Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stowe is famous for Uncle Tom's Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe
It is the birthday of writer Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811), whose best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin brought her international fame and financial security. The book helped fire up the abolitionist movement and, some historians say, helped set the stage for the Civil War. It was first published in serial form in the abolitionist newspaper National Era, starting in June 1851. She expected to write only a few installments but response was so great that she ended up writing 40 episodes. It was published as a book in March 1852. Stowe, the daughter of a minister and educator, was taught early to debate issues of the day and make her case forcefully. She began writing at age 7,  winning a school essay contest. She continued to write all her life, completing more than 30 books, including novels, text books, advice books and biographies. With her sister, Catherine, she wrote The American Home, a homemaking advice book. She married a professor, Calvin Ellis Stowe, and they had seven children. Her husband taught at a seminary in Cincinnati. Later he taught at Bowdoin College in Maine, and she wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin there. Still later the family settled in Hartford, Connecticut. With her earnings from Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe bought a cottage and orange grove on the banks of the St. Johns River in Mandarin, south of Jacksonville in 1872. Her family wintered there for 17 years until Calvin was too ill to travel from their home in Hartford. Well known by then, Stowe charged 75 cents each to tourists who came by steamboats to meet her and visit her home. Stowe wrote Palmetto Leaves,  a book extolling the virtues of Florida as an idyllic playground for tourists seeking to escape the chilly northland.

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