Harriet Beecher Stowe discovered a way to combine the strongly marked gender roles of her parents. Writing was an activity pursued in the parlor — in the private sphere where women were expected to be — yet when writings were published they reached an even broader audience than Lyman Beecher was able to fit in his church. In the days before commercial entertainments, families made their own amusements in the parlor; they played music, created amateur theatricals, or read aloud stories and poems written for the occasion. Far from being a departure from women's social role, writing was an integral part of it. Participating in literary games and writing letters to distant family members were simply extensions of women's role to maintain the bonds of family. The needle and the pen were not that far apart. Litchfield boasted a vibrant literary culture — it had a law school, a female academy, and some of the most cultivated minds of the age. Literary salons were a regular feature of Litchfield society, and the Beecher parsonage when it was not hosting these had as many as twenty-five people living under its roof who provided a ready audience for domestic literature. Harriet remarked that hardly anything happened in their household without her older sister Catherine picking up a pen and turning into a humorous composition. Harriet, who was the chief mourner at funerals for animals, remembered Catherine's epitaph for a dead cat:
Here died our kitIt's not great poetry, but it conveys the ordinariness of writing and the ease with which the everyday doings and sayings of the Beechers passed into literature. At this time there was no such thing as American literature — the periodicals were filled with material pirated from Britain. International copyright had not yet been established, and most editors thought it foolish to pay for what they could take for free, an attitude that slowed the development of our national literature. An exception was Sarah Josepha Hale, who paid authors fifteen dollars a page for stories published in her . As a consequence, sported not only the fashion plates for which it is most remembered, but stories by Stowe, Hawthorne and Poe. It was women who saw the potential for making literature a career, who wrote the first best sellers, and who laid the groundwork for the creation of American literature.
Who had a fit,
And acted queer.
Shot with a gun,
Her race is run,
And she lies here.
Stowe's novel was credited by some observers with stirring anti-slavery feeling to such a degree that the American Civil War was inevitable. As Paul David Johnson wrote in the American Writers Supplement, "at one point dur ing the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have greeted the diminutive, bird-like Mrs. Stowe, who was visiting him in the White House, with the words, 'So this is the little lady whose book started this big war.'" Madeline B. Stern, writing in the Reference Guide to American Literature, noted: "There is no doubt that it is one of the few books to have changed the climate of public opinion and helped swing the political pendulum." Barbara Ryan in the Dictio nary of Literary Biography reported: "Though Uncle Tom's Cabin was not the first anti-slavery novel, it was incontrovertibly the most engaging, and it sold phenomenally well." Uncle Tom's Cabin was, in fact, the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century. James A. Levernier in the Reference Guide to American Literature claimed that "if the greatness of a novel were based solely upon its popularity and sociologica l impact, then Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin would undoubtedly be one of the greatest American novels of all time."
Harriet beecher stowe author biography essay
As a woman, Harriet Beecher Stowe didn't have the option of becoming a preacher like her father and brothers or an academic like her husband, the professor Calvin Stowe. She set out instead on a path of reform that was "appropriate" for a wife and mother of the time. Beecher Stowe wrote and dozens of other books and articles in the privacy of her home, all while raising seven children. Though today she is considered one of the most influential reformers in American history, during her own lifetime Beecher Stowe saw herself as a typical wife and mother. The enormous success of took her largely by surprise. After all, from her perspective, she was just living her life the way she believed she was supposed to: with a sense of duty to make the world a better place. "Harriet Beecher Stowe had a profound effect on nineteenth-century culture and politics, not because her ideas were original, but because they were common," her biographer Joan D. Hedrick wrote. "What makes Stowe so radical is that she insisted upon putting her ideas into action."