftly

H B Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe, letter to Calvin Stowe, 9 July 1844
Transcription by Clinton Bly (HC 2016), Nicole Hoene (HC 2016), and Amanda Hopkins (HC 2016) from an online image.

My Dear Husband,

<10>This is the first day since I have been here at Indianapolis that I have felt any thing like well - - having been tormented with a cold, rheumatic pain & a violent cough & to day is one of those insufferably close, damp, disagreeable days that make one feel as if in a steam bath - - Henry & Eunice & Talbot & I have been since dinner lounging & gaping about like fish in a pail of water, scarcely knowing whether we are alive or dead - - in this miserable half & half condition I bethink me of writing to you. All hope of keeping up much of a correspondence seems to fade from before my eyes, as I am at Indianapolis, & you, any where & every where & letters before they reach either point must necessarily grow pretty old - - I have been here a week & four or five days and find here just the calm placid quiet retreat I have been longing for - - You have no idea of the commotion that I have lived in ever since you left - - The moving in of Mr & Mrs B __ the cleaning the whole house the shifting & rearranging of rooms, the preparing for boarders, & then the company anniversary week & after Henry Eunice little Hattie & Henry, Sarah & her nurse & little George - - with Mr & Mrs McGuffie & Master Charley - - In all we had ten children in the family - - - - & when I came away I felt completely worn out - - & perhaps my ill feelings here are but the running down after such an excitement. Sister Sarah, appears increasingly noble & lovely - that fool of a Boy was [sneaking?] around enquiring of Kate! Whether she was [strikeout: shur] sure there was no hope! only think! - - Sarah seems to become very much like her mother who was one of the noblest and loveliest of living women. Mrs McG __ does not prove as agreeable on all points as I expected - - She is too selfish & exigiante - - [strikeout: How] yet she is a fine sensible woman, & possessed of many generous and estimable qualities - - I don't like the term selfish, it covers too much ground - - Elisabeth does not seem to me to be naturally selfish, but only to have streaks of it - - one thing I know that I wont take my friends as boarders, for one sees too much of them! - - poor human nature. During my absence Boardman writes that they have taken Mr & Mrs Chase, [strikeout: wife &] child & nurse - - I am weary at the thoughts of such a housefull - - is it necessary! - - It depends on me whether they remain after my return - - I don't know what to say - - I wish the summer were through & this boarding business closed, I am heartily sick of it - - It is too noisy & disquieting & harassing - - When I come home Anna will take Hatty & Elisa to Charlestown & I wish I could go off with Henry & Freddy till you return & so be out of the scrape - - Had a letter from Anna tonight - little Georgy & all the children are well - & Georgy really says "Mamma" & has a tooth & the promise of three or four more - - By the bye you must manage to see Georgianna May & tell her that her little name sake will do her credit one of these days. Give my love to her also & tell her that had it not been for that same little Georgy I would have come up with you this summer

<11>I cant tell you how much such a housefull as we have worries & annoys me, but if you think it necessary why I must try to bear with it till you return & then I should be glad to go back to our own family circle - - but you can decide what is best on your return - - I have often regretted that there was no definite agreement between Mr B. & you as to rent terms &c for I do not know now exactly how we do stand - - I have let Mr B have about $25 & he keeps his accounts quite exact, or seems to - - & as he was a merchant probably knows how better than I do - - nevertheless I do the best I am able - - I will let this boarding matter go on the whole & let them have as many as they want only reserving one room for self & children & I hope it will lessen our expenses - - I am glad you are learning trust in Christ - - Be sure that if we make it our first object to do his work[strikeout: s] he will provide for us - - & tho as you once remarks he will not keep our accounts for us, yet he can in a thousand ways help us to steer through - -

<12>July 9th. I am not well yet - - to day am reduced to calomel & gruel - - very sick all day yesterday vomiting & what not- Pretty miserable at letter writing. Now my dear, as you will want to bring home a little matter for your wife will you go to [several lines cut out]

