Harriet Beecher Stowe

Born: June 14, 1811
Died: July 1, 1896

Ohio connection: Resident


Author and social reformer Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped galvanize anti-slavery efforts across the nation, was a Connecticut native who spent the years 1832–1850 in Cincinnati, Ohio, settling in the Walnut Hills area. During those eighteen years, she would become a wife, a mother to six children, and a nationally-recognized author. Proximity to the Kentucky border intellectually and ethically embroiled her in the slavery controversy as her home was unstintingly offered as a refuge to those slaves fleeing toward Canada along the Underground Railroad. Brief tours of the South and outrage over the Compromise of 1850 added to her determination to lay bare to Northern and Southern readers the true barbarity of the slavery system.

After the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law, Stowe wrote her scathing indictment of the plantation system which she entitled Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Initially published in a series of 40 installments in the anti-slavery weekly The National Era starting with the June 5, 1851, issue. The work earned Stowe $300. Despite having a small circulation, copies of The National Era were widely distributed across the country among family and friends. Impressed by its potential, Boston publisher J. P. Jewett contacted Stowe with whom an agreement was reached to publish the work in its entirety in March 1852. In its initial year as a publication in book form, 300,000 copies of Uncle Tom’s Cabin were sold, meeting both critical acclaim and derision at every turn. To rebut the widely-circulated criticisms of her detractors, she wrote in 1853 A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin which substantiated Uncle Tom’s graphic story elements through a full disclosure of her investigatory research.

Her second abolitionist novel, Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, was published in 1856. Dred, the novel’s pivotal character, is an escaped slave seeking refuge in the forbidding Great Dismal Swamp. While hiding, he aids fleeing slaves by confounding and pursuing hunting dogs and overseers, and preaches to them that a dire and violent retribution must be unleashed against those who profit through slavery. A social reformer who espoused many causes, Stowe sought also to redeem the image of the state of Florida in the national consciousness. In 1874, she published Palmetto Leaves, a collection of essays on diverse subjects pertinent to that state. Covering everything from picnics up Julington Creek to the mass killing of Florida’s birds for their beautiful plumage, Palmetto Leaves generated such national interest that an estimated 14,000 – 15,000 people flocked to Florida before the end of 1875. The zeal and substantive contributions of Harriet Beecher Stowe towards abolition and the rebirth of the state of Florida earned her both the recognition and acceptance of Americans from both sides of the former warring states.

Stowe died July 1, 1896, in Connecticut.

Selected Awards
First prize in Litchfield Academy essay contest, c. 1823; first prize in Western Monthly magazine contest, 1834, for story “A New England Sketch.”

Additional Resources

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

Wikipedia Article with numerous external links