Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers

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Overview

Harriet Beecher Stowe grew up in a family in which her seven brothers were expected to be successful preachers and the four girls were never to speak in public. But slavery made Harriet so angry she couldn't keep quiet. Although she used a pen rather than her voice to convince people of the evils of slavery, she became more famous than any of her brothers. She firmly believed that words could make change, and by writing Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe hastened the Civil War and changed the course of ...

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Overview

Harriet Beecher Stowe grew up in a family in which her seven brothers were expected to be successful preachers and the four girls were never to speak in public. But slavery made Harriet so angry she couldn't keep quiet. Although she used a pen rather than her voice to convince people of the evils of slavery, she became more famous than any of her brothers. She firmly believed that words could make change, and by writing Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe hastened the Civil War and changed the course of America history. "Readable and engrossing." — The Horn Bookn"Fritz writes with verve and wit....Many kids will be stimulated to go on from here to find out more." — Booklist (boxed review)

Uncle Tom's Cabin was America's first protest novel, "the first book ever written against a law" and a runaway bestseller in its time. This biography is less about Stowe's famous book than it is about her life and times as a woman in an eminent family in the mid-19th century.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Fritz (Around the World in a Hundred Years) is justly celebrated for her ability to combine wry humor with the salient stories about the subjects of her many biographies. She scores another success with this lively book about the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Fritz's picture of Stowe, however, isn't so much that of an influential writer as it is of a woman struggling to make her voice heard in a family where boys were seen as assets and girls as, simply, not boys. The Beechers, headed by the prominent, iron-willed preacher Lyman Beecher, were both an influential and a tragic family, and they shaped many areas of American thinking and politics. Fritz captures their public and private careers magnificently, in the process unfolding the major events of the Civil War. At the same time, Stowe remains firmly at the center of this well-researched book, and her transformation-from a restless young woman too shy to use her own name in print to a confident speaker whom Lincoln once called ``the little lady who started the great big war''-shines through. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
Jean Fritz's fascinating biography establishes Ms Stowe's place in history and her remarkable family's place in the pantheon of preachers. It is not surprising that Harriet wrote about the evils of slavery since her family was opposed to it. What is surprising is her independence and determination to speak out at a time when the only role for women was that of being dutiful wives and mothers. Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1852, sold over 150,000 copies in the first 6 months. Harriet became an international celebrity. Although she continued writing and traveling throughout her life, nothing else was as successful as this first book which is included in the listing of "10 books that have changed the world."
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-With her usual respect for young readers, Fritz explores not only a life, but also a family, an era, and vitally important social movements. With careful scholarship and without fictionalizing, she vividly evokes the people and times and shows the Beechers' strengths and weaknesses in an engaging, immediate style. It's hard not to feel annoyed with the eldest Beecher sister, Catharine, whose intention was to run everyone's life, and with the ineffectual, hypochondriachal Calvin Stowe, whose demands and crotchets would have derailed a lesser woman than Harriet. Readers will admire her from the start-she is described as a bright young girl who would not be ignored, and later as an overworked wife and mother who somehow managed to write in her non-existent spare time. Fritz covers the same information as two other well-done biographies for this age level, but her approach is different. Robert Jakoubek's Harriet Beecher Stowe (Chelsea, 1989) devotes more space to slavery and the Fugitive Slave Act, and Suzanne Coil's Harriet Beecher Stowe (Watts, 1993) is packed with material about the family. In fewer pages, Fritz conveys the same facts while bringing the subject to life. Librarians should not pass on this book just because they own the other two. It has great appeal, and will be read for pleasure as well as for reports.-Sally Margolis, Deerfield Public Library, IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780698116603
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/28/1998
  • Series: Unforgettable Americans Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 670,593
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.99 (w) x 7.73 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

"The question I am most often asked," Jean Fritz says, "is how do I find my ideas? The answer is: I don't. Ideas find me. A character in history will suddenly step right out of the past and demand a book. Generally people don't bother to speak to me unless there's a good chance that I'll take them on." Throughout almost four decades of writing about history, Jean Fritz has taken on plenty of people, starting with George Washington in The Cabin Faced West (1958). Since then, her refreshingly informal historical biographies for children have been widely acclaimed as "unconventional," "good-humored," "witty," "irrepressible," and "extraordinary."

In her role as biographer, Jean Fritz attempts to uncover the adventures and personalities behind each character she researches. "Once my character and I have reached an understanding," she explains, "then I begin the detective work—reading old books, old letters, old newspapers, and visiting the places where my subject lived. Often I turn up surprises and of course I pass these on." It is her penchant for making distant historical figures seem real that brings the characters to life and makes the biographies entertaining, informative, and filled with natural child appeal.

An original and lively thinker, as well as an inspiration to children and adults, Jean Fritz is undeniably a master of her craft. She was awarded the Regina Medal by the Catholic Library Association, presented with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award by the American Library Association for her "substantial and lasting contribution to children's literature," and honored with the Knickerbocker Award for Juvenile Literature, which was presented by the New York State Library Association for her body of work.

copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

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  • Posted May 19, 2010

    well written biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe

    Jean Fritz is a wonderful author of both fiction (e.g., Early Thunder, The Cabin Faced West, and Brady) and biography (e.g., The Double Life of Pocahontas). Harriet Beecher Stowe was one of America's most famous authors, and her Uncle Tom's Cabin is still in almost every list of the ten top books that have changed the world. Mrs. Stowe's father, Lyman Beecher, and her brother, Henry Ward Beecher, were among America's most popular preachers in each of their times.
    Her husband Calvin Stowe was, unfortunately, instrumental in helping Horace Mann bring the Prussian model of public education to America. Fritz tells the story of Harriet, from her youth, through her marriage, work in the anti-slavery movement, and the Civil War era, to her later life of fame and fortune, weaving information about the lives of her father, mother (who died early in her life), two step-mothers, brothers, sisters, and children into the story. One interesting lesson that can be seen from the book is how one extreme may often lead to another. The strict predestinarian Calvinism of Lyman Beecher played a very formative role in the liberal social gospel of Henry Ward and in even stranger theological phenomena among some of the other Beecher preachers. We did this as a family read aloud and everyone found it very interesting.

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