<13>Also see if you can get for me there either some guano or poudrette sufficient tell the man for about twenty plants I want to pot for my window this winter - - I read with some interest as Bro Goodman might say, your remarks in Cleveland - - I hope that you really feel in your heart a new impulse of spiritual life, while you seek to impart it - - Broth Goodman's reports are some thing the sleepiest, tho Anna writes me that Proff Allen came home much Elated - - Do you know I am seriously thinking of breaking up our "connection" & coming here to I - - to take a class of young ladies & so influence the state - - Such pretty girls as they have here & so uncultivated - - I really long to do something for them - - teach them to be women - - & not - - men corruptors & destroyers - - Female education is at a low ebb in this state

[several lines cut out]

<14>refined - - strong mind & winning manners who would come to Indianapolis, with a view not merely of teaching a school but of forming the centre of female influence in the state. - - Henry says he wants only the woman & he can move the whole state for her. [cross-written on last page:] - I can think only of F Strong and H Brown [words cut out] they are permanently located. M Hudson [words cut out]] would & if she & Sarah Day would undertake the [torn paper] they could - - Suppose you think the matter [words cut out] what can be done

[marginalia on first page:] I must send this letter off to day __ Farewell Yours H

Revd C. E. Stowe
South Natick

[In a later hand:] Visiting at Indianapolis, Mr Stowe at Natick

Harriet Beecher Stowe, letter to Calvin Stowe, 27 May 1846

Transcription by Emalee Moore (HC 2016) and Sarah McNair Vosmeier from an online image.

To Dr Stowe from his wife H. B. S.

<15>The account of your health in your letter gave me serious uneasiness - - & I think it very important that you should, as soon as possible, take the course most favorable to your restoration - - & that course Kate & Dr Wesselhoeft & I all think will be for you to come here for water treatment & stay till October.

<16>Yesterday Kate wrote an account of your care as I stated it to her, for the Doctor -- at the close she stated our limited means & that we could not command over three hundred dollars for our expenses, over & above the other family expenses. He advised you & me to stay till Oct. here, with the assurance that this [diem?] should avail to meet all the expenses of a residence of both of us here that time. So Providence has opened the way -- as this will be as cheap as your staying at home. & even cheaper if you hire out the house.

[marginalia:] By this I understood that he would make no charge for attendance

<17>The Dr wishes you to come as soon as possible as the moderate weather is better than the hot. You can, if you come immediately probably secure a room in our boarding house -- which as the best & most reasonable one, is in great demand

<18>It seems far better for you to take efficient means before you are more reduced - - & thus you may be saved from a year of more of expense & interruption of labors. The more I read (we have Water Cure books in plenty) & the more I talk with Dr W. the more I am convinced of the efficiency of this course for every sort of disease - - For in reality it is only a strict & rigid enforcement of all the laws of health - with the tonic use of cold & of water for the the [sic] whole nervous system - - on which you know every organ & operation depends.

<19>The Dr treats us with great kindness - - seems interested for us - - told Hastings I should not be shortened in time by expence - - & as board & incidentals are [$9.50?] a week I suppose you & I will have no other charges to meet here. The Dr is an honourable & liberal man & after what he said to kate there is no risk in trusting him to get us thro' for as long a time as he thinks it best for us to stay. He has in many other cases shown great liberality to other patients with limited means.

<20>I think it will be the best way to put Henry with Mrs Fowler - - if she can take him - - if not Mrs Blackwell perhaps will do it. My anxiety about your leaving the children will not be so great as what I should feel if you remain & run the risk of hot weather & other liabilities

<21>So far Sister Katy has written in my name - - a word now from myself. - - I do not feel at all disposed to trifle with symptoms like yours - - Mr Bates case is a solemn lesson in point - - you must do something efficient this vacation or you will certainly break down for good at the beginning of next term - - you can in no way [conduce?] with three months so many healthful influences as by taking the Drs offer here - - if not cured you may at least be put in such a track that with care you will be getting better & not worse all winter - - Not for years, have I enjoyed life as I have [strikeout: had] here - - real keen enjoyment - - - - every thing agrees with me - - - - & tho might right hand has not yet found [recurring?] I think it cannot but come right when [strikeout: all] health rises in ever other respect - - I could tell you worlds of Gods nearness & goodness to me - - of heaven begun on earth as I walk among these beautiful mountains wreathed with foliage & sparkling with cascacades - - God has been inexpressibly near & dear - - - - This whole affair I now commit to him - - This [strikeout: summer] season has been the deepest trial of my life - - death has been every hour present to me -- or worse than death a helpless life - - but still I have thro all had a heart of joy - - You & I have offered prayers that God perhaps can only answer by fire - - be it so - - I hope to hear immediately whatever result comes will be God's will & best

