Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Harriet Beecher Stowe, born June 14, 1811

Harriet Elisabeth Beecher was born in Litchfield, Connecticut on June 14, 1811. She was the seventh of 13 children born to religious leader Lyman Beecher (1775-1863) and Roxana (Foote) (1775- 1816), a deeply religious woman.

Lyman Beecher was among the best known clergymen of the first half of the 1800s. He began to attract national attention in the 1820s when he preached anti-slavery sermons in response to the Missouri Compromise.  Lyman's dynamic preaching and energy had a profound impact on all of his children. He taught his children that a personal commitment was necessary for their spiritual salvation, but he also taught them to think for themselves and to ask questions. The result was that the Beecher children grew into adults who shared their father's love for God, yet who came to define God in more loving and forgiving terms. Like their father, though, the Beechers believed that the best way of serving was to take action to make a better world.

Lyman Beecher
Roxanna, a granddaughter of Revolutionary War officer General Andrew Ward, was literate, artistic, and read mathematical and scientific treatises for pleasure.  Her mother died of consumption at forty-one, when Stowe was only five years old. Catharine, the oldest daughter,  became responsible for the care of her siblings.  Her younger brother, Henry, was only three when their mother died. The toddler formed a close reliance on five-year-old Harriet, and their bond remained throughout their lives. 

Their aunt, Harriet Foote, deeply influenced Stowe's thinking, especially with her strong belief in culture. Samuel Foote, her uncle, encouraged her to read works of Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott. 

When Stowe was eleven years old, she entered the seminary at Hartford, Connecticut, kept by her elder sister, Catharine. Catharine had been engaged to be married to Alexander Metcalf Fisher, a mathematics scholar from Yale College. In 1822, Fisher sailed for Europe to further his studies. His ship sank off the coast of Ireland and he drowned. Using the small inheritance Fisher had left her, Catharine Beecher turned to the cause of providing quality education for girls and young women.  The school had advanced curriculum and she learned languages, natural and mechanical science, composition, ethics, logic, mathematics: subjects that were generally taught to male students. Harriet was later employed as an assistant teacher. 

Lyman Beecher's second wife, Harriet Porter Beecher (1800-1835), was from a prominent family in Maine. She was described by Harriet Beecher Stowe as being "a beautiful lady, very fair, with bright blue eyes and soft auburn hair bound round with a black velvet bandeau."  Sometimes overwhelmed by the eight boisterous children of her husband, her own three children, Isabella, Thomas and James, added to the noisy household.  Henry was 13 when his father and step-mother Harriet Porter Beecher moved the family from Litchfield to Boston.

Henry Ward Beecher
Harriet' s notable siblings included brothers who became ministers, including her favorite brother, Henry Ward Beecher, as well as Charles Beecher, and Edward Beecher. Her sister Isabella was a founder of the National Women's Suffrage Association.

Her brother, Edward Beecher, entered Yale at 15 and worked his way through college by teaching, graduating as class valedictorian. More religiously liberal than his father, he blended Lyman Beecher's old Calvinism with the newer tenets of Unitarianism, and even explored Spiritualism. Edward was also more liberal regarding social reform, and embraced abolitionism, the immediate end to slavery, as opposed to Lyman Beecher's support of colonization.  The earliest known letter written by young Harriet Beecher was to her brother Edward in 1822 as he studied at Yale.

She was 50 years old when the Civil War began.

Lane Theological Seminary
Cincinnati, Ohio
At the age of 21, she moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to join her father, who had become the president of Lane Theological Seminary  The family's home was completed in 1833 to house the president of seminary, and provided by the seminary to the Beechers.  Harriet and most of her brothers and sisters (11 Beecher children lived to adulthood) lived with their father in this house.  

Harriet Beecher Stowe House
Cincinnati, Ohio
Home to Lyman Beecher and his family
Catharine Beecher went west with her father and founded the Western Female Institute in Cincinnati.  She went on to establish schools in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Catharine Beecher
In Cincinnati, Harriet joined the Semi-Colon Club, a literary salon and social club, whose members included the Beecher sisters, Caroline Lee Hentz, Salmon P. Chase, Emily Blackwell, and and others.  

