Harriet Beecher Stowe - Mother, Reformer

In 1842, Calvin Stowe wrote to his wife, "You must be a literary woman. It is so written in the book of fate."1 Fate would indeed make her a literary woman, but her other callings - motherhood and reform - were the work of her environment and her vocation.

Born in 1811, Harriet Beecher Stowe was daughter of Lyman Beecher, one of the early republic's most influential ministers, and Roxana Foote, a well-educated and refined granddaughter of one of Washington's generals. After her mother's death Harriet grew up mostly under the care of her oldest sister, Catharine, who later became Harriet's teacher and colleague. Himself a furiously active participant in the religious reform of his day, Lyman Beecher's household produced more than its share of reform-minded public figures, most notably author and educator Catharine E. Beecher, suffragist Isabella Beecher Hooker, abolitionist minister Henry Ward Beecher, and, of course, Harriet Beecher Stowe.

In 1836 Harriet Beecher married Calvin Stowe, clergyman and professor at Lane Seminary. Within a year, she was the mother of twin girls; so began a delicate balancing act of lofty motherhood and dreary housework. As each of her seven children were born, and especially with the death of her son Charley, the act required progressively more work.

1. As quoted in Joan Hedrick, Harriet Beecher Stowe, A Life, p. 138.