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Woman Who Caused It All-From War to Peace

A Review of John R. Adams’ Harriet Beecher Stowe

A part-time university activist for San Diego College, John Adams was born on July 22, 1990 in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1928, Adams along with his wife and writing career moved from Seattle to San Diego, due to Adams developing tuberculosis. In 1968 Adams retired from his writing career, and became an activist for San Diego College.

In the novel Harriet Beecher Stowe by John R. Adams, the major achievements of Harriet Beecher Stowe are mentioned and her writing styles examined by Adams. Along with a detailed analysis of her life, Adams successfully describes the entirety of Stowe’s life and her literary career.

In the beginning of the book, Adams begins with the importance of Stowe left behind. Stowe was known as a woman, legend, and an author. Out of the three, Stowe’s most important and neglected aspect is as an author. Throughout the past Stowe has been mainly studied as a woman, and as a legend, although she was studied as an author, many other authors neglected to talk about her as an author. Stowe’s husband, Calvin Stowe was “the stimulator of his wife’s talent.”1 Adam’s is clear in making sure that this is mentions, to emphasis the literature life of Stowe. In 1852, Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin, her first major literary work. The novel was a huge success, and it was a huge inspiration to Abraham Lincoln, who in turn began the Civil Rights movement. The novel also earned Stowe international reputation as a great author, and as a great American humanitarian. Along with earning fame from her masterpiece, Stowe earned respect from local townspeople from her published articles in the local periodicals. Along with great fame also came the critics. Stowe was criticized by both those for and against slavery. Stowe was criticized for getting facts about slavery wrong, and for helping the anti-slavery movement.

As the book progresses, Stowe’s earliest parts of life are mentioned. In the first decade of Stowe’s life she was raised by her stern ministering father. Soon after reaching the age of 12, Stowe was forced to move out and live with her sister Catherine in New England. When living with her sister Stowe discovered poetic tragedy, soon after Catherine forced the young Harriet to abandon such efforts in writings of tragic poems, her sister felt as if this type of literature would only cause pain and sorrow in one’s life. Instead of writing tragic poems, Stowe was forced to study Bishop Butler’s The Analogy of Religion Natural.  Much of Stowe’s childhood events made way for her to write her later books. As Stowe soon became of age, she was forced to help her sister’s endeavors in female education in addition the daily labor she was forced to do was enough to break her down both physically and mentally where she felt like quitting life. Soon Stowe discovered they joy of traveling and companionship giving her apparent happiness. The first 40 miserable years of Stowe’s life eventually enabled her to write her best literary pieces. Stowe’s earliest writings were various stories and series written in The Mayflower, a small, local volume.  Out of Stowe’s earliest series of writing, her most popular and successful was Uncle Tim. The series was an instant success and was later to be used again to write Uncles Tom’s Cabin.  Before the success of Uncles Tom’s Cabin, Stowe was only known in Cincinnati and New England. Published during a national crisis, Stowe’s masterpiece presented a stirring emotional power that affected the whole nation. The “triumph of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was more astonishing than she could afterward explain.”2   As boldly as possible, Stowe had truly done what no other woman had ever thought of doing. She published a book, she became a legend, and she helped in the slave movement. The past 40 years of Stowe’s life was all a prelude to the greatness that she would eventually achieve.

Along with the success from Stowe’s masterpiece also came criticism. The criticism of Stowe’s novel mostly came from readers with bad rhetorical taste; secondly, critics were either advocates of slavery, or abolitionists. Thirdly and “most annoying to the author, were critical souls who cast reflections upon her motives.”3 Along with people also came organizations; one such was the Richmond Papers.  The paper stated that Stowe was “a coarse, ugly, ill-mannered, ill-natured, old woman.”4 In the final paragraphs of her novel, Stowe openly attacked Christian churches and further reduced her chances of getting any followers. Along with reducing her chance to obtain followers, Stowe now had to deal with Christian churches criticizing everything she did. With Christian churches, slave advocates, and readers with bad rhetorical taste on her, Stowe had to go through relentless questioning from various critics, who showed no sympathy toward her. Despite being irritated by critics, Stowe was never once spoiled by fame and success. Everywhere Stowe went; celebrities would assemble waiting for her at receptions and diners. As a mother Stowe was busy as well. While performing her daily chores as a mother, she would still have to watch over her kids, and perform her motherly duties. Stowe barely found time to write between her busy schedules, but was still continually supported by her children and husband. Throughout her entire life, Stowe published four novels about New England, of these four her favorite was Old Town Folks. The stories of these books were all from Stowe’s early childhood when being raised by her older sister, Catherine. Along with her New England books, Stowe published more varieties of books. One such was The Pearl of Orr’s Island.  The book was truly unique from Stowe’s other books, in the sense of what it accomplished. Due to the mistreatment that Stowe was receiving from critics, Stowe moved her family to Florida. In Florida, Stowe was openly welcomed, and admired. Although there were some people who were not too fond of her, most people were welcoming of Stowe. As Stowe moved on, she also become known as a magazine writer.

