Harriet Beecher Stowe

Born: 1811
Place of Birth: Connecticut
Died: 1896

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe was an abolitionist in the 1800s who is most well-known as an author. Her famous book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is believed to have been a critical moment in history that revealed the horrors of slavery to the average American. Prior to Stowe’s book, most white people that lived outside of the influence of slavery were unaware of the hardships and cruelty that the slaves went through. It’s believed that Stowe’s book angered the southerners that were pro-slavery and may have prompted elevated feelings against the northern states and contributed to the Civil War.

  • Harriet was born to a large family of five brothers and sisters, however, her mother died when Harriet was only five years old from tuberculosis. Harriet’s father was a minister and his hope was that all of his sons would also become ministers. However, as a daughter, Harriet was an avid reader and was hungry to be educated. When she got a bit older Harriet attended the Hartford Female Seminary where one of her sisters worked. After she graduated, Harriet taught at the school.
  • Harriet’s family relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1832 because her father was made president of the Lane Theological Society. Harriet once again got a teaching job and it is at this time that she started to professionally write.
  • By 1836 Harriet had become friends with Eliza and Calvin Stowe an Eliza was one of her best friends. When Eliza became sick and died, Harriet and Calvin fell in love and in 1836, they married. Over the course of their lifetimes, the couple had seven children.
  • Harriet’s early life in Connecticut meant that she had never really been exposed to what was happening in the south to slaves. However, when her family had moved to Ohio she was only across the river from Kentucky where slavery was happening and it was then that she saw how badly slaves were treated. The more that she was exposed to the absolute destitute lives of the slaves, the more disgusted she became.
  • Determined to do something about slavery, Harriet started writing a book in 1851. She wanted to tell the story of slavery so that others that were unaware could understand. The first part of her stories appeared in a weekly newspaper called the National Era. Once the stories gained popularity she put them all together in a book in 1852 called “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
  • The book related the tale of a very nice slave by the name of Tom and how he had been sold to a number of different slave owners until he finally ended up on a plantation owned by Simon Legree. Simon is a horrible man that beat and mistreated the slaves. When Tom is kind to his fellow slaves it makes Legree mad. Simon demands that Tom tell him where two of the escaped female slaves went and when he refused, Simon beats Tom to death.
  • Not only was Stowe’s book a best seller in the United States, but it became a hit in countries around the globe. Harriet’s book prompted a lot of people to become abolitionists and a movement was now happening to make slavery against the law.
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin acted as an educational tool for those that were unaware of the horrible conditions that slaves lived in. The book had a great impact on the political side as well and it’s believed that it played a role in getting Abraham Lincoln elected. As more people in the north were educated on slavery, the book was another reason for the divide between the northern and southern states that eventually led to the Civil War.
  • In 1862 Harriet met President Abraham Lincoln and it is said they he stated “so this is the little lady who made this big war.”  Harriet did write other books including one that addressed the objections of some of the southerners that said her first book was false with real life facts.


What was the name of the book that Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote that exposed the horrible conditions of slavery?
Uncle Tom’s Cabin

What line of work was Harriet’s father in?
A minister

When did Harriet become aware of the horrors of slavery?
When her family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, close to Kentucky

Why did Harriet’s book prompt so many people to become abolitionists?
They were finally learning about the conditions that slaves lived in

What was the name of the evil slave owner in Harriet’s first book?
Simon Legree

What political influence did Harriet’s book have in the U.S.?
The election of President Abraham Lincoln