<23>PS Harriet wants you to get Miss Goodman to select three of the poorest comfortors -- two cotton sheets -- One of the comfortors must be the largest size you have. These bring [strikeout: On] & you will save five or six dollars.

<24>Also bring two wollen blankets - - they will have to be cut probably. & Miss G. must select such as will do best. Bring all the crash towels there are.

<25>I walk habitually five miles a day - - at intervals between my baths - - never in my poorest days less than three - - in some good days I have walked 7 - - & not suffered for it - - Nothing but the local disease remains - - but it is always so here - - the general health first improves & then the specific symptoms yield.

<26>Engage Mrs Boardman to see that we hear from home regularly once a fortnight thro some of our friends

Revd C E Stowe
Walnut Hills

[in a later hand:]
From me in Brattleboro May 27, 1846
To Mr S at W Hills

Harriet Beecher Stowe, letter to Calvin Stowe, 20 Feb. 1847
Transcription by Sarah McNair Vosmeier, Claire Harvey (HC 2017), Rebecca Drake (HC 2016), Kendra Johnson (HC 2016), Keeli Stewart (HC 2018), and Jordan McHenry (HC 2018) from an online image.

<27>I have been thinking very much of you last night & to day & am therefore moved to write again. In reflecting on all your excellent traits, your kindness of heart & capability of feeling & appreciating all that is tender & generous -- the earnestness & sincerity with which on our first marriage you told me of your intention to make me happy & the kindness with which you then treated me - - how for many of the first years of married life you shared with me the care of our helpless sickly little ones watching with them daily & nightly with unwearied tenderness - - I have been led to ask myself how could you ever have become so altered as to say & to feel some things such as you have since then expressed - - I am satisfied after review that it is a morbid disease - - I am certain when & under what influence it arose & now see by what causes it has been increased & to what results it has grown & what faults in me have increased it - - It first arose when your mother was in the family. Before that time in all our sorrows we had at least a united heart & I never heard any thing from you but kindness except in moments of excitement you well know the state of mother's mind at that time - - with no unkindness to her but simply because I think it a fact I will say that I think at that time she succeeded without meaning it in producing an alienated state of feeling in your part. She constantly pointed out my faults and kept up that perpetual state of complaint and irritation which in your nervous and suffering state laid a foundation for a morbid [closeness?] & since that time you have been predisposed to view me in a wrong light It was never till after (this) that I heard any thing from you as if you had been too complying or I too exacting. - - you had shared my cares & borne with me any sorrows - - & had you not then been in a morbid & nervous state a state predisposing to dark & misanthropic views the ungenerous idea of thinking whether I get more than my share of attention never could have made a lodgement in your mind. You know as much as I when both parties begin to stand for their rights & to suspect the other of selfish exaction that there is an end of every delicate & refined affection & a beginning of coarse and brutal selfishness. Christ says If I your Lord & master have washed your feet you ought to wash one anothers feet." - - is not this the true way? Since that time - - of Mothers stay in the family I have plainly seen two [currents?] in your mind - - one of morbid brooding almost vindictive blame looking with a brooding and jealous eye on my faults - - exaggerating them & predisposing to impatience - - There were certain ideas that mother dwelt very much on that you were often repeating in moments of hasty impatience. & they were these that I was extravagant in expenses - - that I needed much waiting on - - that I inclined to keep too much help &c &c.

<28>This last idea you expressed so often that at last I sat down & drew out on paper an account of the years we had been married the sicknesses I had had and the help I had had & you confessed that "where one woman [would?] have less ten would have had more" & I believe that idea was finally removed - - -- But when you have not been in this morbid current of thought your views of me are exactly in many prints the reverse - - Your letters contain contain full admissions of my laborious conscientious self denying life as a wife & mother. You are at times fully sensible of all that I have done & suffered -- of the difficulties I have had to meet and the undaunted firmness with which I have met them - - If I should lay the things in your last letter side by side with many others you have written one would see how exactly contradictory they are.

