365 People: Day 4 – Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)   Author, Abolitionist

This is an obvious choice.  A housewife and mother of 7 writes a novel which becomes so astonishingly popular that it ignites a passion to abolish slavery when people were being dragged through the streets and murdered for speaking out against wealthy slave owners in the south.  She housed refugee slaves though it was illegal to do so.  She was a woman of faith, strength of character, and hope to turn her suffering into something useful and good.

“… I HAVE BEEN the mother of seven children, the most beautiful and most loved of whom lies buried near my Cincinnati residence. It was at his dying bed and at his grave that I learned what a poor slave mother may feel when her child is torn away from her. In those depths of sorrow which seemed to me immeasurable, it was my only prayer to God that such anguish might not be suffered in vain. There were circumstances about his death of such peculiar bitterness, of what seemed almost cruel suffering that I felt I could never be consoled for it unless this crushing of my own heart might enable me to work out some great good to others.”

She wasn’t a particularly great writer, just a passionate writer with a worthy cause.

“She tries to domesticate radical thought — and this was one reason she was so popular. She tries to appeal to common, everyday feelings of human devotion. These elements can seem sentimental, but they’re also universal …”  David Reynolds (Author of Mightier than the Sword)

She went on to write several more novels as well  as articles promoting social reform.  She taught ex-slaves in Florida after the war and later co-founded Hartford Art School.  I dream of a life this rich and effectual though I know it would come at a cost so I find it a hard thing to wish for.  All the same, she inspires me to faithfully act on my convictions in service to others.

http://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/hbs/

 

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3 comments
  1. she’s a name I’ve seen crop up on your side of the pond, especially when I was researchng the abolition of the slave trade a few years back for the bicentennial. But never knew why she was famous. Sometimes wiriting passionately works better than doing it well. Especially when you are writing for ordinary people. Thanks for this.

  2. I have an almost tortured relationship with Harriet Beecher Stowe, since her prose provokes me to the point of violent hatred and repugnance but her ethics are relatively on the right track (though her sentimentality can sometimes make a mockery of the injustices she’s trying to portray), and–I bow to this last–she may have done a lot to ignite the Civil War. I like the fact that you like Harriet Beecher Stowe more than I actually like Harriet Beecher Stowe the person, thought I respect her as a phenomenon as much as you do.

    • Ha! Well I don’t read everything in constant critical analysis like you and sometimes -when I’m not jealous- I thank God my brain doesn’t function like yours.

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