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.
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. When the novel was published in book form in March 1852, it infuriated the South, where most states banned its sale. Still, half a million copies were sold within four years of its publication. During the Civil War, President Lincoln met Stowe in the White House and reportedly said to her (in so many words): "So you're the little lady that caused this great big war."