<29>Now with regard to my self I freely confess that I am constitutionally careless & too impetuous & impulsive easily to maintain that consistency & order which is so necessary in a family - - that I often undertake more that I can well perform & so come to mortifying failures. I also see now plainer than I ever did before that I have felt too little the necessity of conceding to such of your peculiarities as seemed to me unreasonable - - & have too often pursued my own purposes without reference to them - - I could not realise then as I do now - - But these faults seem in connection with my whole character & with the sincere efforts I have made to overcome them how different are they from the morbid pictures that you draw when brooding in hypochondriac gloom over everything - - How different from your own admission in better hours - - [illegible strikeout].

<30>I hope you rightly take the spirit & intention with which I say these things - - I cannot blame so much as pity you who have been so long & so severely tried - - You have always struggled to do right & you forbid that I should have a harsh and unkind feeling where you have failed when so sorely pressed - - Not a shade of any such feeling remains on my mind or agitates my feelings I feel nothing but love & the deepest desire for your happiness & comfort & am only impatient with the circumstances in which Providence has placed me when I feel the strong impulse to go to you & love & comfort you - - You have evidently been making progress in self government & gaining the victory over yourself & I doubt not that we shall yet see many good days together - -

<31>As regards my leaving - - I am somewhat uncertain - - There are such signs of an approaching crisis that the Doctor does not think it would be prudent for me to leave for some three weeks, instead of going next week - - There is an evident effort of [motive?] now to throw of those chronic nervous affections of the arms & right side which are such a drag upon me& as usual it makes me feel more [weak?] than common Over the spine where the seat of this weakness in my arms has been & when I have suffered so much pain & soreness small clusters of little blisters are occasionally thrown out. they are intensely sore but - - As yet they are but imperfectly developed - - Come out and disappear again but whenever [strikeout: may be] the nurse rubs the spine it feels precisely as if she were rubbing in nettles - - When fully developed the Dr says they will be deep sores & will form the crisis of the disease. All his doubt is whether the system is strong enough to throw them out but in two or three weeks he can tell this. Meanwhile my whole system seems affected & agitated with nameless commotions.. It is some risk to leave in such a state - - I might be rather sick on the road far from my doctor & from help - - A lady who left Monday on the verge of a crisis was was brought back last night in her husband's arms. She had gone as far as Norwich & spent one day there & was so sick that she had to be brought back with all speed - - This two or three weeks however will only take up the time I want to spend in Hartford N Haven & Philadelphia so that after all I shall not come home much later only I shall have less time on the road - - but you may still direct to me here till farther warning & if you will pay postage it will some lessen my expenses & enable my money to hold out.

<32>I do not think I needed the cautions on this subject of [saving?] in your last letter - - all my matters here have been arranged with rigid economy - - necessarily so - - indeed if I stay much longer [illegible] some of my clothes will stand in need of the Providence bestowed on the Isrealites in the wilderness - - I pray daily that God would direct me in all things & I strive to follow his Providence - - pray also for me that if it be his will I may now cast off this lingering disease & be fully restored.

<33>What seems to me curious with regard to their eruption is that it is exactly over the place where so much tartar emetic ointment has been rubbed in & that it feels precisely like that well remembered sensation I have noticed for a month past that whenever the nurse was rubbing my back with her bare hands that it prickled as if she were rubbing with tartar emetic or nettles long before any external eruptions began to appear.

<34>We have had a week of extremely gloomy weather raw leaden grey chilling with falls of snow alternating with thaws. I can assure you that to pursue our cold regimen in such weather requires no small fortitude. I had felt so glad that my apprenticeship was almost over & now the thought of spending three weeks longer seems intolerable and now suppose that at the end of those three weeks I should be in the middle of eruptive crisis do you tell me what I ought to do - - for I dont want the worry of deciding - - The eruption begins to be more permanent & discharges a little - - I feel exactly as if I had on [Hartman's?] emetic -- Well it does seem as if I could not wait any longer but must come home however I suppose that it will be three weeks at least before the Penn canal opens -- perhaps four or five

<35>I have spent the morning reading & singing hymns to a poor sick woman whom I was telling Anna about - - & it was greatly comforting for me to tell her all the comforting things out of the Bible & to sing "Begone unbelief" & now I wish you would read would that hymn - - one of John Newtons best.

