The early life of Harriet Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe was born on 14th June 1811, to Lyman Beecher and Roxanna Foote Beecher in Litchfield. Harriet’s father was a famous Congregational minister. Harriet lost her mother when she was only a 5 year old and after her father remarried, Harriet’s sister Catharine who was 11 years older than her became her companion and pronounced influencer.
When she was 8 years old, she started studying at the Litchfield Female Academy. Women during those days weren’t given the same quality of education as men were. In 1824, she attended her sister, Catharine Beecher’s Hartford Female Seminary where the academics included many of the same courses as that of men.
When Stowe was 21 years old, she moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she met many other people who had the same viewpoint as her in a local literary association called the Semi-Colon Club. She later married a fellow member from the association, Calvin Ellis Stowe who was a seminary teacher.
The popularity of Harriet Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe attained immense popularity on the release of her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly in 1852. It is probably the most popular Anti-Slavery Novel to this day.
After having the life-altering experience of losing her little son, Samuel Charles Stowe, Harriet felt deeply connected with the slaves as she had witnessed the harsh reality and the brutality of children being torn away from their mothers in the auctioning of slaves in Kentucky in 1833. In June 1851, the first instalment of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in the form of a serial in the newspaper The National Era and Uncle Tom’s Cabin was initially subtitled as ‘The Man That Was A Thing’ but was soon changed to ‘Life Among the Lowly,.
In March 1852, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in the form of a book and gained immediate popularity and along came criticism too as the people in the South refused to accept that slavery was inhumane.
It took less than a year for the book to gain the immense fame that it did and 300,000 copies were sold within this time which was unprecedented. The book was very successful in Britain and the Northern areas and at the same time, it was completely opposed in the South.
What made the novel so special was that it showed slavery for exactly what it was; cruelty and barbarism. The people in the South soon came out with numerous works that are now termed as ‘anti-Tom Novels’. However, the majority of the people worldwide, in millions, read the book and felt the emotions that it was supposed to awaken in people.
They finally saw slaves as humans and felt the pain for them. It is believed by many that Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Harriet Beecher Stowe contributed immensely and were the driving force of the American Civil war.
Later years of Life and death
Even during her later years, Harriet Beecher Stowe continued to write letters, essays and novels which included Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp which was also popular but none of her other works received the amount of attention that Uncle Tom’s Cabin did. Stowe died in Hartford on July 1st, 1896 when she was 85 years old and her body was buried in Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.
Legacy of Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote about 30 books that included novels, three travel memoirs, letters and articles. Her fame and popularity were not just for her written works but also for her overall contribution through debates and her public stances.
There are various museums around the world that are dedicated to her, including the places where she once lived. On July 1st, Stowe is honoured with a feast day in the USA. In 1986, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. There is a university in Missouri named after her; Harris-Stowe State University.