July 1: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Writer and Prophetic Witness, 1896

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

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Harriet Beecher Stowe

For more information about Harriet Beecher Stowe, you might visit:

http://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/

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About this commemoration:

Harriet Beecher Stowe was born on June 14, 1811, and from an early age was influenced by the humanitarian efforts of her famous parents. Her father, Lyman Beecher, was known for his zealous preaching and involvement with the temperance movement, while her mother, Roxana Foote Beecher, ran a school for girls and publicly advocated for the intellectual development of women. Her sister Catharine led the women’s opposition against the Jackson administration’s Indian
Removal Bill.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was an outspoken critic of slavery, an institution that she believed to be fundamentally incompatible with the theology of her Calvinist upbringing. An author of many works, she is justly famous for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), a sermonlike work that chronicled the life of a slave family in the south. In particular, it recounted the tragic consequences of slavery on families, consequences that were for Stowe to be counted as one of the worst evils of slavery. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the bestselling book of the nineteenth century, and was influential in both America and Britain.

Stowe’s book inspired anti-slavery movements in the North and provoked widespread anger in the South. Her work intensified the sectional conflicts that would eventually lead to the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln, upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, was alleged to have said, “So this is the little lady who started this great war!”

Stowe’s book, together with her public anti-slavery work, was largely responsible for bringing the evils of slavery to light not only in America, but in Britain, Europe, even Russia. Tolstoy greatly esteemed her work and her moral courage, heaping lavish praise on her. She was renowned then, as now, for her boldness and willingness to expose the harsh realities of slavery to the public eye.

Collects
I Gracious God, we offer thanks for the witness of Harriett
Beecher Stowe, whose fiction inspired thousands with
compassion for the shame and sufferings of enslaved
peoples, and who enriched her writings with the cadences
of The Book of Common Prayer. Help us, like her, to strive
for thy justice, that our eyes may see the glory of thy Son,
Jesus Christ, when he comes to reign with thee and the
Holy Spirit in reconciliation and peace, one God, now and
always. Amen.

II Gracious God, we thank you for the witness of Harriett
Beecher Stowe, whose fiction inspired thousands with
compassion for the shame and sufferings of enslaved
peoples, and who enriched her writings with the cadences
of The Book of Common Prayer. Help us, like her, to strive
for your justice, that our eyes may see the glory of your
Son, Jesus Christ, when he comes to reign with you and
the Holy Spirit in reconciliation and peace, one God, now
and always. Amen.

Lessons
Isaiah 26:7–13
1 Peter 3:8–12
Matthew 23:1–12

Psalm 94:16-23

Preface of Advent

Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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11 Responses to July 1: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Writer and Prophetic Witness, 1896

  1. John Robison says:

    My problem with Harriet Beecher Stowe is that while she became an Episcopalian, I find it difficult to rise up a Spiritualist as an example of Christian holiness. I would also like to see more information on how her spirituality shaped her abolitionism. Also, just as a side note, mentioning God and the direct role of the almighty in the bios would go along way towards making some of these people seem more “fit.”

    The collect also strikes me as pedantic.

  2. Celinda Scott says:

    In answer to John Robinson’s question about “how her spirituality shaped her abolitionism”: the author of the HWHM bio says that she believed the institution of slavery “to be fundamentally incompatible with the theology of her Calvinist upbringing.” As someone said elsewhere, she shared this conviction with evangelicals like Wilberforce. Both of these Christians had tremendous influence on the shaping of world-wide public opinion about slavery. In their linking of faith and action, the divide that people like Rauschenbusch sensed between personal piety and social action was crossed.

  3. With many of the additional Black Letter bios (and some current ones, too) I have the same concern – which over the year of this review I am sure I will post often. It is: I believe that bios should begin with a statement of who and why this particular person is remembered. In Harriet Beecher Stowe’s bio this sentence begins the second paragraph – and it should (IMHO) be the first sentence of the first paragraph. And, I believe that all of the bios should include a simple sentence at the end about their death (to wit): “She died in 1896”.

    One typo: I believe that “South” in the phrase “the life of a slave family in the south” should be capitalized. It is in a subsequent paragraph: “widespread anger in the South.”

  4. Regarding the Collect: The phrase “who enriched her writings with the cadences of The Book of Common Prayer” sounds a bit trite don’t you think?

    • Sam Portaro says:

      I agree with Michael that the phrase is unnecessary and possibly in error; Stowe, like her contemporary, Mark Twain and others of their generation, were steeped in the cadences of the King James Version and their writings were reflective of that influence. If Stowe directly quoted the BCP, that’s one thing, but the “cadences” belong as much to an era of English style as to any single product of that period.

  5. Joan R. Gundersen says:

    As a women’s historian for more than 30 years, I find this biography lacking. Characterizing Catherine Beecher as the leader of the women’s movement against Indian Removal ignores the long-term advocacy that Catherine had for women’s education and domesticity. Her sister Harriet participated in these movements, too, and co-edited with Catherine books on housekeeping and domesticity. Stowe may have used her pen to oppose slavery, but she has a MUCH more mixed record when it comes to advancement of women. Oh, yes, and nowhere does the biography note that Stowe eventually found a spiritual home in the Episcopal Church.

  6. Nigel Renton says:

    In the collects for Harriet Beecher Stowe both versions misspell “Harriet” with two “t”s.

  7. dewluca says:

    I’m just wondering why the Preface for Advent is used for this Commemoration in July? As I read it over I’m not seeing anything that makes me think “oh, this directly applies to Harriet Beecher Stowe”. Or am I missing some information about how the prefaces are assigned?
    Thanks for providing this forum. And apologies for being so late to the party🙂

    • Ruth Meyers says:

      Glad you’ve joined us!

      The Advent preface was chosen because of its reference to a new and different world. One of the themes of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is a Christian vision that contrasts to the horrors of slavery.

      Ruth Meyers
      SCLM Chair

  8. Nigel Renton says:

    Line1, first paragraph: add “in Litchfield, Connecticut” after “born”.

    Add a fifth paragraph: “Harriet Beecher Stowe died on July 1, 1896, at Hartford, Connecticut.”

  9. Pingback: July 1 – Harriet Beecher Stowe : St. Paul's Episcopal Church

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