“The Little Lady Who Started A Big War”
Harriet Beecher was born on June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut, to a famous Calvanist Pastor, Lyman Beecher. Harriet was born, the seventh of fourteen children, to a family of controversial individuals. Her father preached heatedly against sinners and those who did not have a proper baptism, as well as against slavery and alcoholism. Her birth mother, Roxana, died giving birth to children, as was “proper” of good christian women at the time. It then fell upon her older sister Catherine to raise Harriet. Catherine, outraged at the sub par education women received, started her own private girls school. Harriet attended this school, studying many subjects and eventually going on to teach at the school. Harriet, a developing young writer, would then go on to marry Calvin Stowe, who fully supported her writing and education. This was atypical for the time, as many men would not have supported her writings, but Calvin certainly did. Calvin and Harriet both deeply opposed slavery, helping former slaves make connections with the Underground Railroad. But Harriet’s ultimate claim to fame was her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Beecher Stowe was a rare commodity among women in the 1800’s, especially during the time of war, when it was believed that there was nothing for women to accomplish. Most women of the time had very little education, and had very little way of accessing said information. Harriet also broke grounds with the levels of controversy that came with Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The novel was meant to pull back the curtains on the ugly issue of slavery to the common folk of the North. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was meant to help fuel the abolitionist fire that was sweeping all over the nation. It was also meant to inspire guilt in the hearts of southern slave owners, causing them to free their slaves willingly. History has shown this to have had the opposite effect, instead further splitting the nation. In this sense, however, this was Beecher Stowe’s contribution to the war effort. She may have only directly contributed by helping slaves escape to the north, and also divided the states even further, but the awful truth of what she wrote and how it affected the stability of the nation truly caused Harriet Beecher Stowe to be “the little lady who started a big war.”