Emily Blackwell
Also in the group were Calvin Ellis Stowe, a Biblical scholar and theology professor at the seminary, and his wife, Eliza, who became Harriet's friend.   

 Calvin Ellis Stowe
John Rankin
During the 18 years of her life spent in Cincinnati, she met the anti-slavery leaders, James G. Birney, Gamaliel Bailey, John Rankin, and Theodore Dwight Weld.  

In 1833, Harriet Beecher made a visit to Washington, Kentucky, a major community of the era just south of Maysville.  She stayed with the Marshall Key family, one of whose daughters was a student at Lane Seminary. It is recorded that Mr. Key took her to see a slave auction held in Maysville. Scholars believe she was strongly moved by the experience. The Marshall Key home still stands in Washington. Key was a prominent Kentuckian whose visitors also included Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.

Gravestone of Harriet Key,
Wife of Marshall Key of Washington, Kentucky
In 1834, Harriet Beecher began her literary career when she won a prize contest of the Western Monthly Magazine, and soon she was a regular contributor of stories and essays. 

Calvin Stowe's wife, Eliza, died in 1834.  Harriet Beecher and Calvin Stowe married on January 6, 1836. He was an ardent critic of slavery, and the Stowes supported the Underground Railroad, temporarily housing several fugitive slaves in their home. In Ohio, Stowe heard first-hand stories from former enslaved people; witnessed slavery while visiting Kentucky; and employed fugitives in her home. When Harriet and Calvin learned that their servant was actually a runaway in danger of being returned to slavery, Harriet's brother Henry Ward Beecher helped her escape and reach Canada and legal freedom.

The Underground Railroad
Painting by Charles Webber
Harriet Porter Beecher died in Cincinnati in the summer of 1835. The following year Lyman Beecher travelled to Boston and called upon Lydia Beals Jackson, a former parishioner of his at the Hanover Street Church. This resulted in a fast courtship but the marriage would last until Lyman's death in 1863.  Lydia Jackson had two children still living with her at the time of the marriage. Lydia Beecher also raised the three young children from Lyman Beecher's second marriage.
Lydia Beals Jackson Beecher
In 1836, Stowe and her family members witnessed the race riots of 1836 in Cincinnati.  The Cincinnati Riots of 1836 were caused by racial tensions at a time when African Americans, some of whom had escaped from slavery in the southern states, were competing with whites for jobs. The riots occurred in April and July 1836. After the Cincinnati riots of 1829, mainly clashes between Irish immigrants and African Americans, in which many African Americans lost their homes and property, a growing number of whites, such as the  "Lane rebels" expelled from Lane Theological Seminary in 1834, became sympathetic to the rights of blacks. The anti-abolitionist rioters of 1836 attacked both Negroes and the whites who supported them.

Blacks in southern Ohio suffered from severe restrictions to their freedom due to the "Black Code" of 1804. Under this legislation, the testimony of any black was invalid in a court of law. A black could not defend himself against a charge, and could not bring action against a white man. If he managed to acquire property, he was taxed for school support, but his children were not allowed to attend the schools. A black person moving to the state was required to obtain the signatures of two white men on a $500 bond. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 was enforced rigorously, and steep fines were imposed on anyone who assisted a runaway slave.

A former slave owner from Alabama, James Gillespie Birney, had become an abolitionist.  In January 1836 he set up the Cincinnati Weekly and Abolitionist, a newspaper sponsored by the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society.  At first, the newspaper was printed in nearby New Richmond, targeting slaveholders across the Ohio River in Kentucky with anti-slavery propaganda. This angered local businessmen who were keen to do business with the southern states. In late January 1836 some of the most prominent citizens organized a meeting opposing abolition which was attended by over 500 people. Birney attended the meeting but was not allowed to give his views.