<36>If I dont write often for the next two weeks dont be alarmed - - I may be much more numb & it may be very inconvenient & difficult for me to write.

<37>Still keep up hoping in God - - & assuredly we should yet praise him.

To be sure of having this reach me here you must write immediately.

Rev C E Stowe
Walnut Hills
Near Cincinnati Ohio

[in a later hand:]
Feb 20 to Mr
Stowe W Hills

Harriet Beecher Stowe, letter to Calvin Stowe, 16 Sept. 1849
Transcription by Sarah McNair Vosmeier and Sydney Hornsby (HC 2018) from an online image.

[smeared: August] September

My dear Husband

<38>I was no less disappointed than you to get your letter some two days since with all its particulars yet am satisfied that the Dr is right & that you ought to stay - -

<39>I have really felt too unwell to write for a week past - - nor am I better now - - Not that I am sick, only overtasked wearied & dragged out - - [strikeout: I tried to] After having been without [Americas?] help during most of the hottest weather, she at last staid with me only two weeks & went away. Emmeline is a young girl only 14 - - Charley has been cutting teeth & had influenza - - I have had all the fall purchases to make - - the fall sewing to plan cut fix &c if not to do - - & for six children that is not a trifle - - & in short my mind has been strained so that I have now scarce any feeling but one of incipant weariness.

<40>I began to feed Charley, but as he was sick unluckily I had to take him to the breast again - - I suppose it is nursing such a great fellow that weakens me - - Besides when I take care of him he wont feed - - He wont hear of milk from me - - unless it is of one particular sort & he acts roystering & boyish like a great fellow who thinks women made for his especial convenience -- Then our cooking stove smokes -- & I can't get any body to help me move it & can't move it upstairs yet either & it draws so poorly that we can't bake in it at all - - and both pumps till last week have been so that it cost ones hearts blood to get a drop of water out of them - - Last week I was desperate -- went to town got a man up who took up the rain water pump & mended it so that now goes well enough the other squeaks on as usual -- the water smells like despair just as it did last summer & we have to send to Mrs. Parkhursts for all our water.

<41>Well -- is that enough --The fact is my dear you must excuse my writing much -- I am going to make a serious business of getting better next week -- If I can hire a woman to do my work for two or three [strikeout: months] weeks I shall get Emmaline to take Charley and keep him out of my sight till he has got well learned to eat & then after that I shall get along -- Annas time is all taken up in teaching -- she cannot help about the matter at all.

<42>- - Don't let us despair - - you nor I - - God is good to us - - I pity you from the bottom of my heart - - for there is no abyss like the homesickness of water cure - - I became quite conscious that one might die of it as the Swiss did.

<43>It is now time for me to go to bed - - Il write you again soon.

Your affectionate wife

Revd CE Stowe
Care of Robert Wesselhoep [Wesselhoeft]

[in a later hand:] To Mr Stowe at Brattleboro
Cholera not yet developed

Harriet Beecher Stowe, letter to Lydia Jackson Beecher, 29 Oct. 1850
Transcription by James Bignotti (HC 2016), Brianna Burns (HC 2016), and Allison Wolfe (2016)

<44>I was sorry to not have seen you & Father again before I left Boston - - I assure you that as the time of in gathering comes when we are all drawing around our firesides I miss the old study fire with the sofa in front of it &. you & Father cozily seated in either corner - - our Thanksgiving & Christmas will be lonely without you & I am quite inclined to join in the homesick regrets of the children - - -

