Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 to 1896) was a white female author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, a novel discussing the horrors of slavery that galvinized the abolitionist movement in America. A woman of deep Christian convictions, she felt those convictions led her to write her most famous novel. Her father was a minister, her brother a minister, and her husband a minister. She lost her mother at an early age and one of her children as an infant, losses that helped her to emphathize with the hurt caused by slavery and the selling off of families.
The historical significance of Stowe's antislavery writing has tended to draw attention away from her other work, and from her work's literary significance. Her work is admittedly uneven. At its worst, it indulges in a romanticized Christian sensibility that was much in favour with the audience of her time, but that finds little sympathy or credibility with modern readers. At her best, Stowe was a early and effective realist. Her settings are often accurately and detailedly described. Her portraits of local social life, particularly with minor characters, reflect an awareness of the complexity of the culture she lived in, and an ability to communicate that culture to others. In her commitment to realism, and her serious narrative use of local dialect, Stowe predated works like Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn by 30 years, and influenced later regionalist writers including Sarah Orne Jewett and Mary Wilkins Freeman.