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The Biennial of the Birth of Harriet Beecher Stowe

An American abolitionist and author.

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The Abolitionist Movement, Emancipation Proclamation and Stowe's Meeting with President Lincoln

  • Jun 27, 2011
The 200th Birthday of Abolitionist Author Harriet Beecher Stowe
By Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

This month marks the 200th birthday of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was born on June 14, 1811
and died at age 85 on July 1,  1896. Her masterpiece,  Uncle Tom’s Cabin is often considered the most
consequential work published in the nineteenth century. The book was a best seller which
has never been out of print.

Harriet was the seventh child of Roxana and Lyman Beecher, a noted Congregationalist
minister. Her brother, Henry Ward Beecher, became a famous preacher and figurehead of
the abolitionist movement. Her sister Catherine was instrumental in promoting educational
opportunities aimed at  women. She married Calvin Stowe in 1836 . The marriage consummated
seven children.

Harriet was educated at the Hartford Female Academy. The school was founded by her sister
Catherine Beecher in 1823. She also taught at the Western Female Institute in Cincinnati,
established by Catherine in 1832.   1)   

Her most famous work was Uncle Tom's Cabin, which was written in 1850. The book opened up
the realities of slavery to the entire world.    Harriet Beecher Stowe, wife of Professor Stowe,
of Bowdoin College, and the author of  "Uncle Tom's Cabin," received $4,000, as her share
of the sales already made on the work. She received 10 cents for each copy sold, and a Bangor
paper said she was offered $10,000 outright for the copyright of the book.   160,000 volumes were
 published in the brief  period of eleven weeks!

While attending a Church , Harriet had a vision of a slave owner  beating one of his slaves as a
punishment for an ‘offense’ the slave committed. She immediately returned home and began
writing the story. She pursued these frequent images and started what was to be the novel that
helped open the eyes of the North and one that the South would come to detest. She spoke with
freed slaves as well as slaves that had escaped from their masters’ plantations.

Harriet went to numerous Southern plantations in pursuit of raw facts for her controversial book.
"When, in a burst of inspiration, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she did not know
that her book would help change the world."  Her book precipitated considerable Southern anger
producing threats that included daily hate mail  from the South and a small package containing
the severed ear of a slave.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was delighted to receive a scholarly letter written by Frederick Douglass and addressed to her on March 8, 1853.  Here in part are the contents of this historic letter. In the letter, Douglass outlined quite prophetically how,  in his view,  the progress of  blacks in this country would be accomplished from hard labor to the professional classes.

" To deliver them from this triple malady, is to improve and elevate them, by which I mean simply to put them on an equal footing with their white fellow-countrymen in the sacred right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  I am for no fancied or artificial elevation, but only ask fair play. How shall this be obtained? I answer, first, not by establishing for our use high schools and colleges. Such institutions are, in my judgment, beyond our immediate occasions, and are not adapted to our present most pressing wants. High schools and colleges are excellent institutions, and will, in due season, be greatly subservient to our progress; but they are the result, as well as they are the demand
of a point of progress, which we, as a people, have not yet attained. Accustomed, as we have been, to the rougher and harder modes of living, and of gaining a livelihood, we cannot, and we ought not to hope that, in a single leap from our low condition, we can reach that of Ministers, Lawyers, Doctors, Editors, Merchants, &c.  These will, doubtless, be attained by us; but this will only be, when we have patiently and laboriously, and I may add successfully, mastered and passed through the intermediate gradations of agriculture and the mechanic arts. "    2)

Harriet met with President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 to assure herself that he was serious
about proceeding with the Emancipation Proclamation.

Upon meeting her for the first time, President Lincoln proclaimed:
"So this is the little lady who made this great war."  The two spoke for an hour or more with
Lincoln detailing the atrocities of slavery and the injustice to a group of people whose skin was dark.      3)

The reception with the president must have assuaged her concerns.  Lincoln signed the
Emancipation Proclamation only weeks after their meeting, and Stowe’s subsequent writings painted flattering pictures of his background and wholeheartedly supported his re-election. Stowe did quote Lincoln at one point.  It’s very likely she was recalling their famous White House conversation .
The sentence is also the article’s most  prophetic line about “this dreadful national crisis”:
“‘Whichever way it ends,’ Lincoln said to the writer,  ‘I have the impression that I sha’n’t last long after it’s over.’”

Queen Victoria was eager to meet the famous author, but was urged by advisers not to receive such a
controversial public figure.    Instead, as Stowe's sister Mary related in a letter, the Queen arranged to pass Stowe's carriage on the road, so that the two women could silently nod to each other.     4)

At the age of 85, Harriet Beecher Stowe passed on in her sleep at her home in Hartford, Connecticut.
She was buried at the Andover Chapel Cemetery.


1) http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/stow-har.htm

2) http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=771">Douglass letter</B>

3) http://community.tncc.edu/faculty/longt/e273/harriet_beecher_stowe.htm

4) http://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/utc/impact.shtml

Credits: First Published by

The Abolitionist Movement, Emancipation Proclamation and Stowe's Meeting with President Lincoln

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July 11, 2011
Wow, that was quite a bit of history about Harriet Beecher. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!
July 11, 2011
Thank you for the kind words.
June 29, 2011
Thank you for the kind words. Douglass wrote a telling letter with implications which ring true even today.
June 28, 2011
An extremely well-written and exceptionally informative review. You have definitely piqued my curiosity about this one!
June 27, 2011
I can't believe it's been 200 years since Stowe's birth! This is an excellent piece about such an important literary and historical figure!
June 27, 2011
Many thanks for your input. This article brings out facts that I never heard of in any textbook on American History.
June 27, 2011
I agree. I remember reading about the famous quote said by Lincoln, but I had no idea about Queen Victoria. I'm going to make a special badge for Stowe and her writings. Thanks for the inspiration!
June 27, 2011
I agree. Harriet Beecher Stowe deserves special recognition on her 200th birthday.
June 27, 2011
I created 4 badges for her, two of which will be special anniversary badges. I've asked the Lunch team to create something for those ones, but for now I have filler images in place. :)
June 28, 2011
The badges are a great idea. A United States Postage Stamp in her honor would be another tribute long overdue.
June 28, 2011
That's a good idea. I wonder how one goes about making a suggestion like that to the USPS.
June 28, 2011
Here is how to make a suggestion. The Stamp Selection Process Stamp proposals must be submitted in writing to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee. Proposals made by email will not receive a response. This allows everyone the same opportunity to suggest a new stamp subject. Subjects should be submitted at least three years in advance of the proposed date of issue to allow sufficient time for consideration and for design and production, if the subject is approved. All properly submitted proposals for eligible subjects will be reviewed by the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee regardless of how they are submitted, i.e., stamped cards, letters or petitions. Stamp proposals are to be submitted in writing to the following address: Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee c/o Stamp Development U.S. Postal Service 475 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300 Washington, DC 20260-3501
June 28, 2011
Thanks so much for researching this information for me! I shall be sure to keep this data handy, so I can send a suggestion to them. I suggest you do likewise!
June 28, 2011
You are very welcome.
About the reviewer
Dr Joseph S Maresca ()
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Dr. Joseph S. Maresca CPA, CISA      26 Amazon / KDP Books including:      http://www.amazon.com/Dr.Joseph-S.-Maresca/e...11866699&sr=1-2-ent      … more
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Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) depicted life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and United Kingdom. It energized anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South. She wrote more than 20 books, including novels, three travel memoirs, and collections of articles and letters. She was influential both for her writings and her public stands on social issues of the day.
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