Column: Harriet Beecher Stowe: True women’s history heroine

Column: Harriet Beecher Stowe: True women’s history heroine

Throughout history, many women became standout characters known for their impact on the world.

Many of us have been taught the importance of these key women throughout time, so we better understand how their involvement shaped the world we know today. One particular woman was so ground breaking, passionate and one-of-a-kind that we should highlight her today.

Harriet Beecher Stowe is a name many will remember and some will think sounds very familiar. Do we really know why this particular woman changed our country? She was a writer and a strong advocate against slavery. Using her talents as a writer, her descriptions of the reality of slavery became the ammunition for Americans to step up and figure out how to end it.

She is most known for her book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This depiction of slavery was so vivid because it described the human suffering of slavery that many Americans had never witnessed first hand. Because of the influence her book had on public opinion, we now know it was a key moment in abolishing slavery for good.

Stowe was an exceptional woman but she never thought of herself as a hero in any way. In fact, she claims that her role in life was never heroic, only necessary. Growing up in Connecticut to a strongly religious family, she was well-educated at an all-girls school. When she turned 21, she moved to Ohio and became involved in various literary circles. This is when she became concerned with social issues of the times.

Stowe met the love of her life, Calvin Ellis Stowe, and they were married on January 6, 1836. The couple became committed to abolishing slavery and took part in the Underground Railroad, which temporarily housed fugitive slaves.

Stowe listened to the many stories from the slaves and gained a close hand knowledge of many details that needed to come to light. With all of these stories, she decided that it was her Christian duty to publish a book, hoping more people could become aware of these injustices.

In 1851, the National Era newspaper published the first installment of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. By 1952, its popularity had led to its publication in book form. The book, selling over 300,000 copies in its first year, became a best-seller. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was such a realistic account of slavery, it did not take long to create a following of people believing what Harriet Beecher Stowe knew all along. It popularized the anti-slavery movement in the North; however, it enraged the South and led to opposition of the book. At this point, the country was on the brink of war.

In November of 1862, after the Civil War outbreak, President Abraham Lincoln asked Stowe if she would join him for a meeting at the White House. Lincoln wanted to personally thank Stowe for her dedication to abolishing slavery and admit that he himself was moved by her book. He always referred to Stowe as the “little woman who started the big war.” Although slavery was opposed by many during this time, Stowe can definitely be recognized for her role in this change.

Learning from her courage still today, many of us should remember that believing in what is right may not always be the popular opinion but that cannot stop us from doing what we believe to be right.

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