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Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers

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Slavery made Harriet Beecher Stowe so angry she couldn't keep quiet. She firmly believed that words could make change, and by writing Uncle Tom's Cabin, she hastened the Civil War and changed the course of America's history.

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 ...

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Overview

Slavery made Harriet Beecher Stowe so angry she couldn't keep quiet. She firmly believed that words could make change, and by writing Uncle Tom's Cabin, she hastened the Civil War and changed the course of America's history.

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
Hazel Rochman
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" was America's first protest novel, "the first book written against a law" and a runaway best-seller 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-nineteenth century. Fritz writes with verve and wit, admiring but never fulsome, creating a sense of her subject's complicated personality. We feel the young woman's ongoing struggle between her domestic and public roles (Would she seem "unwomanly" writing about politics? Would she embarrass her brothers?), and we see how she changed her definition of the feminine role, telling women that in a time of slavery, it was no longer appropriate for them to be silent and "genteel." Fritz writes with quiet irony about the extremes of this bossy, preachy family ("Like all the Beechers, she enjoyed telling people what to do"). The research is unobtrusive; in fact, although there's a bibliography, it's frustrating at times to have no source notes. How can we find out more about particular incidents? Where can we read about Stowe's legendary interview with Lincoln, for example? Many kids will be stimulated to go on from here to find out more about the famous novel; how it was read then, the controversy surrounding it now, especially with regard to the caricature of Uncle Tom. Fritz quietly dramatizes a momentous truth: this woman wrote a book that, for all its flaws, changed the world.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780780780910
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 11/28/1998
  • Pages: 154
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jean Fritz, the Newbery Honor-winning author of Homesick, is best known for her engaging and enlightening nonfiction for young readers, including What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?, And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?, and Shh! We're Writing the Constitution. She was honored with the Knickerbocker Award for Juvenile Literature by the New York State Library Association, and won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her career contribution to American children's literature.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • 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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