STOWE, Harriet Beecher

Born: June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut, United States

Died: July 1, 1896, in Hartford, Connecticut, United States

Harriet Elizabeth Beecher was the daughter of Reverend Lyman Beecher, a distinguished minister and the sister of Henry Ward Beecher. Harriet attended the school of her older sister Caroline who motivated her to write. When Harriet was eighteen the family moved to Cincinnati.

In Cincinnati Harriet met and eventually married a professor named Calvin Ellis Stowe. Calvin encouraged Harriet's interest in writing. For eighteen years they lived across the Ohio River from a state in which slavery was commonplace. Visits to the South and experiences with runaway slaves taught her much about life across the river. During this period Stowe wrote regularly and in 1843 The Mayflower; or, Sketches of Scenes and Characters Among the Descendants of the Pilgrims was published.

Calvin Ellis Stowe moved his family to Brunswick, Maine after becoming a professor at Bowdoin College in 1850. It was there that Harriet wrote the acclaimed story of Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly for serial publication in the antislavery newspaper of Washington D.C., the National Era.

Although the work was unpopular in the South, the humanitarian theme that prevailed in the literature of the period contributed greatly to the book's popularity everywhere else. The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, published in 1853, was an influential collection of documents and testimonies opposing slavery and Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, published in 1856, was a novel in the same vein.

Her literary reputation was strengthened further by four novels revealing the influence of her New England background. They were The Minister's Wooing, published in 1859, The Pearl of Orr's Island, published in 1862, Oldtown Folks, published in 1869, and Poganuc People, published in 1878.