As Adam’s novel begins wrapping up, he begins informing the audience of Stowe’s later life. Stowe soon began a career as a magazine writer. The sixteen volumes of The Writings of Harriet Beecher Stowe provided examples of Stowe’s literary brilliance and further increased her popularity. Stowe began writing for magazines such as The Cincinnati Journal and The New York Evangelist. Along with her new job, magazines were also Stowe’s new source of studying. In 1852, Stowe Began writing for The Independent a weekly four page newspaper. During the two years that Stowe worked for the newspaper, it expanded into an eight page newspaper. As a form of repayment for writing more articles and for increasing the amount of readers along with page numbers, the newspaper acted as a press agent for Stowe. In 1868, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Donald G. Mitchell, a new acquaintance that Stowe had required in her trips, had released the first issue of the weekly domestic magazine Hearth and Home. In public responsibility, Stowe would make sure that issues of the magazine were ready to be released when needed. Throughout Stowe’s partnership, her “difficulties in finding vital subjects are shown”5. Forced to write about homely articles for a magazine, showed just how hard it was for Harriet to find a topic she was truly interested in. It was said that Harriet wrote of how when she wrote for the magazine, she could not find happiness in doing so. During this time period Stowe went through a period of time in which she became hugely obsessed with spiritualism. Stowe’s literary life was greatly revived, and brought anew by her involvement in magazines. Early girlhood writings of Stowe led her to a path of thorough soul searching. Lord Bryon had the special honor of being the only author to receive dedication of a book to her, from Stowe. Stowe throughout her entire career only dedicated one book to another author. Through her writings about Bryon, Stowe illustrated many conflicts that occurred, and were currently occurring in her life.  Along with Stowe’s taste for great writers of the past, “her taste for the contemporaries was no less so.”6 In her visit to England, Stowe found great respect for Emerson, Hawthorne, and Prescott. Among the prominent literary male figures of Stowe’s past, the most important to her was Lowell. Lowell was the editor of The Atlantic, and was able to adopt the tone of personal interest that she esteemed so highly. Of any of Stowe’s novels Uncles Tom’s Cabin, had the richest content, and the strongest construction of any of her works. Stowe’s lifetime of writing led to improvement over her already gifted childhood of writing. According to Stowe, she had “never bothered to use the elementary tools of punctuation and grammar correctly.”7 This goes to show the uniqueness and boldness that Stowe possessed as an author. The time-consuming labors of stylistic refinement were obviously dispensed in her other writings. Because of Stowe’s carelessness for grammar, she received demeaning and critical comments upon most of her works. To Stowe, it was “difficult to combine things she wanted to say.”8 So, instead of using correct grammar and punctuation, Stowe had used her own artificial way to put together her works. Due to Stowe’s books not accomplishing what she wanted, she was not fully justified in her self-satisfaction. Soon after, the end of Stowe’s life came up. For the first time ever, right before her complete mental breakdown, Stowe was able to live a stress free life. This included not having to be rushed to do anything, and daily housework chores. In Stowe’s private life, she bade farewell to the world. Stowe burned some papers, which were mostly her early works such as Uncle Tim’s Cabin and the ones she kept, she ended up passing to her son. In 1884, upon her return to Hartford, Stowe gained wisdom. Stowe began speaking as one newly inspired by humility. In the end, Stowe’s writings showed hidden impulse conflicting with simplified values, as she herself began revealing what the intentions for what misunderstood statements meant.