James G. Birney
In April, Birney moved his press to Cincinnati.  On April 11, a mob entered a black community, attacked people, burned buildings and forced many of the occupants to leave their homes. Irish rioters burned down a Negro tenement in the Ohio River bottom section of the lower West End.  Several blacks lost their lives. The riot was not brought under control until the governor intervened and declared martial law. The anti-abolitionist paper, The Daily Cincinnati Republican, described the tenement that was burned as "notorious as a place of resort of rogues, thieves, and prostitutes - black and white". The paper said the arson was viewed by a "large concourse of our citizens" who made no effort to extinguish the flames.

On July 5 , a race riot began when African Americans observed an Independence day celebration. Although this had long been the custom of the blacks, some whites now considered it to be evidence that they wanted full integration. James Birney attended the event, which helped stir up passions. On July 12, about forty men broke into the building housing Birney's press, and destroyed it.  The men were described as "respectable and wealthy gentlemen". They shredded newspapers, broke the press in pieces and dragged the damaged parts through the streets. The printer lost an estimated $1,500 in damage, and only agreed to continue producing the paper when his property was guaranteed to the value of $2,000 by the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society.

Following the press smashing, placards appeared saying "The Citizens of Cincinnati ... satisfied that the business of the place is receiving a vital stab from the wicked and misguided operations of the abolitionists, are resolved to arrest their course. The destruction of their Press on the night of the 12th instant, may be taken as a warning". On 17 July a placard was posted on the street corners:


"The above sum will be paid for the delivery of one James G. Birney, a fugitive from justice, now abiding in the city of Cincinnati. Said Birney in all his associations and feelings is black; although his external appearance is white. The above reward will be paid and no questions asked by


At a public meeting on July 23, chaired by the city mayor, resolutions were passed that included promises to use all legal means to suppress abolitionist publications. On July 30, a mob again attacked and destroyed Birney's press, scattering its type. The rioters threatened to burn down Birney's house, but were dissuaded by his son.  Men from Kentucky had a prominent role in the mob. The angry whites marched to a black neighborhood nicknamed the Swamp, where they burned down several houses. They went on to Church Alley, where they met resistance from armed blacks, but again destroyed their property.

Harriet Beecher Stowe described the events:
"The mayor was a silent spectator of these proceedings, and was heard to say, 'Well, lads, you have done well, so far; go home now before you disgrace yourselves;' but the 'lads' spent the rest of the night and a greater part of the next day (Sunday) in pulling down the houses of inoffensive and respectable blacks. The 'Gazette' office was threatened, the 'Journal' office was to go next; Lane Seminary and the water-works also were mentioned as probable points to be attacked by the mob. By Tuesday morning the city was pretty well alarmed. A regular corps of volunteers was organized, who for three nights patrolled the streets with firearms and with legal warrant from the mayor, who by this time was glad to give it, to put down the mob even by bloodshed".
An 1888 biography of Stowe said: "During the riots in 1836, when ... free negroes were hunted like wild beasts through the streets of Cincinnati, only the distance from the city and the depths of mud saved Lane seminary and the Yankee Abolitionists at Walnut Hills  from a similar fate". 
Salmon P. Chase
The experience may well have influenced her subsequent views on civil rights. Salmon P. Chase, who was until this time opposed to abolitionism, was shocked when his sister fled the mob and took refuge in his house. Viewing the riot "with disgust and horror", he organized a mass meeting in favor of law and order.  Later he helped with a damage suit that resulting in compensation of $1,500 for the owners, printer and editor of the Philanthropist, and went on to become prominent in the abolitionist movement. 

Discussing the riots, Harriet Martineau said of the businessmen of Cincinnati: "The day will come when their eyes will be cleansed from the gold-dust". She condemned them for violating the principle of freedom of speech, and described them as "more guilty in this tremendous question of Human Wrongs than even the slave-holders of the south".  William Ellery Channing echoed this sentiment in a letter to James Birney, saying "The abolitionists then not only appear in the character of champions of the colored race ... They are sufferers for the liberty of thought, speech and the press".

