“Hattie” was born June 14, 1811 to Lyman and Roxana Foot Beecher in Litchfield, Conn. She was the seventh of nine children born to Lyman and Roxana.
Hattie was only five years old when her mother died in 1816. A year later, her father would remarry and have four more children by his second wife, Harriet Porter.
Harriet “Hattie” Beecher was immersed in her Christian faith from birth. Her father, Lyman, was a well respected clergyman and Yale University graduate. He would also serve as the president of Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Harriet’s oldest sibling, Catharine, founded Hartford Female Seminary and her brother was the famous minister, Henry Ward Beecher. In 1836, Harriet married a professor of religion at her father’s school, Calvin Ellis Stowe.
The Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, requiring escaped slaves be turned in by anyone who found them. This law became the impetus for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
A serialized version of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” first appeared in the abolitionist paper, National Era, in 1851 and continued in print into 1852.
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was published in book form in two volumes in 1852, almost a decade before the outbreak of the Civil War, which began in 1861 with the attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina.
In 1862, Harriet Beecher Stowe was introduced to President Abraham Lincoln. The president reportedly said, “So this is the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!” The Stowes were ardent abolitionists and supporters of the underground railroad. They used their home to temporarily house fugitive slaves. In 1863, Lincoln would issue his Emancipation Proclamation immediately freeing upward of 50,000 slaves.
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was one of the most widely read and influential books of its time. It fueled the abolitionist movement. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel shaped the course of American history and proved the pen is mightier than the sword.
It’s likely the success of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” ignited a renewed interest in the Bible, too. Bible sales soared.
Harriet Beecher Stowe is one of countless great examples of what God can do in a single life devoted to his word, his truth and his justice. She believed her novel to be God-given.
God’s word is spirit and life. His word is spiritual bread and pure milk. His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. His word is the truth which sanctifies. It can be sharper than a double-edged sword. It brings conviction to a soul and it changes lives forever.
Open the Bible — God’s word — and find the Word who became flesh. He died for you and was raised to life again. Find him and follow him. Only he knows what he can accomplish for mankind through your solitary life.
Ken Haskins is pastor of First Christian Church in Carson City.