It is reported that when Harriet Beecher Stowe met Abraham Lincoln in 1863, he said to her, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”
Harriet Beecher (1811-1896) was the seventh of 12 children born to Lyman Beecher, a Congregational minister who was committed to social justice. The Beecher family expected their children to change the world. All seven sons became ministers. The oldest daughter pioneered education for women. The youngest daughter was a founder of the National Women’s Suffrage Association. Harriet believed she could change the world through her writing.
Harriet met her husband, Calvin Stowe, a theology professor when her father moved the family to Cincinnati to become president of a theological college. They had seven children, one of whom died of cholera. While in Cincinnati, Harriet met numerous fugitive slaves and listened to their stories. She witnessed the brutality of slavery first hand on a trip to Kentucky. She developed a deep compassion for those trapped in a life of slavery.
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote 30 books during her lifetime, the most famous of which is Uncle Tom’s Cabin. First published as a serial in the anti-slavery newspaper, The National Era, the next year it was published as a book that quickly became a best-seller, since translated into more than 60 languages. Based on her interviews with slaves, the story is an emotional portrayal of the life of a slave, and the impact of slavery on their families. It captured the nation’s attention, being embraced by people in the North but producing hostility in the South.
Written in 1852, the book contributed to the abolition of slavery and emancipation becoming law. Here’s what Harriet says about it:
“I wrote what I did because as a woman, as a mother, I was oppressed and broken-hearted with the sorrows and injustice I saw, because as a Christian I felt the dishonor to Christianity – because as a lover of my county, I trembled at the coming day of wrath.”
Here’s a quote from the book. Legree is a cruel slave master.
“‘How would ye like to be tied to a tree, and have a slow fire lit up around ye?’ asked Legree. ‘Wouldn’t that be pleasant, eh, Tom?’
“‘Mas’r,’ said Tom, ‘I know ye can do dreadful things, but’—he stretched himself upward and clasped his hands—’but after ye’ve killed the body, there ain’t no more ye can do. And oh! there’s all eternity to come after that!'”