Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on the Women of Genesis

By Marion Ann Taylor; Heather E. Weir | Go to book overview

§69 Harriet Beecher Stowe
(1811–1896)

Stowe was an American novelist.28 Her book, Women in Sacred History (1873) contained interpretations of the women of scripture. Stowe's husband, an Old Testament scholar, and her brother, Henry Ward Beecher (1813–1887) (a well-known preacher who was interested in evolution and later wrote a book called Evolution and Religion "1885"), influenced Stowe's thinking and writing. Her use of developmental and evolutionary language to discuss the choice of the line of promise in Genesis reflects these influences.

Stowe sensitively interpreted the biblical text. The Genesis stories focused on Jacob, not on Leah and Rachel, so in this chapter of her book on women, Stowe followed the text and discussed Jacob more than Leah and Rachel. She specifically noted that Rachel and Leah were flat characters and looked for clues to their personalities in the nature of their home and father. Stowe did not favour one sister over the other but presented both as flawed. She noted that "the sacred narrative is a daguerreotype "or photograph" of character; it reflects every trait and every imperfection without comment."

From Harriet Beecher Stowe, Women in Sacred History (New York:
Fords, Howard, & Hulbert, 1873), 51–58.


–Leah and Rachel–

IN the earlier portions of the Old Testament we have, very curiously, the history of the deliberate formation of an influential race, to which was given a most important mission in the world's history. The principle of selection, much talked of now in science, is the principle which is represented in the patriarchal history as operating under a direct Divine guidance. From the calling of Abraham, there seems to have been this continued watchfulness in selecting the party through whom the chosen race was to be continued. Every marriage thus far is divinely appointed and guided. While the Fatherly providence and nurture is not withdrawn from the rejected ones, still the greatest care is exercised to separate from them the chosen. The latter are selected apparently not so much for moral excellence in itself considered, as for excellence in relation to stock. The peaceable, domestic, prudent, and

28 For more on Stowe, see part 2, "Sarah—The First Mother of Israel."

-377-

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