Harriet Beecher Stowe in Maine
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) penned the biggest literary sensation in US book publishing to her day at a rental home that is part of the Bowdoin College campus in Brusnswick, Maine. Though she had a large following for her earlier writing and continued success with subsequent books, none had the immediate, worldwide, and lasting impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin set new sales records that skyrocketed immediately upon release. It was second only to the Bible in 19th century book sales. The social commentary novel about the horrors of slavery in the US South was extremely timely. Its publishing occurred as the nation was on the brink of a Civil War in which the legality of slavery was at the core of US division. It sold out in a matter of days and was read by Abraham Lincoln during his presidency, prior to the Civil War.
The term “Uncle Tom” has been traced to the novel, though it has taken on different meanings over time. The author’s research included knowledge of the story of Josiah Henson, who is regarded as the inspiration for the fictional character in the novel. According to an article in Smithsonian Magazine (May 16, 2018): “Though history has been unkind to Uncle Tom, there’s hope that his reputation as a martyr can be resuscitated as readers extricate him from the more negative connotations. Were he still alive today, one would hope Henson could still proudly repeat his words upon learning of his connection to the novel’s hero: ‘From that time to the present, I have been called “Uncle Tom,” and I feel proud of the title. If my humble words in any way inspired that gifted lady to write… I have not lived in vain; for I believe that her book was the beginning of the glorious end.’”
The room where the book was written is called “The Writer’s Room” and has a view to Federal Street. It is open to the public and available for events. It features furnishings and decor of the author’s era, as well as a copy of the book for perusal and other informational resources. According to https://www.bowdoin.edu/events/stowe-house/harriets-writing-room.html, the author lived in the house “…with her children, her sister Catharine, and her husband, Calvin Stowe, a Bowdoin College professor.”
Read about more literary homes of Harriet Beecher Stowe at the following Author Adventures pages:
She also had a winter home in the Jacksonville area of Florida for a few years. Read about it here:
Read about Josiah Henson here: Josiah Henson in Maryland.
Pages about landmarks connected to some of her historically famous siblings are here:
Bowdoin College (255 Maine Street) has graduated several notable writers, including early US writers Hodding Carter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and John Brown Russwurm, and contemporary writers Anthony Doerr, Claudia La Rocco, and DJ Spooky (Paul D. Miller), according to https://www.bowdoin.edu.
Read about more literary places connected to Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth at these Author Adventures pages:
- Nathaniel Hawthorne in Massachusetts
- The Wayside in Massachusetts
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Maine
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Massachusetts
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Michigan
Last but not least, read about the home of Abraham Lincoln here: Abraham Lincoln in Illinois.
This literary location is the third stop on the Maine Author Adventures Trail.