Harriet's first two children, twins Eliza and Harriet, were born in her father's home in 1836. The early years of her marriage were marked by financial struggles. Over the next fourteen years, Harriet Beecher Stowe gave birth to seven children. Six of her seven children were born in Cincinnati.

 Edward Beecher
Her brother, Edward, was friends with the Reverend Elijah Lovejoy, and left him just hours before the abolitionist was killed by a mob in 1837. In response, Edward published a Narrative of the Riots at Alton, a broad indictment of slavery and mob violence. Edward believed all of America was responsible for slavery, since the entire society profited. Edward's wife, Isabella Porter (Jones) Beecher, wrote Harriet Beecher Stowe "if I could use a pen like you Hatty, I would write something that would show the entire world what an accursed thing slavery is." They had 12 children, including one with special needs whom the Beechers fully incorporated into family life – an exception to 19th-century practice.

In 1838, her younger brother, Charles, moved to New Orleans and supplemented his income as a church organist by collecting fees for a counting house. His years in New Orleans, and the letters he wrote home, provided first hand accounts of slavery that sister Harriet Beecher Stowe later incorporated into her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe's first book, The Mayflower, appeared in 1843.

George Beecher
In July of 1843, her brother, George, was found dead of a gunshot wound. The Beechers believed that it was an accidental death and the family mourned over the loss of their beloved brother. Stowe confessed that "the sudden death of George shook my whole soul like an earthquake."

Eunice Beecher

In 1847, her brother, Henry and his wife, Eunice moved to Brooklyn, New York, where  Henry shaped Plymouth Church into one of the most influential pulpits in the United States. 

Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, New York
By 1850, the crowds coming to hear Beecher's sermons on temperance and the wrongs of slavery often could not fit inside the building.  Henry Ward Beecher actively used the Plymouth Church to fight slavery. Staging elaborate mock auctions, Henry led his congregation to redeem enslaved individuals by purchasing their liberty. 

Following the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the passage of the Kansas Nebraska Act;, the Plymouth Church paid to ship rifles to anti-slavery settlers in Kansas and Nebraska in crates marked "Bibles." Sharp's rifles became known as "Beecher's Bibles."

Henry Ward Beecher
In 1848, Lydia Beecher, Lyman's third wife, founded the "Society for the Relief of Aged Indigent Women", which was located on Everett Street in Cincinnati. It was capable of taking in nine women and the charge was $18.00 per month. As First Directress, Lydia was responsible for the running of the home and the business end also. Southwestern Ohio Seniors' Services, Inc., is the non-profit corporation which today operates Maple Knoll Village, a result of the amalgamation of three historic Cincinnati charities: The Widows' and Old Men's Home ( Lydia's project ); the Bodmann Widows Home and the Maple Knoll Home.

In the summer of 1849, during a cholera epidemic in Cincinnati, Stowe experienced for the first time the sorrow of many 19th-century parents when her 18-month old son died of the disease. Stowe called the blond, blue-eyed Samuel Charles Stowe, nicknamed "Charley", "my sunshine child". Stowe later credited that crushing pain as one of the inspirations for Uncle Tom's Cabin, because it helped her understand the pain enslaved mothers felt when their children were taken from them to be sold.

"My Sunshine Child"
Samuel Charles Stowe,
nicknamed "Charley"
On September 18, 1850, the U.S. Congress passed the Compromise of 1850. Among the provisions of the Compromise of 1850 was the creation of a new, stricter, Fugitive Slave Law. Helping runaways had been illegal since 1793, but the 1850 law required that everyone, law enforcers and ordinary citizens, help catch fugitives. Those who refused to assist slave-catchers, or aided fugitives, could be fined up to $1,000 and jailed for six months.

It also eliminated what little legal protection fugitives once had. Before 1850, some northern states had required slave-catchers to appear before an elected judge and be tried by a jury which would determine the validity of a claim. 

