Harriet Beecher Stowe in Antebellum Period
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was an American abolitionist and novelist who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, one of the most influential books in American history. Her father was Lyman Beecher, pastor of the Congregational Church in Litchfield, and her brother was the famous Congregational preacher Henry Ward Beecher. After the death of one of her children made her contemplate the pain slaves must endure when family members are sold away, she decided to write a book about slavery. With the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852, she became a national celebrity, and went on to write several more books on the topic, many of them in response to southern critiques of the original.
During her twenties in Cincinnati, Ohio, Stowe developed the idea of an unbreachable boundary between right and wrong. In the context of a renewed sectional debate over slavery, the acquisition of new territories, and the infamous Fugitive Slave Law that formed a part of the Compromise of 1850, Stowe began publishing Uncle Tom's Cabin in serial installments in The National Era, a popular weekly paper. Through her writing, Stowe sought to shock her readers' Christian consciences on behalf of African-Americans. In 1852, Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in its entirety in book form, and sold 500,000 copies within four years. It was translated into a variety of languages, and by the end of the century, Stowe's book had sold more copies in America than every other book except the Bible. Despite the popularity of her publications, the mother of six never made much money from writing. She remained deeply religious and a supporter of reform movements for temperance and women's suffrage.