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Stowe in Her Own Time

A Biographical Chronicle of Her Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and Memoirs by Family, Friends, and Associates

Susan Belasco

Publication Year: 2009

One of the first celebrity authors, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896) became famous almost overnight when Uncle Tom’s Cabin—which sold more than 300,000 copies in its first year of publication—appeared in 1852. Known by virtually all famous writers in the United States and many in England and regarded by many women writers as a role model because of her influence in the literary marketplace, Stowe herself was the subject of many books, articles, essays, and poems during her lifetime.

This volume brings together for the first time a range of primary materials about Stowe’s private and public life written by family members, friends, and fellow writers who knew or were influenced by her before and after Uncle Tom’s Cabin catapulted her to fame. Included are periodical articles by Fanny Fern and Charles Dudley Warner; biographical essays by Sarah Josepha Hale and Rose Terry Cooke; letters by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Harriet Jacobs; recollections by Frederick Douglass, Annie Adams Fields, Isabella Beecher Hooker, and Charles Beecher; and poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar and John Greenleaf Whittier. An introduction at the beginning of each essay connects it to its historical and cultural context, explanatory notes provide information about people and places, and the book includes a detailed introduction and a chronology of Stowe’s life. 

The thirty-eight recollections gathered in Stowe in Her Own Time form a biographical narrative designed to provide several perspectives on the famous author, sometimes in conflict and sometimes in agreement but always perceptive. The figure who emerges from this insightful, analytical collection is far more complex than the image she helped construct in her lifetime.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Front Matter

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. xi-xxxvi

In June 1983, over eighty descendants of Lyman Beecher (1775–1863) attended a family reunion at the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Hartford, Connecticut. This number then represented about one-third of the known descendants of Beecher, patriarch of the famous family to which Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896) belonged. ...


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pp. xxxvii-xlii

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[Memories of My Childhood in Litchfield, 1811–1824]

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pp. 1-15

Throughout his life, Stowe’s father, Lyman Beecher, carefully preserved his letters, journals, and other papers, with an eye toward eventually writing his autobiography. According to Barbara M. Cross, Beecher decided in about 1850 that he needed assistance in the preparation of his life story.1 Six of his eleven children ...

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From “The Girlhood of Harriet Beecher Stowe” (1811–1832)

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pp. 16-24

In May 1911, Charles Edward Stowe (1850–1934) and Lyman Beecher Stowe (1880–1963), Stowe’s son and grandson, published a jointly written biography, Harriet Beecher Stowe: The Story of Her Life. In their preface, they explained that they wished to tell “not so much what she did as what she was, ...

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[Stowe in Cincinnati, 1832–1836]

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pp. 25-40

In 1832, Lyman Beecher accepted a position as the president of Lane Theological Seminary and moved his family from Hartford, Connecticut, to Cincinnati, Ohio, a booming river town of nearly 47,000 people. Stowe, who had been a student and then a teacher at her sister Catharine Beecher’s Hartford Female Seminary, ...

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[Life in Brunswick, December 1850]

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pp. 41-47

In 1849, Calvin Stowe was appointed to the faculty at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and the Stowes moved there from Cincinnati in the spring of 1850. The move was a difficult one for Stowe, who gave birth to her final child, Charles Edward, in July. Further, Stowe was recovering from illness and losses, ...

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“Harriet Beecher Stowe” (1851)

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pp. 48-50

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788–1879), the powerful editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, published several of Stowe’s sketches and stories in the 1830s and early 1840s. During the late 1840s, Hale began work on an encyclopedia of nearly 2,500 women writers, including excerpts from their works, ...

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[Letter to Gamaliel Bailey on Writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1851]

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pp. 51-54

On 1 August 1850, Stowe published “The Freeman’s Dream: A Parable,” one of her first direct contributions to the antislavery movement, in the National Era, an antislavery newspaper edited by Gamaliel Bailey. She had published three other sketches in the Era and Bailey, wishing to encourage her, sent her $100.00, ...

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From “The Story of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

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pp. 55-61

When Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin became the runaway best seller of the nineteenth century, the reading public demanded to know more about its author as well as the circumstances in which the book was written. Stowe herself gave various accounts during her lifetime, and her friends and family members provided ...

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[Autobiographical Letter to Eliza Follen, 1852]

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pp. 62-69

In 1852, as Stowe was planning her first trip to Great Britain and Europe, she received a letter from Eliza Follen, who asked for information about her life. Follen (1787–1860) was a well-known author of books for children, including Words of Truth (1832) and Little Songs for Little Boys and Girls (1832). ...

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[Stowe and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1853]

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pp. 70-72

As a teacher at Catharine Beecher’s Hartford Female Seminary in the 1820s, Stowe met Sara Willis (1811–1872), a student who enrolled in 1827. The lively Willis quickly gained a reputation as a prankster and a rebel, and Stowe later remembered her as a “bright laughing witch of a half saint, half sinner.”1 ...