Lyman Beecher and 9 of his children in 1850
After the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, anyone could be taken from the street, accused of being a fugitive from slavery, and taken before a federally appointed commissioner who received $5 for every fugitive released and $10 for every one sent south. Free blacks and anti-slavery groups argued the system bribed commissioners to send kidnapped people into slavery, and obliged citizens to participate in the slavery system.

Stowe was furious. She believed the country was requiring her complicity in a system she thought was unjust and immoral. 

Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine
In 1850, Calvin Stowe joined the faculty of his alma mater, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. The Stowe family moved into a home near the campus of Bowdoin College. 

Gamaliel Bailey
Stowe wrote to Gamaliel Bailey, editor of the weekly anti-slavery journal National Era, that she planned to write a story about the problem of slavery: 

"I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak... I hope every woman who can write will not be silent."
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Brunswick, Maine
The house where Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin
 The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Brunswick is where Stowe lived when she wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. She regularly invited students from the college and friends to read and discuss the chapters before publication. Future Civil War general, and later Governor, Joshua Chamberlain was then a student at the college and later described the setting. “On these occasions,” Chamberlain noted, “a chosen circle of friends, mostly young, were favored with the freedom of her house, the rallying point being, however, the reading before publication, of the successive chapters of her Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the frank discussion of them.” 

Joshua Chamberlain
In June 1851, when she was 40, the first installment of her Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in the National Era. She originally used the subtitle "The Man That Was A Thing", but it was soon changed to "Life Among the Lowly".  Installments were published weekly from June 5, 1851, to April 1, 1852.  For the newspaper serialization of her novel, Stowe was paid only $400. 

Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in book form on March 20, 1852, by John P. Jewett with an initial print run of 5,000 copies. In less than a year, the book sold an unprecedented three hundred thousand copies.  In Great Britain, it sold 1.5 million copies in one year.  Uncle Tom's Cabin was a best seller in the United States, Britain, Europe and Asia, and was translated into over 60 languages.  Uncle Tom's Cabin was the world's best seller of the nineteenth century other than the Bible.

"I wrote what I did because as a woman, as a mother, I was oppressed and broken-hearted with the sorrows and injustice I saw, because as a Christian I felt the dishonor to Christianity - because as a lover of my county, I trembled at the coming day of wrath."
~ Harriet Beecher Stowe 
The book's emotional portrayal of the impact of slavery captured the nation's attention. It added to the debate about abolition and slavery, and aroused opposition in the South. Within a year, 300 babies were named "Eva" in Boston alone and a play based on the book opened in New York in November of that year.

"Little Eva" with Uncle Tom
"I could not control the story, the Lord himself wrote it," Stowe once said. "I was but an instrument in His hands and to Him should be given all the praise."

From Brunswick, the Stowes moved to Andover, Massachusetts, where Calvin Stowe was a professor of theology at Andover Theological Seminary from 1853 to 1864.

Attacks on the veracity of her portrayal of the South led Stowe to publish The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (1853), in which she presented her source material. A second anti-slavery novel, Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856), told the story of a dramatic attempt at slave rebellion. 

Even before the final installment of Uncle Tom's Cabin appeared, Stowe was contacted by Asa Hutchinson, the patriarch of the anti-slavery performers, the Hutchinson Family, to collaborate on a dramatization of her novel. Stowe's Congregational upbringing taught her that theater was an immoral waste of time, so she declined, losing her opportunity to help frame how the tale would be told from the stage. Asa Hutchinson honored Stowe's aversion to the theater and did not produce his play. Others were less scrupulous, and the copyright laws of 1852 did not protect works of fiction from being adapted by others.

Dramatization of Uncle Tom's Cabin for the stage meant shortening and simplifying a complicated story. The characters became caricatures and the story was fused onto blackface minstrel traditions.  Known as "Tom Shows," loosely based on Stowe's story and produced in theaters and traveling shows across the country, these performances frame modern understanding of the novel. "Tom Shows" added extravagant special effects and changed the story. With actors in blackface and simplified plots, racial stereotypes were highlighted. Eliza's escape across the ice added bloodhounds for the stage. Topsy, a tragic child in the book, the product of raising children "like pups," was changed to a slapstick figure. Strong, young Tom aged to a submissive, shuffling old man. Professional "Tom Shows" toured annually for nearly 90 years, and eventually versions were filmed for movies and cartoons.

