This is the day that … Harriet Beecher Stowe was born, in 1811.
She was the seventh child of Rev. Lyman Beecher and his wife, Roxana. At the time her father was pastoring a Presbyterian church in Connecticut. He was a staunch abolitionist and impressed both his anti-slavery message and the importance of personal faith in Christ to each of his eleven children. Roxana died when Harriet was five.
At the age of 13 Harriet made a confession of faith in Christ. “I have given myself to Jesus,” she told her father, “and He has taken me.”
The Stowe children rose to prominence and gave much impetus to social action, rather than personal evangelism. The suffrage movement, abolition and eduction for young women were among the family themes.
Harriet was educated under the influence of her older sister Catharine, who argued being a home-maker was as challenging a task as running an office and that young women should be trained with the same diligence that young men are prepared for their careers. Catharine also placed great importance on written expression so her students spent much time writing essays. This preparation explains how Harriet could become such a successful and prolific writer while managing a large household.
In 1836 Harriet married Calvin Stowe, a professor in Hebrew at the college where her father was now president. Stowe is described by one biographer as “awkward and inept … a hypochondriac who sometimes slid into depression … and would sulk in his room for hours.”
But Harriet found a new outlet for her talents – writing.
First published as a serial in a newspaper, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was released in book form in 1852. Five hundred thousand copies were sold in the next five years in America alone.
It highlighted the slavery question as no preacher had been able to do and gave the nation a conscience. It is true to say that Uncle Tom’s Cabin greatly influenced the Civil War that followed. It is likewise true to say that a strong Christian testimony is found in the pages of that remarkable bestseller.
Harriet Beecher Stowe spent a half century writing books while raising seven children and running her household. She died on 1 July, 1896.
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.