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[Stowe at a Performance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1853]

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pp. 73-76

Soon after the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in book form, dramatists began work on adaptations of the novel for the stage. In the absence of a copyright law protecting the works of fiction writers, Stowe had no control over the performances, nor did she derive any profit from the various and wildly ...

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[Stowe and the Success of Uncle Tom’s Cabin]

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pp. 77-85

Throughout her life, Stowe was friendly with the editors and publishers of her books. James Cephas Derby (1818–1892) began his career as an apprentice to a publishing firm in Auburn, New York, and eventually formed his own company, J. C. Derby & Company. In 1848, he formed another company, Derby & Miller, ...

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[First Meeting with Stowe, 1853]

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pp. 86-94

Stowe’s first contact with Frederick Douglass came in a famous letter she wrote to him in July 1851. Asking if he could provide information for the “series of articles that I am furnishing for the Era under the title of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life among the lowly,’” she wrote. “In the course of my story, the scene ...

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[Letters about Stowe, 1852–1853]

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pp. 95-101

Although Stowe helped a number of former slaves, her response to a request for assistance from Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897) reveals the contradictory attitudes shared by many white, middle-class women in the nineteenth century. Born a slave, Jacobs escaped by living in hiding for seven years and then making her way ...

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[Stowe in Liverpool, 13 April 1853]

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pp. 102-109

On 1 April 1853, Stowe, her husband Calvin, her brother Charles, her sister-in-law Sarah Buckingham Beecher, and Sarah’s brother William and son George sailed for Liverpool, England, the first stop on a tour of Great Britain and Europe. Stowe was the triumphant author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, expressly invited ...

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[Diary Entry for 14 April 1853]

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pp. 110-113

Among those who accompanied Stowe and her husband Calvin on their first tour of Great Britain and Europe in 1853 was her brother Charles Beecher (1815–1900). Stowe invited him to join her on the journey, in part to organize their many engagements and handle travel arrangements. Beecher kept a detailed ...

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[Stowe in London, May 1853]

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pp. 114-116

Sarah Pugh (1800–1884) was a Virginia-born Quaker, teacher, and reformer. Along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other American antislavery activists, Pugh attended the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society general conference in London in 1840. In the United States she helped establish antislavery organizations, ...

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[Impressions of Stowe]

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pp. 117-122

On her second trip to Europe in 1856–1857, Stowe visited a number of famous writers and people, including the poets Robert Browning (1812–1889) and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861). When Stowe was touring Italy, she called on them at their home, Casa Guidi, in Florence. Barrett Browning supported ...

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[Recollections of Stowe at Andover]

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pp. 123-129

In 1852, Calvin Stowe accepted a position at the Andover Theological Seminary, and the Stowe family lived in Andover, Massachusetts, until his retirement in 1864. When she was first at Andover, Stowe saw Uncle Tom’s Cabin through production as a novel and found herself an international celebrity. ...

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[Stowe and the Atlantic Monthly Dinner, 1859]

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pp. 130-134

The Atlantic Monthly was founded in 1857 as a literary and cultural magazine that also engaged political issues. One of the founders, Francis Underwood, observed that he “desired to bring the literary influence of New England to aid the anti-slavery cause,” though he wished to place the primary emphasis ...

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“Days with Mrs. Stowe”

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pp. 135-140

Annie Adams Fields (1834–1915) was Stowe’s closest personal friend.1 She and her husband, the publisher James T. Fields, met Stowe in Italy in early 1860. Stowe was on her third and final trip to Europe, and the Fieldses were touring Italy before returning to Boston, where James Fields was to become editor ...

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[An Evening with Stowe in 1861]

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pp. 141-145

The editor and writer Lydia Maria Child (1802–1880) first became known for writing Hobomok (1824), a historical novel about a Puritan woman’s marriage to an Indian. She subsequently founded and edited the first magazine for children, the Juvenile Miscellany; wrote a popular household manual, The Frugal Housewife; ...

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[Lunch with Stowe, August 1862]

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pp. 146-148

Born in Beverly, Massachusetts, Lucy Larcom (1824–1893) went to work in a textile mill in nearby Lowell at the age of eleven. She began her writing career by contributing to the Lowell Offering, a monthly literary magazine written and published by women working at the mills from 1840 to 1845. Toward the end of her life, ...

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[Stowe and President Abraham Lincoln, 2 December 1862]

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pp. 149-151

Perhaps the most enduring story about Stowe’s life is her meeting with President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. According to Joan Hedrick, on 2 December 1862, Stowe, her daughter Hatty, and her sister Isabella Beecher Hooker, accompanied by Senator and Mrs. Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, ...

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[Impressions of Stowe in 1867]

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pp. 152-154

Gail Hamilton was the pseudonym of Mary Abigail Dodge (1833–1896). After graduating from the Ipswich Female Seminary, she taught school for a few years, including a position at the Hartford Female Seminary, founded by Stowe’s sister Catharine Beecher. In 1856, Dodge began her writing career ...

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[Stowe’s Life after the Civil War]

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pp. 155-167

Florine Thayer McCray (1851?–1899), a journalist and novelist, was a neighbor of the Stowe family in Hartford in the 1880s. She was a regular contributor to the Hartford Sunday Globe, edited the City Mission Record, and published articles and stories in New York newspapers and the Lady’s Home Journal.1 ...