"Tom-Shows" were not the only way others profited from Stowe's ideas. A wide range of products such as wallpaper, silverware, board-games, song sheets, clothing and ceramics featured characters or scenes from Uncle Tom's Cabin. Stowe neither endorsed nor profited from the plays or memorabilia. Uncle Tom's Cabin was not the first book to inspire such marketing, but the large number of readers and playgoers created a larger and more enduring demand than earlier works had seen.

Uncle Tom's Cabin brought not only financial security, it enabled Stowe to write full time.  For a while she was the most celebrated woman writer in The Atlantic Monthly and in the New England literary clubs. In 1853, 1856, and 1859, Stowe made journeys to Europe and became friends with George Eliot, Elisabeth Barrett Browning, and Lady Byron.  Her brother Charles kept a journal when he accompanied his sister on her first trip to Great Britain and Europe in 1853. Stowe published Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands in 1854, crediting her brother for his keen observations. Charles was a successful author and his publications included works on the Fugitive Slave Law, theology, spiritualism, and the autobiography and the correspondence of his father. 

Charles Beecher
Stowe's younger brother, Thomas, differed from most of his Beecher siblings in being more politically and socially conservative. He opposed abolition as too radical up until the beginning of the Civil War. He also disagreed with the woman's rights movement his sister Isabella and brother Henry supported. He accepted a call from the Independent Congregational Church in Elmira, New York in 1853. Among his parishioners were the Langdon family, whose daughter Olivia would marry Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). Thomas officiated at their wedding in 1870.

Henry Ellis Stowe
In 1857, Stowe's oldest son, Henry, died at nineteen, in a swimming accident near Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Stowe's grief at his death caused a crisis of faith for her, and propelled her to write The Minister's Wooing.

Stowe's youngest brother, James, entered Andover Theological Seminary, saying "Oh I shall be a minister. That's my fate. Father will pray me into it!" While attending Andover he married Anne Morse, a widow with a young child. The couple had no other children. James and Anne left Andover to become missionaries in Canton and Hong Kong. In 1859, Anne Beecher returned from China for what the family euphemistically called health reasons. She appears to have suffered from drug and alcohol addiction. She spent time in sanitariums, and the water cure facility in Elmira, New York, near her brother-in-law Thomas Beecher.

James remained in China until the outset of the Civil War in 1861. He enlisted in the army and served first as chaplain of the First Long Island Regiment, then as a lieutenant colonel in the 141st New York Volunteers. He briefly returned to civilian life because of his concerns over his wife Anne. After her death in 1863, he rejoined the army and was appointed to recruit an African American regiment, the First North Carolina Volunteers.

President Abraham Lincoln
After the start of the Civil War, Stowe traveled to Washington, D.C. and met President Abraham Lincoln on November 25, 1862.  Stowe's daughter Hattie reported, "It was a very droll time that we had at the White house I assure you... I will only say now that it was all very funny—and we were ready to explode with laughter all the while." Her son later reported that Lincoln greeted her by saying, "so you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war." Her own accounts are vague, including the letter reporting the meeting to her husband: "I had a real funny interview with the President."  President  Lincoln sent Henry Ward Beecher to London during the Civil War to persuade Great Britain to remain neutral. 

Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe

Her son Fred left Harvard Medical School to enlist in the army for the Civil War. Fred was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, but re-enlisted and fought through 1864.

Frederick Stowe
Her youngest son, Charles Edward, ran away from school in 1863 at the age of thirteen to become a sailor, but the Stowes found him before the ship set sail.

