Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life

Article excerpt

Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life. By Nancy Koester. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2014, Pp. xi, 371. $24.00.)

Nancy Koester's Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life, offers both a compact but complete life study of the writer whose abolitionist novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, helped change history- and a more detailed study of faith development in the crucible of loss.

Harriet Beecher (Stowe) was born, in 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut, to an Episcopalian mother and a pre-eminent Calvinist father. Both parents had been born during the Revolutionary War, and Harriet, in the first post-Revolutionary generation, grew up in a world where women could not speak or preach to large groups- but one in which the "Old Calvinist" concept of a sovereign God and helpless subject humanity was already being reshaped by new ideas of human agency and God's moral government. Over the course of Beecher Stowe's life, her theology, spirituality, view of women (and of race) all evolved; by its end she had settled in the Episcopal Church, and claimed the role of public speaker. Most important, thanks in part to her novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), slavery had been abolished. Harriet pioneered schools in Hartford and Cincinnati with her sister Catherine before emerging as a writer of textbooks, magazine articles, novels, travelogues, and a few hymns. (In fact, most of her major accomplishments involved the extended Beecher family.)

In Cincinnati, Harriet met and married Calvin Stowe, became a mother, and was exposed first-hand to fugitive slaves. The death of their son Samuel Charles there led Stowe to the deep empathy for slave mothers separated from their children that helped inspire Uncle Tom's Cabin. Beecher Stowe wrote this, her first novel, in Maine, where Calvin taught at Bowdoin before settling in Andover, Massachusetts. …

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