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From “International Copyright” (1867)

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pp. 168-175

Born in England, James Parton (1822–1891) was a journalist and writer who became one of the most popular biographers of nineteenth-century America with his studies of Horace Greeley, Aaron Burr, Andrew Jackson, and Benjamin Franklin. Parton was also the third husband of Fanny Fern, whom he married ...

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“Petty Slanders” (1869)

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pp. 176-180

After the publication of her Treatise on Domestic Economy (1841), Stowe’s older sister Catharine Beecher (1800–1878) was among the most well-known women in the United States. A pioneer educator for women, she had established the Hartford Female Seminary in 1823 and wrote on a variety of religious ...

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[Stowe and the Lady Byron Controversy, 1869–1870]

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pp. 181-184

The most controversial period in Stowe’s later life followed the publication of her article “The True Story of Lady Byron’s Life” in the Atlantic Monthly in September 1869 and her book, Lady Byron Vindicated: A History of the Byron Controversy, from Its Beginnings in 1816 to the Present Time (1870). ...

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[Memories of a Neighbor at Nook Farm]

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pp. 185-187

In 1871, the Stowes bought a house on Forest Street in an area of Hartford, Connecticut, called Nook Farm. Developed by John Hooker and Francis Gillette, the area became home to several famous people, including the actor and playwright William Gillette and the writer Charles Dudley Warner. ...

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[Stowe at Nook Farm]

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pp. 188-192

George Parsons Lathrop (1851–1898) was a writer and critic who contributed to numerous periodicals in Boston and New York. He was friendly with many major writers and married Nathaniel Hawthorne’s daughter Rose in 1871. Lathrop served for two years as an assistant editor of the Atlantic Monthly ...

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“The Birthday Garden Party to Harriet Beecher Stowe” (1882)

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pp. 193-226

On 14 June 1882, the publishers of the Atlantic Monthly, Houghton, Miffl in and Company, hosted a party to honor Stowe on her seventy-first birthday. Held at the home of the former governor of Massachusetts, William Claflin, and his wife, Mary, the party was a lavish event. As the New York Times reported, ...

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“Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe in Hartford” (1886)

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pp. 227-232

One of Mark Twain’s closest friends, Joseph Hopkins Twichell (1838–1918), was the minister of a Congregationalist church in Hartford, Connecticut. Introduced to Twain in 1868, Twichell presided at the marriage of Twain and Olivia Langdon in 1870 and was the model for Mr. Harris in Twain’s humorous ...

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“Harriet Beecher Stowe” (1888)

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pp. 233-240

The member of a prominent Swedish-Finnish family and a well-known fiction writer, journalist, and women’s rights activist in Finland, Alexandra Gripenberg (1857–1913) traveled the United States in 1888. She came to the United States as a delegate to the international women’s congress in Washington, D.C., ...

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[An Exchange between Harriet Beecher Stowe and Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1893]

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pp. 241-245

Stowe and Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894) were among the writers who founded the Atlantic Monthly, and the two maintained a long, enduring friendship. A physician by training as well as a professor of anatomy first at Dartmouth College and then at Harvard University, Holmes began writing ...

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[Eulogies and Remembrances of Stowe at Her Death in 1896]

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pp. 246-252

After a few years of declining health, Stowe died at her home on 1 July 1896, attended by her son, Charles Edward Stowe, and her daughters Eliza and Harriet Stowe. The writer of the extensive obituary in the New York Times on 2 July called Stowe’s death “one of the closing leaves in an era of our century.”1 ...

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A Brief Sketch of the Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe (1896)

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pp. 253-260

Isabella Beecher Hooker (1822–1907) was Stowe’s much younger half-sister, the daughter of Lyman Beecher and his second wife, Harriet Porter Beecher. Hooker attended Catharine Beecher’s Hartford Female Seminary and married John Hooker, a prosperous Hartford lawyer. The couple owned a home in ...

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“Harriet Beecher Stowe” (1898)

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pp. 261-263

By 1896, the year of Stowe’s death, the African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906) had gained a considerable reputation, befriended by Frederick Douglass and praised by one of the most influential white critics, William Dean Howells. In a lengthy review of Dunbar’s second book of poetry, ...

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“The Creator of ‘Uncle Tom’ ” (1911)

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pp. 264-268

The centennial of Stowe’s birthday in 1911 was marked by several celebrations across the United States, including one at Fisk University, where Stowe’s son Charles Edward Stowe gave the commencement address.1 A number of newspapers and magazines published articles about her life and career, including ...


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pp. 269-270


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pp. 271-276


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pp. 277-283

E-ISBN-13: 9781587298325
E-ISBN-10: 1587298325
Print-ISBN-13: 9781587297823
Print-ISBN-10: 1587297825

Page Count: 330
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: 1

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Subject Headings

  • Abolitionists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 1811-1896.
  • Women and literature -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Authors, American -- 19th century -- Biography.
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