Georgiana Stowe Freeman
In 1865, the Stowe's youngest daughter, Georgiana, married the Reverend Henry Freeman Allen, an Episcopal priest, in Hartford, Connecticut. The couple's only child, Freeman, was the Stowes' first grandchild.  Stowe and her husband relished their roles as grandparents and often visited the Allens in Stockbridge, Amherst, and later Boston.

Isabella Beecher Hooker
In the early 1860s, Stowe's younger sister, Isabella, became involved in the woman's suffrage movement. Along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Isabella organized the National Woman's Suffrage Association in 1869. She was also a founding member of the Connecticut Woman's Suffrage Association.  In 1871, Isabella organized the annual convention of the National Woman's Suffrage Association in Washington D.C. and was invited to present her argument before the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate. Her husband, John Hooker, believed in his wife's abilities and supported her activity. John Hooker helped Isabella draft a bill presented to the Connecticut Legislature giving married women the same property rights as their husbands. The bill passed in 1877. Isabella annually submitted a bill granting women the right to vote, but never witnessed its passage.

Harriet and Calvin Stowe
After the Civil War, the Stowes purchased a house and property in Mandarin, Florida, on the St. John's River, and began to travel south each winter.  Stowe's brother Charles Beecher (1815-1900) had opened a Florida school to teach emancipated people, and he urged Calvin and Harriet Stowe to join him.

Newly expanded railroads also made shipping citrus fruits north a potentially lucrative business, and Stowe purchased an orange grove which she hoped her son Fred would manage. The relatively mild winters of northern Florida were a welcome respite from Hartford winters and the high costs of winter fuel.

Fred and his family struggled unsuccessfully with his alcohol addiction. He traveled to California in 1870 and disappeared. Historians believe he died shortly after arriving.  Fred was the inspiration for the character Tom Bolton in My Wife and I and We and Our Neighbors. In these books, Stowe described alcoholism as an illness, at a time when most people believed it was a moral failure.

Stowe with family in Florida
Harriet Beecher Stowe loved Florida, comparing its soft climate to Italy, and she published Palmetto Leaves, describing the beauties and advantages of the state.  Stowe and her family wintered in Mandarin for over 15 years before Calvin's health prohibited long travel.
When Calvin Stowe retired from Andover, the family relocated to Hartford, Connecticut. Harriet Beecher Stowe built her dream house, Oakholm, in Nook Farm, a neighborhood full of friends and relatives. The high maintenance cost and the encroachment of factories caused her to sell her mansion in 1870. In 1873, she settled into a brick Victorian Gothic cottage-style house on Forest Street. She lived there for the rest of her life.

By the 1870s, Stowe's neighborhood on the western edge of Hartford was a celebrated center of New England literary life, and the words "Nook Farm" were as evocative as "the Hamptons" are today.  The neighborhood that would become Nook Farm began in 1853, when brothers-in-law John Hooker and Francis Gillette purchased 140 acres of pasture and woodland. Over the years, as Hooker and Gillette sold parcels of land to relatives and friends, a community of reformers and activists grew. Some were politicians; others were journalists, feminists, spiritualists, painters, or writers. 

Mark Twain
Two residents, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain, were international celebrities. Isabella Beecher Hooker, Joseph Hawley, Charles Dudley Warner and William Gillette acquired national fame.

"Hattie" and Eliza Stowe
Her oldest twin daughters, Harriet and Eliza, lived with their parents and worked as correspondents and assistants for their mother, managed the family's households and later as caretakers for their aging parents.

The Beecher-Tilton Scandal
In 1872, Victoria Woodhull, a controversial woman's rights advocate, accused Henry Ward Beecher of committing adultery with Elizabeth Tilton, the wife of Theodore Tilton. The Tiltons were members of the Plymouth Church, and Theodore was co-editor with Henry of  The Independent, as well as a close friend. In 1875, Theodore Tilton sued his former friend for "alienation of affection." The resulting trial lasted more than six months and became the most notorious scandal of the 19th century. Dissenting opinions over Henry's guilt caused rifts in society, Plymouth Church, and the Beecher family itself. Sisters Harriet and Isabella were temporarily estranged. Harriet remained her brother's supporter and advocate while Isabella believed Victoria Woodhull. Ultimately a civil jury was unable to reach a conclusion, and a mistrial was declared. Henry continued to work at the Plymouth Church, and despite the controversy, remained a popular figure. 

