Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American author and abolitionist in the years
prior to the American Civil War.
Harriet Elisabeth Beecher
was born in
Litchfield, Connecticut on
June 14, 1811. She is
youngest daughter of
Lyman and Roxanna. She
has 8 siblings. Her mother
passed away when she was
only 4 years old. Her
father was a
Harriet took after her
mother. She was very
interested in improving
her education, so Harriet
pursued the same goal.
Picture of the Beecher family c.1850.
Taken by Mathew Brady, New York.
Standing from the left :
Edward, Charles, Henry. Seated from
Isabella, Catherine, Lyman, Mary, Harri
et. Courtesy of The Harriet Beecher
Stowe Center, Hartford, Connecticut.
Harriet Beecher was not the only one in her
family to be active in abolition. Her
brother, Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), was
a noted minister in Brooklyn, New York. Henry
was active in the abolitionist movement.
Along with abolition; her sister, Catharine
Beecher (1800-1878) founded many schools for
young women throughout the country and was
a prolific author while her youngest
sister, Isabella (1822-1907), became active in
the women's suffrage movement. Many of her
siblings were active reformers.
At the time Harriet attended Hartford Female Seminary, only
a handful of schools took the education of women seriously.
Catharine began to introduce many innovations at the school.
Her teachings included physical education , home
economics, and student government.
The women were expected to stay at home. Because of
this, women needed very little education. Catharine helped
to change these ideas. She argued that running a home was
as complicated as running an office and that young women
should be instructed in these duties the same way boys
should be instructed in careers outside the home. Catharine
also stressed the importance of written expression. Her
students spent many hours composing essays. As a result of
Catharine's teaching methods, Harriet received an unusually
fine education, and, under her sister's guidance, began to
develop her talent as a writer
Harriet studied at Hartford Female Seminary.
Her oldest sister, Catharine, opened and
operated the school. After Stowe graduate
from school she became a teacher at the
seminary. The Beecher family moved to
Cincinnati, Ohio where Lyman Beecher was
president of Lane Theological Seminary.
Harriet followed her father’s footsteps. It was
there at Lane Theological Seminary where
she met her husband, Calvin Stowe, a
professor at the Seminary.
Lane Seminary was a school devoted to training Congregational ministers. Lane Seminary
schooled only eighteen Ohioans in 1834. The students here at Lane Seminary debated the
merits of immediate emancipation. Most of the students agreed that slavery was a sin an
abomination and wanted it to end now. With the abolition, many abolitionist began working with
blacks in Cincinnati.
She met Calvin in 1836. It was four
years later after marriage, Stowe
gave birth to four of their seven
children. Six of their seven children
were born in Cincinnati.
Calvin and Harriet had seven
children. Pictured here are six of
the seven. Their son, Samuel
Charles died when he was 1.
They were survived by only 3
Georgiana May Henry Ellis
Frederick William Charles Edward
Harriet first got ideas about antislavery from her
father’s belief in human equality; although a
majority derived from her stay in Cincinnati. It
was in Cincinnati she witnessed the violence
and brutality of slavery while residing briefly in
It was during the 1830’s, Stowe became an abolitionist. At that
time, slavery was prohibited north of the Ohio River. (This was
due to the passage of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787). In the
state of Kentucky, slavery was legal. Cincinnati is directly north
of Kentucky. Because of this, thousand of runway slaves would
pass through Cincinnati as they traveled to freedom along the
Underground Railroad. Stowe began to become friends with
some Ohio abolitionist. One of her good friends, John
Rankin, had a house that served as a stop on the Underground
In 1850, Harriet’s husband, Calvin
Stowe took a position at Bowdoin
College in Brunswick, Maine. While
they were in Maine, Harriet wrote
Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Campus, Harriet and
The stories Harriet heard about the
slaves from the Underground Railroad
conductors and from the slaves
themselves helped her form the basis
for her book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe
reacted to the Fugitive Slave Act of
1850. This act made it illegal to assist
and escaped slave.
After Harriet’s book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was published, she was invited to visit the
British Isles in 1853. When she arrived in the Isles she was greeted enthusiastically.
She did not visit Britain just once. She went back and returned in 1856, and again in
In the New York newspaper, The Independent, a large column was published by
Harriet. She urged the women in the United States to used their influence against
slavery. She urged them to do so by signing petitions, spreading information, and
inviting guest speakers to speak to the community about the subject.
She urges white Northerners to welcome escaped slaves and treat them with
Harriet and her family moved into their home in Hartford Connecticut in
18373. A year later, Samuel Clemens (who we know as Mark Twain, and his
family moved into a house just across town. The two families visited each
Lived here the last
years of her life. She
was neighbors of
She used her gift of storytelling and
writing as a way of bringing about change
to American society.
Harriet Beecher Stowe was one of the
most popular American writers of the