Grades 7 – 10: Unit 1 Connecticut’s First Lady of Literature
Harriet Beecher Stowe is one of America’s most famous writers. She was born on June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut, and lived in Hartford for much of her life. She published more than 30 books, but it was her best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin which catapulted her to international celebrity and secured her place in history.
Harriet Elizabeth Beecher was the sixth child born to Lyman Beecher and Roxana Foote Beecher. Her father was a minister who taught his children the importance of civic engagement while her mother was an avid reader and life-long learner. Stowe and her siblings were raised to believe that they had a responsibility to improve the United States. Her seven brothers all became ministers and were proponents of abolition or anti-slavery movements. Her three sisters were proponents of female education and women’s rights.
Harriet’s formal education began early. She studied at the Litchfield Female Academy and then the Hartford Female Seminary, a school her sister Catharine started. There, she practiced writing, learning to compose essays. At 16, Harriet was teaching at her sister’s school.
From 1832 to 1850, Harriet lived in Cincinnati, Ohio where her father was president of Lane Theological Seminary. Here she continued to write, using her powers of observation and vivid imagination. Writing allowed her to express her thoughts and beliefs publicly during a time when women were not allowed to vote or hold office. In Ohio, she saw first-hand the workings of the institution of slavery and the public controversy surrounding it. Harriet watched the national debate and grew increasingly outraged at the injustice of slavery. She took up her pen to “… make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is.”
In 1851, Uncle Tom’s Cabin first appeared as a serial in The National Era, an abolitionist newspaper. The story was published weekly over 10 months, each installment left readers eager for the next one. In 1852, it was published as a book and became a best seller: within days: 10,000 copies were sold and by year end worldwide sales reached 1.5 million., Stowe’s story, ultimately translated into more than 60 languages, changed the way many thought about slavery, and influenced the abolition movement leading up to the Civil War. Uncle Tom’s Cabin made Stowe the most famous American woman of the 19th century. Her words changed the world.
Download our “Harriet Beecher Stowe” worksheet from the “Grades 7 -10: Unit 1 Worksheets” post and find more information about Stowe on the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center website at http://www.harrietbeecherstowe.org
This article corresponds with Let Your Words Change the Word: A Bicentennial Celebration of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Unit 1 curriculum for grades 7 – 10. Lessons are published weekly in the Hartford Courant from January 26 – February 16. To sign up or to find out more information, please contact Julia Baldini, Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org