“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up, for that is just the place and time when the tide will turn.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe
If there is one writer who “never gave up,” surely it’s Stowe herself. She endured poverty, the need to support a large family by her pen, crushing loss, and constant distractions. In one letter, she said: “Since I began this note I have been called off at least a dozen times …& now I am at it again for nothing but deadly determination enables me ever to write – it is rowing against wind and tide.”
Yet row she did. Against all odds, she managed to write 40 installments of what became Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe was petite, but she wielded a mighty pen: an instant bestseller, her book sold 5,000 copies in two days and more than 305,000 in its first year – and electrified the anti-slavery movement. Meeting Stowe, Abraham Lincoln is rumored to have declared, “So you’re the little woman who started this great war.”
Above all, Stowe was a gifted story teller. Her tale of the brave young mother Eliza clutching her little boy and leaping across ice floes to escape slave catchers is thrilling to read. Stowe wrote dangerously by daring to write from a mother’s pain: by pouring her own grief at the loss of her beloved baby boy Charley into Eliza’s desperate flight to save her son. As Stowe later wrote, it was the “crushing of my own heart” that gave life to Eliza. In a letter to a friend, she says:
“I have been the mother of seven children, the most beautiful and most loved of whom lies buried near my Cincinnati residence. It was at his dying bed and at his grave that I learned what a poor slave mother may feel when her child is torn away from her…. I have often felt that much that is in that book had its root in the awful scenes and bitter sorrow of that summer.”
What mysterious alchemy this gifted author performed: to transform her own heartbreak into a gut-wrenching tale that moved millions. May Harriet’s courageous spirit and mighty pen inspire our own!