Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life

Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life

Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life

Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life


"So you're the little woman who started this big war," Abraham Lincoln is said to have quipped when he met Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin converted readers by the thousands to the anti-slavery movement and served notice that the days of slavery were numbered. Overnight Stowe became a celebrity, but to defenders of slavery she was the devil in petticoats.

Most writing about Stowe treats her as a literary figure and social reformer while downplaying her Christian faith. But Nancy Koester's biography highlights Stowe's faith as central to her life -- both her public fight against slavery and her own personal struggle through deep grief to find a gracious God. Having meticulously researched Stowe's own writings, both published and un-published, Koester traces Stowe's faith pilgrimage from evangelical Calvinism through spiritualism to Anglican spirituality in a flowing, compelling narrative.

Watch a 2014 interview with the author of this book here:


January 1, 1863, was to be a New Year’s Day like no other. Abraham Lincoln was to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all slaves in states still in rebellion against the United States to be “thenceforth and forever free.” It would give new purpose to the war and show the world that the Union cause and the end of slavery went hand in hand. All across the North, crowds waited for word that Lincoln had indeed signed. Until that news came, the jubilation was on hold. the word from Washington City would come in coded clicks transmitted on wires stretched across the country — the telegraph. the news might come at any instant, but instead the hours dragged by. Some people murmured that perhaps Lincoln changed his mind because of the Union defeat at Fredericksburg.

Finally, as night fell, runners from a telegraph office brought the message: Lincoln signed! in Boston’s packed Music Hall the news uncorked a tumult of joy. Amidst the whistling, cheering, and stomping someone shouted, “Harriet Beecher Stowe! Harriet Beecher Stowe!” the crowd took up the chant. She was there that night, up in the balcony, and now she made her way forward, a small, middle-aged woman, her skirts and bonnet crushed in the press of the crowd. They knew — everyone knew — that Stowe had helped bring freedom to the slaves.

She did so with a story that swept readers by the tens of thousands into the antislavery movement. Before her antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin ran as a magazine serial in 1851 and appeared as a book in 1852, most Northerners accepted slavery or tried to look the other way. Those who actively opposed slavery were a small minority . . .

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