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Free Study Guide-Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe-Free Notes
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE

Harriet Elizabeth Beecher Stowe was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, on June 14, 1811.

She was the seventh of nine children in the evangelical household of Lyman Beecher and his first wife, Roxana Foote Beecher. He was a Presbyterian clergyman. Harriet had been the daughter, the sister, the wife, and the mother of preachers. She was influenced by her father's orthodox (Calvinistic) theology that offered a prescribed approach to salvation. A person could earn his or her redemption through good deeds. Her father made the dinner table a religious forum by taking the wrong side of every argument. He felt it trained his children to defend their beliefs, and converted even the dullest chore into an exciting game. At family prayers, she heard her father read the Bible in "an eager tone of admiring delight and expectancy, as if the book had just been handed him out of heaven." These influences find their expression in Uncle Tom's Cabin, in which Stowe gives different arguments from different angles to prove her point. Tom's piety and the way he reads the Bible could very well be modeled on her father.

In 1825, at the age of fourteen, she experienced religious conversion after hearing one of her father's sermons. She attended her first communion service and began attending the Hartford Female Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut, which had been established by her elder sister Catherine. In 1827, at the age of sixteen, the author became a full time teacher at the seminary.


In 1832, at the age of 21, she moved to Cincinnati with her father. He had accepted an invitation to become the president of the Lane Theological Seminary and pastor of the second Presbyterian Church. Harriet worked as a teacher in the Western Female Institute that had also been established by Catherine. Her closest friend there was a young woman named Eliza Tyler who had married Professor Calvin E. Stowe of the Lane Seminary.

Four years later, after Eliza's sudden death, Harriet married Professor Stowe. She became a mother to seven children. She had married into poverty with no dowry. Her husband had only a large library of books and a great deal of learning. In the face of constant financial problems, Harriet discovered that her gift for writing eased the situation.

The next sixteen or so years before the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet was kept busy as homemaker, mother to seven, and freelance writer. A collection of Harriet's short stories, titled The Mayflower, was published in 1843.

With the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852, Harriet reached the peak of her career. At that time, her age was 41. J.P. Jewett of Boston published the book. It achieved phenomenal success; the first year, 300,000 copies were sold.

That same year, the Stowes moved to Andover, Massachusetts, where Calvin became Professor of Sacred Literature at Andover Theological Seminary. Stowe's "Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin" (1853) was published as a verification of the facts in the novel.

Her other works are:

Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856)

The Minister's Wooing (1859)

The Pearl of Orr's Island (1862)

House and Home Papers (1865) written under the pseudonym of Christopher Crowfield

Old Town Folks (1869)

The American Woman's House (1869) co-authored with Cathrine Beecher

My Wife and I (1871)

Pink and White Tyranny (1871)

Old Town Fireside Stories (1872)

Palmetto -Leaves, and Women in Sacred History (1873)

We and Our Neighbors (sequel to My Wife and I ) (1875)

Poganuc People (1878)

Our Famous Women (1884).

Her popularity suffered a blow when her article, 'Lady Byron Vindicated' was published in 1870.

In 1875 she was again embroiled in controversy when she supported her brother Henry Ward Beecher, prominent theologian. He was accused of adultery with a member of his congregation. Calvin Stowe died in 1886 at the age of seventy-five. Harriet died ten years later after suffering a stroke.

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