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Who Was Harriet Beecher Stowe?
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Who Was Harriet Beecher Stowe?
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Born in Connecticut in 1811, Harriet Beecher Stowe was an abolitionist, author, and playwright. Slavery was a major industry in the American South, and Stowe worked with the Underground Railroad to...
Born in Connecticut in 1811, Harriet Beecher Stowe was an abolitionist, author, and playwright. Slavery was a major industry in the American South, and Stowe worked with the Underground Railroad to...
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  • Born in Connecticut in 1811, Harriet Beecher Stowe was an abolitionist, author, and playwright. Slavery was a major industry in the American South, and Stowe worked with the Underground Railroad to help escaped slaves head north towards freedom. The publication of her book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, a scathing anti-slavery novel, fanned the flames that started the Civil War. The book's emotional portrayal of the impact of slavery captured the nation's attention. A best-seller in its time, Uncle Tom's Cabin sealed Harriet Beecher Stowe's reputations as one of the most influential anti-slavery voices in US history.
    From the Trade Paperback edition.

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    Who Was Harriet Beecher Stowe? 

     
    During the 1800s, the economy of the southern United States boomed with the production of cotton. Many white plantation owners became rich growing it. They relied on black slaves to work their fields and harvest the cotton. These slaves were not treated as people. They were property to buy and sell, just like livestock or farm equipment.
     
    In 1850, the US Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act. It stated that anyone caught giving food, shelter, or help of any kind to an escaped slave would have to pay a $1,000 fine and spend six months in jail. The people of the United States had long been divided over the issue of slavery. This new law meant that even those who were against slavery could offer no help. If they assisted runaway slaves in any way, they would be breaking the law. Slaves who managed to escape to the North could not be protected.
     
    When this law passed, Harriet Beecher Stowe was a writer and mother, living in Brunswick, Maine. She and her family had long been against slavery. But she was especially horrified by stories she heard of slave owners forcibly taking back slaves who had escaped to freedom. No black man, woman, or child was safe.
     
    Harriet’s sister-in-law wrote to her saying, “Hattie, if I could use a pen as you can, I would write something to make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is!” After reading the letter, Harriet got up from her chair, crushed the paper in her hands, and declared, “I will write something. I will if I live.”
     
    Harriet Beecher Stowe went on to write one of the most famous books in US history, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She worried that no one would listen to what she had to say.
     
    But they did.
     
    Uncle Tom’s Cabin was not only an instant success. It changed the course of history. Harriet’s book revealed the horrors of slavery. It fueled the tensions that led to the Civil War.
     
    Her words helped inspire people to change. Her story helped bring an end to slavery in the United States.
     
     
    Chapter 1: A Busy Household
     
     
    Harriet Beecher was born on June 14, 1811, in the small New England town of Litchfield, Connecticut. Her father, Reverend Lyman Beecher, had hoped for a boy whom he wanted to name Henry. But his wife, Roxana, gave birth to a girl instead. They chose to name her Harriet, and called her Hattie for short.
     
    The house was already quite full of children when Hattie became the sixth child in the Beecher household. After Hattie, Roxana had two more boys. Hattie was always surrounded by family. Her grandmother and aunt lived right down a garden path from her own house. Because Hattie’s father was a Congregational minister in town, the Beecher house on the upper end of North Street was often filled with visitors.
     
    The family suffered a great loss when Hattie was only five. Her mother died of tuberculosis in September 1816. Later in life, Harriet wrote: “I remember the mourning dresses, the tears of the older children, the walking to the burial ground, and somebody’s speaking at the grave . . . we little ones, to whom it was so confused, asked the question where she was gone and would she ever come back?”
     
    Lyman thought it might be good for Hattie to escape the sadness of the household. Hattie went to live with her other grandmother, aunt, and uncle in Nut Plains, Connecticut. The night Hattie arrived, the outside of their home struck her as a “lonely little white...

About the Author-

  • Dana Meachen Rau has written more than 300 books for children, including picture books, early readers, nonfiction, and biographies.

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