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Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Engraving by Francis Holl
after the original by George Richmond, n.d.


Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe was born on June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut, where her father, Lyman Beecher, served as pastor of the Congregational Church. Educated at a local "dame" school (a schoolroom run by a local woman) until the age of 13, Harriet then attended a girls school in Hartford. Like most New England children of the time, she received a solid education with a religious emphasis. She went on to teach at the Western Female Institute, founded by her older sister Catherine in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the family had relocated in 1832. Harriet also began writing for publication at about the same time, producing articles that appeared in the Western Monthly Magazine and The Mayflower. After her marriage in 1836 to Calvin Ellis Stowe, however, she stopped publishing.

The Stowes lived in Cincinnati on very modest means until 1850, when Calvin took a position at Bowdoin College in Maine. Despite having six children to raise, Harriet now felt the urge to write again. Exposed more and more to the antislavery movement-her brother Henry argued publicly for abolition—Harriet determined to make her own contribution to the cause. Uncle Tom's Cabin fulfilled the purpose, bringing to life for thousands of readers the abuses of slavery. The book's widespread sales also brought Harriet instant international celebrity. She traveled to England and Europe as a noted author, befriended other literary leaders, and went on the lecture circuit, a noblesse oblige among authors in the 19th century. She also became a very productive writer, publishing steadily for more than two decades. Sadly, she was not good at handling money and had relatively little to show for her success by the time she passed away in 1896. The cultural impact of her work, however, cannot be overestimated: Uncle Tom's Cabin had an immense influence before the Civil War and has continued as an American icon into the 21st century.


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