Harriet Beecher Stowe was born on June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut, one of thirteen children. Her father was a Calvinist preacher that expected his sons to be preachers, too. Because of this forced upbringing, two of Harriet's brothers killed themselves. As for her sisters and herself, they were supposed to be good Calvinist women. Harriet's sister, Catherine, founded a seminary called the Hartford Female Seminary, and Harriet attended school there and also taught there after graduation until 1832.
In 1832, Harriet's father was accepted as president of the Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinatti, Ohio, so their whole family moved there. While in Cincinatti, Harriet made friends with her only true friend, Eliza Tyler. Eliza married a man named Calvin Stowe who was a professor at Lane Theological Seminary. However, Eliza died sometime around 1835, a year after Harriet started writing. Harriet comforted Calvin after Eliza's death, and then they decided to get married in sacrament for Eliza in 1836.
They had seven children, the first being two twin girls that were named Eliza and Harriet. However, Calvin only received $600 annually for his occupation, and that wasn't enough to support their entire family. So, Harriet wrote when they needed money, receiving $2 per page. In 1843, Harriet published her first book, Mayflower. Then, in 1850, Calvin received a position as a professor of Natural and Revealed Religion at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine (where I live at this very moment!), and they moved there. In that same year, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, saying slaves that were caught in the north had to be returned to their owners and also giving Harriet inspiration for Uncle Tom's Cabin.
In 1851, Uncle Tom's Cabin appeared in serial format in the National Era, a magazine that closely resembled a newspaper, and was published in Washington D.C. as an abolitionist paper. Soon afterwards, Stowe had an offer from a publisher in Boston to make it into a book. He said that if they split the manufacturer's cost, they would each receive half of the profits. However, Harriet couldn't afford to pay the $500 manufacter's cost, so instead, the publisher paid the manufacturer's cost and she only received 10% of the profits. In 1852, Uncle Tom's Cabin was published as a whole book, selling 3,000 copies the first day and 10,000 copies the first week. Three hundred thousand copies were sold over the first year, making a total of $10,000 the first year.
In 1860, there were thirty different copies in Britain of Uncle Tom's Cabin, twelve in Germany, five in France, and 23 others in other countries. Although this cost Harriet money, her opinion on slavery was spreading. Uncle Tom's Cabin was the first American book to sell a million copies and was also the best selling book of the 19th century.
In 1853, Harriet wrote a companion to Uncle Tom's Cabin titled A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin. Both of these books together generated hate mail, one letter which included the ear of a slave and told her more would happen to the slave if she didn't stop writing. Harriet didn't stop, and wrote a few more books on slaves in the mid 1850's. In 1859, Harriet turned back to religious writings, and in 1896, she died in Connecticut at 85 years old.
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