Harriet Beecher Stowe was born into one of America’s most prominent religious families. The Beecher family was at the forefront of many reform movements of the 19th century.
After her short teaching career, she married Calvin Stowe in 1836. In order to supplement Calvin’s teaching salary, she wrote short stories dealing with domestic life. Her royalties helped her hire household help to assist with raising their seven children.
In 1850 when the south threatened to secede, Stowe determined that she would write a serial denouncing the evils of slavery. She began, expecting to write three to four installments, but the novel grew to forty chapters. Meanwhile the nation became absorbed in the story. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in book form in 1852, was a huge success. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the first major American novel to feature a black hero. With a fine ear for dialogue, deft humor, and dramatic plot, Stowe made her readers understand that slaves were people who were being made to suffer cruelly. Stowe’s novel also insisted that slavery undermined the moral sensibility of whites who tolerated or profited from it. Stowe wrote of the evils of slavery so that others could be free. Hers was one of the most effective pieces of reform literature ever published.
Later her Pink and White Tyranny attacked the idea that women should be ornamental and helpless. She wrote many subsequent novels but none of her later works achieved the social impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.