“So you’re the little woman that started this great war!” These, as tradition tells, are the words Abraham Lincoln told Harriet Beecher Stowe upon meeting her.
But what did Stowe do to start the American Civl War? In a testament to the power of words, she wrote a book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that after being published in 1852 sold very well all over the country. Nine years later, the American Civil War broke out.
The Beecher family was already very influential in the antebellum United States. Harriet was one of eleven children, nearly all of whom were preachers, writers, and passionate abolitionists. The Beecher family with others such as John Brown and William Lloyd-Garrison led the North in loudly calling against slavery. Stowe’s famous anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was perhaps the loudest of these calls.
The success of Stowe’s book fueled and grew the Abolitionist movement and, in turn, Abraham Lincoln took an abolitionist stance as he ran for president. Upon his election, several Southern states seceded from the union and the Civil War shortly began.
Though the war is now long passed, Stowe’s famous novel has remained a classic of American literature and a priceless piece of its history. Just as it moved many to abolish slavery, Uncle Tom’s Cabin still evokes emotion today. If it brings sorrow to your heart, as it should, let Stowe’s own words comfort you: “Any mind that is capable of a real sorrow is capable of good.”
210 years ago today, Harriet Beecher Stowe was born. Today, her legacy lives on. If anyone ever questions that words are powerful, simply point them to her life. As she also says, “There is more done with pens than with swords.” As for us, let’s honor her legacy by taking up our pens and fighting for good.
Featured Image via Harriet beecher stowe center