Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American author and abolitionist, most famous for authoring Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852.
Harriet was born on June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut. She had four siblings, including her brother, the famous abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher. After enrolling in a seminary run by her sister, Harriet moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to be with her father who was the president of Lane Theological Seminary. In 1836, she married Calvin Ellis Stowe, a professor at the seminary and outspoken abolitionist. Together, they had seven children and housed several runaway slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. They eventually moved to Brunswick, Maine, where Calvin became a professor at Bowdoin College.
After the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, Harriet published her first installment of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in an antislavery journal known as The Era. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was an antislavery novel, fully published in 1852, that illustrated the horrors of slavery in the Southern United States. The book was meant to convince Northern readers of the urgency in ending slavery. The story was so powerful, and so polarizing, that it had a significant effect on sectional relations in the United States, and is often considered one of the causes of the deterioration in relations between the North and South. Slavery advocates were outraged by the novel, many of whom claimed it to be utterly false. The book was wildly popular in England, where over 1.5 million copies eventually circulated.
Harriet Beecher Stowe quickly became a household name and Uncle Tom’s Cabin became the best selling novel, and second best-selling book in the 19th Century – it was only outsold by the Bible. Stowe’s book helped fuel the abolitionist cause and Abraham Lincoln is sometimes quoted as saying “So you’re the little lady that started this great war!” upon their meeting at the start of the Civil War.
After Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet wrote many other books. For 23 years prior to her death, she lived next door to the famous author Mark Twain in Hartford, Connecticut. Today, the house is preserved as the Harriet Beecher Stowe House. There is also a Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Brunswick, Maine, where her famous novel was written. She died on July 1, 1896.