“There is more done with pens than swords” – Harriet Beecher Stowe
“You are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” – Abraham Lincoln
“Women are the architects of society.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe
I am a Harriet Beecher Stowe kind of guy. I think its cool that this 4’-11” woman, unelected to any office, unbeholden to any corporation, wrote a book that bent the arc of history. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the best-selling volume in the 1800’s, after The Bible. It was serialized in 1851-52 in Washington D.C.’s National Era, and then published all over the world. Harriet wasn’t able to manage her brand as well as, say, Martha Stewart. She never made a dime off the Uncle Tom tchotchkes that proliferated in nineteenth century America and our contemporary image of a ‘yessir’ Uncle Tom cozying up to white folk is quite the opposite of the books’ title character. But the book made her world-renowned and rather wealthy. The novel swayed our sensibilities of an institution whose time had passed.
Harriet Beecher Stowe lived the last twenty-three years of her life in Hartford’s Nook Farm neighborhood, a literary enclave where Mark Twain was her neighbor. When she died in 1896 her house went through several sales before her grand niece, Katharine Seymour Day, purchased it in 1920 with the intent of restoration. The Stowe Day Research Center dates from the 1940’s, but the house didn’t open to the public until the 1960’s. Even now, it’s not a typical house museum. The focus is less on artifacts, more on ideas. One person, one book, can effect change.
Maura Hallisey, program coordinator, speaks in the present tense, as if Harriet Beecher Stowe would join the conversation at any moment. “I think it’s important to make our work relevant. The present tense makes it more real. “
How will we live tomorrow?
“We want justice now. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in 1852. It takes time to influence society. It was more than a decade before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.”