Harriet Beecher Stowe - Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)

Harriet Beecher Stowe

According to legend, President Abraham Lincoln said to Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) upon their first meeting, “So, you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” Stowe certainly earned that reputation with her bestselling anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. One of thirteen children born to a famous religious leader, Lyman Beecher, Stowe and her siblings all rose to prominent social reform roles. Seven of her brothers became preachers, one became a famous abolitionist, and one of her sisters cofounded the National Woman Suffrage Association. When she was twenty-one, Harriet moved to Ohio with her father and met her husband-to-be, Calvin Ellis Stowe, a professor and supporter of the Underground Railroad.

After Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, prohibiting anyone from assisting runaway slaves even in free states, Stowe took up her pen at the age of forty and started writing a serial for an anti-slavery newspaper. This serial, though fictional, worked to educate the North on the realities and horrors of slavery and to foster empathy in the South for those forced into slavery. It was published in book form as Uncle Tom’s Cabin two years later and became an instant cultural icon: the year after the book was released, three hundred babies in Boston alone were named Eva (for one of the main characters), and the story was adapted into a play that opened in New York. The Civil War began eight years later. Now that is seriously powerful writing! Throughout her life, Stowe wrote over thirty books on a diverse range of topics and campaigned for the expansion of married women’s rights to control their own finances.

The little woman who started the Civil War