Harriet Beecher Stowe Biography
STOWE, Harriet (Elizabeth) Beecher (1811–96). An American novelist and Abolitionist, born in Litchfield, Conn., the daughter of the Rev. Lyman Beecher and sister of Henry Ward Beecher. She attended school at Litchfield Academy and later at Hartford. In 1832 her father became president of Lane Theological Seminary at Cincinnati, Ohio. While living there she gained some acquaintance with the ways of slavery, especially as to fugitive slaves and the attitude of the South towards the Abolitionists. The impression was strengthened by journeys into the slave States with her husband, the Rev. Calvin E. Stowe (q.v.), a strong antislavery man, whom she married in 1836. In 1843 Mrs. Stowe published her first book, entitled The Mayflower, or Sketches of Scenes and Characters among the Descendants of the Pilgrims. In 1850 her husband was called to Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Me., and in the interval before his transfer to the chair of sacred literature at Andover (Mass.) Theological Seminary, two years later, Mrs. Stowe wrote the book by which she is most widely known, Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life among the Lowly. It appeared in the National Era of Washington, D. C. (June, 1851, to April, 1852), in the latter year being issued in book form in Boston. As a serial it attracted no unusual notice, but as a book its success, after a few weeks, was unprecedented. Five hundred thousand copies were sold in the United States in five years, and many more in England, and it has been translated into a score of foreign languages. In 1853 Mrs. Stowe, in reply to various inquiries, criticisms, and censures, published A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin. She also wrote, in the same year, A Peep into Uncle Tom's Cabin, for Children.
Her health was somewhat impaired, and in 1853 she went to Europe. On her return she published (1854) Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands, two volumes of travel. She then returned to the attack against slavery in Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856; at one time entitled Nina Gordon), but without the vigor and success of her former work. In 1864 Professor Stowe resigned his professorship at Andover, and with his wife took up his residence at Hartford, which was Mrs. Stowe's home for the rest of her life. In 1868 she became associated with D. G. Mitchell (q.v.) in the editing of Hearth and Home. Her later writing consisted chiefly of novels of quiet New England life, with which she was familiar, and except for her polemic, Lady Byron Vindicated: A History of the Byron Controversy (1869), and her article in Macmillan's Magazine which had occasioned that discussion, her works were comparatively free from the didactic spirit. Among her books should be mentioned: The Minister's Wooing (1859); The Pearl of Orr's Island (1862); Agnes of Sorrento (1862); Religious Poems (1865); Oldtown Folks (1869); Pink and White Tyranny (1871); My Wife and I (1871); We and our Neighbors (1875); and Poganuc People (1878). Of these, the best are The Minister's Wooing and Oldtown Folks. Her collected works in nine volumes were published in New York in 1913.
Mrs. Stowe is remembered chiefly as the author of one of the most influential and widely read novels in literature. Though, like almost all her novels, rambling in structure, Uncle Tom's Cabin has abundant vitality, and is the work of a genuine story-teller. It also has the unusual fortune of being at once a cause and an outcome of a heated national struggle; no novel was ever better timed for an occasion, and few have aroused so much admiration and dislike. Soon after its publication the book was dramatized, and it still keeps the stage. The character Uncle Tom was drawn from the life of Josiah Henson (q.v.).
The New International Encyclopaedia, Vol. XXI (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1920) 571-572.