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Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, daughter of the Reverend Lyman Beecher of the local Congregational Church. In 1832, the family moved to Cincinnati, where Harriet married Calvin Ellis Stowe, a professor at the seminary, in 1836. The border town of Cincinnati was alive with abolitionist conflict and there Mrs. Stowe took an active part in community life. She came into contact with fugitive slaves, and learned from friends and from personal visits what life was like for the Negro in the South. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law was passed, and that same year Harriet's sister-in-law urged the author to put her feelings about the evils of slavery into words. Uncle Tom's Cabin was first published serially during 1851-52 in The National Era, and in book form in 1852. In one year more than 300,000 copies of the novel were sold. Mrs. Stowe continued to write, publishing eleven other novels and numerous articles before her death at the age of eighty-five in Hartford, Connecticut. Ann Douglas teaches English at Columbia University. Her books include Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s and The Feminization of American Culture.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was first serialised in an anti-slavery periodocial. By popular demand Harriet Beacher Stowe released it as a novel and it almost immediately sold out. The book describes the journey Uncle Tom takes from being a slave on a Kentucky farm takes to his death on the orders of the vicious plantation owner Simon Legree. His humanity, dignity and Christian faith shines through even in the worst adversity. The novel had a profound effect on attitudes to slavery and was cited by Abraham Lincoln as a strong motivation for the Amercian Civil War.