Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) came from a large family that gained fame in the 19th century, beginning with its patriarch, a minister named Lyman Beecher. His sons became preachers and writers (the best known was Henry Ward Beecher) and his daughters worked in education (one founded a school where another was a teacher; another daughter was a suffragette). Harriet Beecher Stowe found a career in writing serials and then as an author of books. All of the Beecher clan spoke into the social issues of their day.
You can read a short biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe here: Biography Online.
Though she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin while residing in Brunswick, Maine, it is her home in Hartford that is open to the public (http://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/), rather than the former home in Maine. Some had suggested that the home is haunted but its most reliable history comes from its location next to the house of Mark Twain, who settled in the neighborhood later on. Hartford, at this time, was a popular upscale town known by many as the heart of the writing and publishing community.
Today the house has expanded in types of uses. Beyond being an historical house museum, it often hosts special events championing social justice and writing.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (found online at www.free-ebooks.net) has long been required reading for people studying the Civil War era in which she lived. (Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was a reply of sorts, so read both classics for opposing viewpoints.)
Before you visit her home, read about the book’s miracle-making rise to fame. A vivid description of how her novel made history and attracted the attention of President Abraham Lincoln is a writing by Ronald D. Patkus and Mary C. Schlosser in Vassar College’s Special Collections, which can be read here: Harriet Beecher Stowe Was a Rock Star.
Be careful hunting for first editions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Since the book was published before international copyright law protected the author’s interests, publishers in many countries dashed to publish and sell copies of Uncle Tom’s Cabin before its author had time to win her rights in their courts. (She had to go through this process personally one country at a time.)
I once located a “first edition” of one of these publishers and the spine reads Uncel Tom’s Cabin. When I researched the publisher, the back-story appears to be that a printer jumped on the publishing bandwagon by forming his own publishing company, and, evidently cut costs on proofreading. The copy was inscribed as a gift to a Scottish fellow, so the error on the binding apparently had little or no impact on its traction. (See spine photo on this author’s Ohio page.)
Another outstanding though lesser known novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe is Pink and White Tyranny, a 19th century literature about social class and marriage, which has been seen at the Stowe House shop.
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house is the second stop on our Connecticut Author Adventures Trail!