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Harriet Tubman: A Nineteenth Century American Hero
Harriet Beecher Stowe: Nineteenth Century Author and Abolitionist

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Portrait of Harriet Beecher Stowe
Image Credit: The University of Virginia
     Harriet Beecher Stowe was one of the most influential American writers of the nineteenth century.  She was born in Litchfield, Connecticut on July 14,1811 to a family of nine children.  Her father was a christian preacher and abolitionist, and her mother was an artist who died when Harriet was nine years old.  After the death of her mother, she looked to her sister Catherine for support. Cathrine was the founder of the Harford Female Seminary, a school for girls, which Harriet entered in 1824 where she studied difficult subjects, including Latin and moral philosophy, which was mainly taught to males. (Hedrick 1)
     In 1832, Harriet moved to Cincinatti, Ohio with her family.  It was around this time that she began to take writing seriously.  She wrote to one of her brothers, all of which were in the ministery, "It is as much my vocation to preach on paper as it is that of my brother's to preach viva voce" (Hedrick 1).  Harriet began teaching composition and published a geography book for children under her sister, Catherine's name.  This was to be the beginning of a long writing career for her.
     In 1836, Harriet married Calvin Stowe, a professor of biblical literature, who she would have seven children with (Sunshine1).  Their marriage was plagued with financial problems, so Calvin encouraged Harriet to write in order to supplement the family income. (Hedrick 2).  She began writing sermons and temperance tales to the New York Evangilist, and writing stories for the Godey's Lady's Book (Hedrick 2), but it was Stowe's book about the inhumanities of slavery that would make her a wealthy and famous woman.  That book was no other than Uncle Tom's Cabin.
     Stowe had always been sympathetic toward slaves, sometimes hiding fugitive slaves in her house. Yet it was the death of her eighteen month old son in 1859 of cholera that led her to empathize with their sufferings.  Stowe wrote in a letter, "It was at his grave that I learned what a poor slave mother must feel when her child is torn away from her" (Hedrick, 2).  Stowe began writing Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1860, a year following her son's death.

It was first serialized in the National Era, an abolitionist paper, between June of 1851 and June of 1852 and was printed in book form that same year.(Hedrick 2).
     Uncle Tom's Cabin was a great success for Stowe.  It sold 3,000 copies on it's first day of release and sold 300,000 copies by the end of 1852, breaking all sales records of that time. (Sunshine 3,4).  At first, the reviews of the book were mixed.  It was ignored by pro-slavery critics until they realized the impact it was having on the people who were reading it.  The critics attacked Stowe, claiming that she exaggerated "the brutalities of slavery" in her book. (Hedrick 3).  In 1863 Stowe wrote, A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin in response to the critics, documenting the realities on which the book was based. (Sunshine 6).

     Stowe continued to write following the success of Uncle Tom's Cabin, averaging a book a year into her eighties (Walsh), although none of her works ever met the same success.  Some of her later works were published in the Atlantic Monthly, a prestigious journal of the time, which Stowe helped to found. (Sunshine 3,4).  Stowe found herself being harshly criticized yet again with her novel, Lady Byron Vindicated, which was published in 1870.  In the book, Stowe dared to write about incest, which was not an acceptable topic for literature in the nineteenth century.  The book hurt Stowe's reputation as a writer and in the late half of the century, when literature was becoming more formal, Stowe's writing was beginning to be judged as "melodramatic" and "sentimental" (Hedrick 4).
     Today, Harriet Beecher Stowe is considered to be one of the greatest writers of the 1800's.  At a time when women were not given a voice, she used her pen to speak out on the issue of slavery.  Uncle Tom's Cabin had a tremendous influence on the opinions of the American people on the inhumanities of slavery, and still continues to impact those who read it today.
                                              Works Cited
"Harriet Beecher Stowe: (1811-1896)."  2001. Sunshine for Women. 20 feb. 2002.
Hedrick, Joan D. "Stowe, Harriet Beecher." American National Biography Online. (2002). 22 March 2002.
Walsh, James. "Harriet Beecher Stowe." Connecticut Humanities. 20 Feb. 2002.

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