Monday, September 3, 2012

Harriett Beecher Stowe: Her Impact on the Nation

Legend has it that upon meeting Harriett Beecher Stowe at the White House, Abraham Lincoln said, "So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war."  We'll never know if that's what Lincoln really said, because not much is known about that conversation. According to sources at Wikipedia:

Stowe's daughter Hattie reported, "It was a very droll time that we had at the White House I assure you... I will only say now that it was all very funny—and we were ready to explode with laughter all the while." Stowe's own letter to her husband is equally ambiguous: "I had a real funny interview with the President."

Regardless of whether or not Lincoln made that remark, it's a fascinating piece of folklore.  Harriett Beecher Stowe probably never realized the impact Uncle Tom's Cabin would have on the United States. On March 9, 1850, Stowe wrote to the editor of a weekly antislavery journal called National Era.  She explained that she planned on writing a story about the problem of slavery.

In her letter she said: "I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak... I hope every woman who can write will not be silent."

In June of 1851, National Era published the first installment of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The Installments were published weekly from June 5, 1851, to April 1, 1852. In March of 1852, the story was published in book form with an initial print run of 5,000 copies. In less than a year, the book sold three hundred thousand copies!

Stowe's work presented an emotional portrayal of slavery that caught the nation's attention.  At a volatile time in history, Uncle Tom's Cabin added to the heated debate about abolition and slavery, arousing opposition to it in the South. Her story inspired and impacted many.
Have you ever read Uncle Tom's Cabin?  In my new release Escape (yes, it's time for a little shameless self-promotion), my protagonist, Daniel Taylor, is an abolitionist inspired by Uncle Tom's Cabin.  What story or person has inspired you lately?

Thanks for visiting! 


Karen Jones Gowen said...

I've read the book several times. I think it's amazing how a book can change a person, change a culture, start a war. The Bible talks about moving mountains. Slavery was a mountain, and her book was one very small thing that helped to move that mountain.

Maria McKenzie said...

Karen, so well said!!

Krisztina Clifton said...

It's impressive that at the time a woman could write a story that would become so influential, and sold so many copies early on after it was made into a complete book. It's incredibly inspiring.

Old Kitty said...

I loved how this was used in "The King and I" to show the King how subjugated his people felt! Now that really is far-reaching!

Take care

Maria McKenzie said...

@Krisztina: Thanks for visiting with me:). It is inspiring, as well as amazing, that a woman at that time could have such an impact!

@Old Kittty: You are absolutley right! BTW, I love that scene:).

Intangible Hearts said...

More books for my reading pile. Thanks Maria!

Maria McKenzie said...

You're welcome, Eve;)!

Jennette Marie Powell said...

This is a book I've always meant to check out, just because of the simple fact that it's a book that changed the world... thanks for the reminder!

Maria McKenzie said...

Amazing what one little book can do!

William Kendall said...

I've read it several times. I'll have to go back and reread it again; it's been awhile.

It's a book that came about just at the right moment in time, and the impact it made was extraordinary.