Harriet Beecher Stowe
American writer and abolitionist, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), a forceful indictment of slavery and one of the most powerful novels of its kind in American literature. Born in Litchfield, Connecticut, Stowe was the daughter of the liberal clergyman Lyman Beecher. Her husband, the Reverend Calvin Ellis Stowe, was also an ardent opponent of slavery. Her first book, The Mayflower, or Sketches of Scenes and Characters Among the Descendants of the Pilgrims, appeared in 1843. While living in Brunswick, Maine, Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. It was serialized in 1851 and 1852 in an abolitionist paper, the National Era, and issued as a book in 1852.
As a serial, the story attracted no unusual notice. The success of the book, however, was unprecedented; 500,000 copies were sold in the United States alone within five years, and it was translated into more than 20 foreign languages. It did much to crystallize militant antislavery sentiment in the North, and therefore was an important factor in precipitating the American Civil War (1861-1865). Uncle Tom's Cabin, like most of Stowe's novels, is rambling in structure, but rich in pathos and dramatic incident. It is one of the best examples of the so-called sentimental fiction that enjoyed popularity in the United States during the 1800s. Sentimental writers focused on domestic scenes, and their work evoked strong emotions. Like Stowe, many of these authors were social reformists, but they were criticized for creating overly idealized characters.
In 1853 Stowe issued A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, containing an impressive array of documentary evidence in support of her attack upon slavery. She returned to the attack in Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856). The Minister's Wooing (1859) is the best known of Stowe's several romantic novels dealing with New England life in the 18th and early 19th centuries. She also wrote short stories and religious poetry.