Tuesday’s Tribute: Harriet Beecher Stowe

I just read Uncle Tom’s Cabin — for the first time. Prior to reading it, all I had ever known about the plot was the enactment of it in The King and I and the discussion of it in Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown. Now that I’ve experienced it myself, I am left with great admiration for its author: Harriet Beecher Stowe.

She said “There is more done with pens than swords.” And she proved it! She took her two passions — abolitionism and Christianity — and wove them together into this book. For the people who read it when it was published in 1851, Uncle Tom’s Cabin made slaves real people and made Christian values the way to mend society.

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote from her convictions. With this book, she communicated those convictions to an entire country and caused President Lincoln to say, upon meeting her in 1862, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War.”

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is sentimental. It rankles sometimes, with its references to black people as being docile, as if that makes them acceptable. But, overall, it’s a big, exciting story full of love and hate and tears and death and reunions. And Mrs. Stowe writes from her heart — a heart filled with Christian love.

I hope you, like me, will read Uncle Tom’s Cabin one day. Harriet Beecher Stowe is a bit like like one of her characters — Eliza on the ice.

For a woman in the nineteenth century to write a book that had such an influence on her country is a feat similar to crossing the Ohio River on chunks of ice while holding a baby in your arms. For Mrs. Stowe, that baby was her belief in abolition and Christianity. And she successfully delivered them to the other side.

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