<45>It is true that God has given me many warm friends in this distant land - - friends who are willing to do all they can for me but still how can I help these regrets - - I commend my husband to your motherly care & hope that you & Father will look after him a little, & uphold his heart for I think he feels quite lonesome. - - Mr. Stowe needs three new shirts - - and as there are no women that I know of here who do that kind of work as well as those we used to employ on the hill I have concluded to have them made there Mrs Ford cut & made four for him just before he came away. -- If you will be kind enough to choose some cotton & linen for the purpose at Ayers where we have an account she can cut & make them by one of those which she has already done. Should it be that she have moved away [strikeout: I wil] Mrs Sutton could do the thing almost equally well - -

<46>We have been very anxious about Sarah, who has been very dangerously sick with an abscess in her side - - It has been a dreadful thing but she is now recovering we hope that in this way the western miasma may drain off. Charles appears delightfully - - He is growing solid in mind & is under the influence of a most excellent & deeply christian spirit - - He appears to give great satisfaction as a preacher & may I think obtain one of the best places in this part of the country when he chooses - -

<47>If God would give me such a set of sons as you have raised Father, I would not ask him for silver or gold - - & would be willing to go thro all the racket & tear of the old Litchfield days for their sake - -

<48>My little boy grows so exactly like him I have lost that I feel almost sad when I look at him He is now not four months but he weighs 17 pounds & is very strong & active - - yet I look still with fond regrets back to him whom I have lost tho God knows I would not recal him. I do not see that the present takes the place of the past - - & tho I call both Charles still I feel for all the likeness that there is that this is another & not the same

<49>-- Well I hold to my heart the text we have here no continuing city but we seek one to come

<50>We had a very pleasant visit from old Dr Woods -- He looks quite young & vigorous & writes yet as firm a hand as any young clerk of thirty -- He sent me half a bushel of quinces off his own trees with a note saying that he wanted to express his affectionate remembrance of my Father by showing me some little kindness - - I hope next year Father will settle down & get out his sermons as the old Doctor has done

<51>I cant write much now but you will hear from me thro my husband often Give my love to Mrs Allen & Mrs Bates -- & -- but I cant begin to say all that I would send love to [strikeout: all] ---

[strikeout: Affectionate [illegible]]

(I am almost crazy as you see)

Mrs Dr Beecher
Walnut Hills

Harriet Beecher Stowe, letter to "dearest brother," 18 Apr. [c.1860]
Transcription by Jessica Reed (HC 2018), Peyton Spaugh (HC 2018), and Audrey Furnish (2016).

April 18

My Dearest Brother,

<52>Last night on going to bed I had an experience so singular that I must relate it to you. I had had a letter about the temptations which [envisioned ofred?] which deprived me of sleep & sent me to prayer.

<53>I called Georgie to my bedside and begun to talk with her. Suddenly [my] mind seemed to be taken up [torn: and?] carried beyond itself with the wonderful power & greatness of Christs atonement and I said to Georgie "Why have we given up prayer for poor Annie? Did not Christ cast seven devils out [torn: of] Mary Magdalene? Is not Christ able to save those souls whose bodies have become so defiled and [wreched?] that deliverence from sin is impossible while they [sic]

<54>Then came a strong impression on my mind that some soul was to depart that night - - I asked Georgie to read from the prayer book the prayers for the dying & the commendation of the departing soul While she was reading them I was intensely moved & thought within myself let me remember this is the 27 & consider what I shall hear.

<55>When Georgie left me again my thoughts reverted to Anna - - I thought Why have I not had faith to pray for her. When Christs atonement is such an infinite proof of love Did God so suffer for us - - is any thing too much to ask of him for us Does not Christ hold the keys of[Hell?] & of Death & then again by an irresistable impulse I seemed to raise her up in my arms [torn: send?] her to Jesus I seemed to stand with her before the cross & give her up to him.

<56>To day when the telegram came I felt an awful peace a fullness of trust in Christ's infinite mercy of him & thro him & to him are all things. I feel that Georgie [torn] I prayed besides Annie's dying bed last night & that our prayers were heard & your many prayers [torn: illegible] dear brother -- Christ [torn: Jesus?] said to the Evil Spirit 'I charge [Torn: illegible] come out of her & vex her no more & I see her sitting at his feet clothed & in her right mind.

Your loving sister


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Watch the video: Harriet Beecher Stowe. Daily Bellringer (July 2022).


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