As Adam’s thesis states, Beecher was most important for being an author. Without her works as an author, Stowe would not have been able to mark in history. Although she was also a woman and trend setter for women, these were two minor aspects of Stowe. Throughout her life Stowe was confident in everything she did. Although this is true for her works of literature, it is not the same for her personal life. As a legend, Stowe was known as a great American humanitarian, which was only accomplished by the publication of her novel, Uncles Tom’s Cabin. This goes to show how “without her literary career … Stowe would have been a nonentity.”9

The writing of Harriet Beecher Stowe was truly a goal of Adams to make the biography different from all other biographies about Harriet Beecher Stowe. Rather than just telling about Stowe’s life, Adams goal was to refer to Stowe’s personality and directly incorporate the works of her life, with her literary works. The reason that Adams began to try and give a different approach to a biography about Stowe is because he is more interested in what Stowe did, and not just interested in what she wrote. Adams was also inspired by the legendary Mrs. Stowe, a melodramatic play based upon “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”  As the play grew popular by the day, Adams was given even more reason to write of Stowe.

Throughout the late nineteenth century, there were many remarkable authors who did a great amount of change, so why Stowe? Of all the influential literary figures, Adams chose Stowe. Stowe is “immensely readable … and her subject was slavery.”10 Stowe’s elementary grammar made all audiences able to read her works. Like dominoes, one after another, scholars, seem to have approached Stowe’s work with a grim sense of duty. In Harriet Beecher Stowe the works of Stowe convey pleasure, while at the same time standing unique. In the structure of the book, Stowe is an author, a woman, and not a legend. Along with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Adams “examines Stowe’s lesser known writings.”11 This is why Adam’s biography of Stowe is truly unique in its own way compared to the bibliography of other people that studied Stowe. The biography is a detailed examination of Stowe’s 60 year literary career. The book shows how Stowe had an amazing literary output and was only remembered for her masterpiece. In his book, Adams gives Uncles Tom’s Cabin its own chapter of analysis. In the chapter he goes over the criticisms it received, the praise it received, and the reason of the book’s publication.

Overall, the biography Harriet Beecher Stowe, by John R. Adams, was better than average. Although Adams had his own unique touches to the ordinary biography, it was not quite enough in itself. Firstly, Adam’s mainly focuses on the literary life of Stowe. Throughout Stowe’s life she was not just an author. She truly was a legend, and she did more than just influence people through the books she wrote. With Adams, the “legends of Mrs. Stowe which began in ignorance or prejudice have been nourished… by selecvtiveness.”12 Although Adams only focused on the literary works of Stowe, it is not necessarily negative. In his biography Adam’s treats his material conservatively rather than treating it imaginatively, allowing for a deeper understanding of Stowe’s writing. The book is very heavy on all of Stowe’s literary work, and does it better than most other books. The reason for this is because it focuses not on just Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but it also focuses on Stowe’s early series and articles. In conclusion, Adams book was informative about all of Stowe’s literary life, but there was so much more that Stowe had accomplished, outside being an author.

Stowe was a truly influential part in American art. Her style of writing was one never seen before. Stowe never bothered with correct punctuation, or with proper grammar. She conveyed what she wanted in her own artificial way. Stowe was the only woman author to have done this, and opened up a way for other authors to be the same. Not the same as in using improper grammar, but in the sense that Stowe opened up the way for authors to truly be unique and write in the style that they preferred. By boldly letting everybody see her unique writing style, Stowe was definitely a huge contributor in American art. Stowe perfectly fits into the topic of American art for many reasons. Throughout her life, Stowe contributed to the arts with her simplicity. Stowe’s books were fairly easy to comprehend to the average person, which also made her popular. Combined with this was Stowe’s writing on slavery. This combination of ease of readability, and slavery truly allows Stowe to belong in American art.


  1. Adams, John R. Harriet Beecher Stowe: 1963. Twayne Publishers.2.
  2. Adams, John R. 55.
  3. Adams, John R. 62.
  4. Adams, John R. 63.
  5. Adams, John R.115.
  6. Adams, John R.130.
  7. Adams, John R. 136.
  8. Adams, John R. 137.
  9. Adams, John R. 1.
  10. Moers, Ellen. Mrs. Stowe’s Vengeance: 1970. The New York Times.1.
  11. Field, Phyllis F. Civil War History: 1989. Kent State University Press.1.
  12. Field, Phyllis F. 1