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by Mary Dickinson
August 11, 2004
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House is a Gothic Victorian cottage surrounded by a colorful flower garden. The house has many innovations of the era, such as faux wood finishes painted on the woodwork. Commercial cans from the late 19th century that were used to store baking ingredients are waiting in readiness on the shelves in the cosy little kitchen. Victorian furniture graces the living room and other rooms in the house. Harriet liked to collect commemoration plates and statues related to her famous book and the collection is still right there in her home.
The center was equipped to supply information about her life and times. She moved to Cincinnati as a young woman. There she met her husband, Calvin, a young minister and teacher. Cincinnati is across the Ohio River from Kentucky and Harriet saw the fugitive slaves trying to escape from their masters. She knew the abolitionists who helped them through the Underground Railroad and she attended anti-slavery debates. Her sister, Isabella, was married to John Hooker, an abolitionist from Farmington, CT; they lived there during the time Amistad captives were boarding in that town.
Calvin Stowe was teaching at Bowdoin College in Maine when Harriet began writing and selling her work to supplement his income. She had just experienced the death of her young son and the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 had just been past. The pain of being permanently parted from her own child was overwhelming, and she found she could express it in the context of the forced separation of mothers from children through slavery as she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. At first this novel was published in an abolitionist newspaper, and then the publisher's wife told Calvin it should be published in book form. It was, and it helped incite the Civil War. About twenty years later the Stowes moved to Hartford where Harriet was surrounded by Woman’s Sufferage and other movements of the day her family was very involved in.
From journal The Amistad and the CT Freedom Trail
December 26, 2001
You begin your visit at the center. Here you sign up for a tour which are run as often as they have guides to take them. We had to wait about half an hour. There is a video to watch about her life and the house and also a visual display for you to read. it gives a lot of information on Harriet and on the impact of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
The fact that she wrote 30 other books seems to be forgotten . One that she wrote with her sister is called 'The American Woman's Home" and is full of innovative ideas for the housewife of the 1860's. Many of her ideas are things we take for granted today. Her kitchen designs were revolutionary in their time but make perfect sense to us.
Our guide to the house was "Sunshine" and even though she was very young her love of the house was evident from her first words. We entered from the front door into the parlor and are greeted by the embodiment of Harriet's philosophy. She believed that light walls were peaceful and her window treatments are very unvictorian. She doesn't have heavy drapes but rather has open windows that allow light in. On one window she has vines growing up the window to give a little privacy.
Throughout the house we see evidence of "Tomitude", souvenirs that were made using Uncle Tom. Little Eva, Simon Legree and other charecters from Uncle Tom in a variety of mediums, on pitchers, lamps, statues, plates and much more.
Harriet was a multi-talented woman. We see many of her paintings throughout the house. She was the mother of 7 children, a wife , a daughter and a sister of ministers. She painted her furniture with decorative designs and also painted her own china set.
Harriet should certainly be remembered as the woman who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin and set the fuse that became the Civil War but to stop there is to do her a grave disservice. One thing this tour will make you want to do is read more of her works and get top know her better.
Admission is $9 for adults and $6 for children. There is a small gift shop in the center and parking is in the lot at the Mark Twain House.
As part of the entrance fee you also get to visit the Katherine Seymour Day House.
From journal Hartford Ct. Home to Harriet, Hooker and Handguns