Biography of Harriet Stowe

Harriet Elizabeth Beecher was the seventh of Lyman and Roxana Foote Beecher's nine children, born on June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut. Harriet's mother died when she was five years old, and Lyman, a minister, remarried the following year, in 1817. At the age of twelve, Harriet began to attend the Hartford Female Seminary, an academy founded and run by her older sister Catherine. In 1832, the Beecher family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, when Lyman became president of the Lane Theological Seminary.

In 1834, at the age of 23, Harriet's first story was published in Western Monthly Magazine. In 1836 she married academic Calvin Stowe. Harriet was destined to live a life of prolific childbearing, as well as writing. Their twin daughters, Eliza and Harriet, were born the same year. A son, Henry, was born in 1838, and Frederick followed in 1840. In 1843, Harriet published The Mayflower, which was a collection of stories about the descendants of the Puritans. Her daughter, Georgiana, was also born this year.

In 1846, Harriet was diagnosed with exhaustion from pregnancy and childbearing. She spent fifteen months at a water cure in Vermont to recover her physical and mental strength. Her son Samuel was born in 1848, but died the following year in a cholera epidemic. In 1850, the Stowe family moved to Brunswick, Maine, when Calvin became a member of the Bowdoin College faculty. Their son Charles was also born that year.

1850 was also an important year for Stowe because the Fugitive Slave Law, requiring Northerners and Southerners alike to turn in runaway slaves, was passes. This law was a major catalyst in Stowe's antislavery writing. In 1851 Uncle Tom's Cabin first appeared as a serial in an antislavery paper, The National Era. Due to its popularity, it was published the next year as a two-volume book. In 1853, A Key to "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was published to corroborate the novel's facts. Harriet took a triumphant tour of Europe as a now famous anti-slavery author. Although she was a prolific author, none of her successive works could match the popularity or importance of Uncle Tom's Cabin, which became a powerful tool of the abolition movement.

In 1856 Stowe published her second anti-slavery novel, Dred, A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, and again traveled to Europe to promote the book. In 1859 Stowe took her third successful European tour, and published a novel, The Minister's Wooing. In 1862, The Pearl of Orr's Island was published and the following year the Stowe family moved to Hartford, Connecticut.

In 1869, the novel Oldtown Folks was published. Harriet also published a book with her sister Catherine, The American Woman's Home, the same year. In 1872, Oldtown Fireside Stories was published, followed by her last novel in 1878, Poganuc People. In 1886, Calvin Stowe died. Harriet outlived her husband by ten years, dying in 1896 at her home in Hartford at the age of eighty-five.

Study Guides on Works by Harriet Stowe