Charles Edward Stowe
Their youngest son
Their youngest son, Charles Stowe, was ordained as a minister in 1878. He married Susan Monroe (1853-1918) and had three children. The young family lived at his parents' Forest Street home for a short time in 1883. From the mid 1880's until the late 1890's he was minister of the Simsbury, Connecticut, Congregational Church.

In 1881 Henry Ward Beecher asked his youngest brother, James Beecher, to take over Plymouth Church. James reluctantly agreed, although he preferred a more rural life. He soon suffered what may have been a nervous breakdown and eventually went to Dr. Gleason's water cure sanitarium in Elmira, New York, where his first wife had sought help. While in Elmira, James took his own life.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Hartford, Connecticut
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Hartford, Connecticut is the house where Stowe lived for the last 23 years of her life. It was next door to the house of fellow author Mark Twain.  
Widowed in 1886, Stowe enjoyed the company of neighbors Mark Twain and Oliver Wendell Holmes, and occasionally, a little too much wine. "I won't be any properer than I have a mind to be," she wrote.  
"I was seventy-six on my last birthday, and have all my bodily powers perfect; can walk from three to seven miles per day without fatigue; have a healthy appetite, and quiet sleep every night."

When Henry Ward Beecher died of a stroke in 1887, Brooklyn held a day of mourning, the New York legislature adjourned its session, and the funeral procession was led by national figures.

Stowe's mental faculties failed in 1888, two years after the death of her husband. Harriet Beecher Stowe's writing career spanned 51 years, during which time she published 30 books and countless short stories, poems, articles, and hymns.

Charles Stowe wrote a biography of his mother, The Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, in 1889. Later editions were co-authored by his son Lyman.

As an adult, her youngest daughter, Georgiana, became addicted to the morphine first given to her as a painkiller after the birth of her son. In 1890,"Georgie" died of septicemia in Boston at the age of 47.

Harriet Beecher Stowe died at noon on July 1, 1896, at age eighty-five in Hartford. By her bedside were her son, the Reverend Charles Edward Stowe of Simsbury, her two daughters, Eliza and Harriet; her sister, Mrs. Isabella Beecher Hooker, and John Hooker; Dr. Edward B. Hooker, her nephew, who was also her medical attendant, and other relatives.

Grave of Harriet Beecher Stowe
She was buried in the cemetery at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.
Inscription on Harriet Beecher Stowe Monument
Family survivors included only three of her seven children: her unmarried twin daughters, Harriet and Eliza, and her youngest son, Charles.  After Stowe died, the sisters moved to Simsbury, Connecticut, to be near their brother.

She told the story, and the whole world wept

At wrongs and cruelties it had not known.

These opening phrases of Paul Laurence Dunbar's sonnet to Harriet Beecher Stowe appeared in Century Magazine, November 1898, two years after her death and almost a half century after the publication of her best-know novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly, in 1852.

Born in Connecticut, Harriet Beecher Stowe is claimed by Connecticut, Florida, Maine, and Massachusetts for her years of residence and her stories of local character; and by Ohio for the significant 18 years which provided background for her great American novel.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati, Ohio is the home of her father's family on the former campus of the Lane Seminary.  Harriet Beecher lived there until her marriage. It is open to the public and operated as a historical and cultural site, focusing on Harriet Beecher Stowe, the Lane Seminary and the Underground Railroad.  The site also presents  African-American history.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Hartford, Connecticut, is the home where Stowe lived for the final decades of her life. It is now a museum, featuring items owned by Stowe, as well as a research library. The home of Stowe’s next-door neighbor, Samuel Clemens (better known as Mark Twain), is also open to the public.

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