Harriet Elisabeth Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist and author. Her seminal novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) touched hearts and proved a tremendous influence on the anti-slavery movement.
Stowe claims that the inspiration for Uncle Tom came to her in a vision during a communion service in Maine, in 1850. She said she had seen a dying slave, and afterwards felt compelled to write his story. Harriet wrote to the anti-slavery journal National Era in March that year, saying: “I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak… I hope every woman who can write will not be silent.” The first instalment of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in June 1851.
Harriet’s vivid depiction of life for African Americans under slavery made waves both as a novel and play, even reaching the United Kingdom. The book animated the anti-slavery movement in North America, and provoked a bitter reaction in the South.
Harriet passionately upheld the abolitionist message. She and her husband Calvin Stowe both supported the Underground Railroad – a network of safe houses for African-Americans, and housed fugitive slaves in their own home.
By her death in 1896, Harriet Stowe had written more than 20 books, and expanded her social commentary to encompass the drive for women’s rights. Her eloquent voice was one of the most fervent and valuable to the causes she so believed in.
“To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.”