Harriet Beecher was born on June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, CT. Beecher grew up one of eleven children in a family of high achievers. Her father taught at the Sarah Pierce Female Academy, which was one of the first to suggest women should study all the academic subjects, not just the “ornamental arts.” Later, she both studied and taught at Hartford Female Seminary where she spent much of her time writing.
In 1836 Beecher married Calvin Stowe, and became Harriet Beecher Stowe. For many years Stowe balanced raising children with writing and publishing short stories and essays. The couple had 7 children, but in 1849, their toddler son Samuel 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 taken from them to be sold.”
Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life Among the Lowly began its publication in 1851 with a first installment in The National Era, an anti-slavery newspaper. Stowe agreed to write a story that would “paint a word picture of slavery” for three or four installments, but ended up writing more than forty. In 1852, the newspaper installments were published as a two-part book, and became a bestseller in many countries. This book gained Stowe and her family financial security, as well as the opportunity to continue focusing on her writing. In later years, Stowe continued to speak out against slavery as well as publish other bestselling books, such as The American Woman’s Home, and Pogunuc People.
Stowe is a powerful mother writer figure to many Literary Mamas. For a generations-later glimpse of her parenting and writing, read A Journey to the Past by Amy Hudock, and Fine: On Maternity and Mortality by Julia Kasdorf.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, CT, “preserves and interprets Stowe’s Hartford home and the Center’s historic collections, promotes vibrant discussion of her life and work, and inspires commitment to social justice and positive change.” The Center challenges us to believe in our own ability to affect change, to strive to make a difference, and to use our words, like Stowe, to change the world.
Go to The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center to learn more about Stowe’s family life and writing, as well as current programs, events, and news from the museum.