Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe¬† was an American abolitionist and author. She is best know for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin which is a depiction of life for African Americans victimized by slavery. Her novel invoked sympathetic feelings toward slaves, it the depicts the reality of slavery and “helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War”. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the best selling novel of the 19th Century selling 300,000 copies in the United States the first year it was published.

In Uncle Tom’s cabin Stowe depicts virtuous women with characters such as Mrs. Bird, Miss Ophelia and Eva. These women are sympathetic toward slaves, each of these characters begin to see slaves as equals throughout the course of the novel. These women, like Stowe, find the solace of the home empowering.

Although Mrs. Bird honors and obeys her husband the way that ideal women of the time were “supposed to” she also stands up to him at one point in the novel. This shows that although the domesticity that comes along with being a certain kind of woman for this time period she is still capable of making her thoughts known and forming her own opinion when necessary.

“Duty, John! don’t use that word! You know it isn’t a duty-it can’t be a duty! If folks want to keep their slaves from running away, let ’em treat ’em well, — that’s my doctrine. If I had slaves (as I hope I never shall have), I’d risk their wanting to run away from me, or you either, John. I tell you folks don’t run away when they are happy; and when they do run, poor creatures! they suffer enough with cold and hunger and fear, without everybody’s turning against them; and, law or no law, I never will, so help me God!”

“Mary! Mary! My dear, let me reason with you.”

“I hate reasoning, John, — especially reasoning on such subjects. There’s a way you political folks have of coming round and round a plain right thing; and you don’t believe in it yourselves, when it comes to practice. I know¬†you well enough, John. You don’t believe it’s right any more than I do; and you wouldn’t do it any sooner than I.” (1723)

“Her husband and children were her entire world, and in these she ruled more by entreaty and persuasion than by command or argument. There was only one thing that was capable of arousing her, and that provocation came in on the side of her unusually gentle and sympathetic nature; — anything in the shape of cruelty would throw her into a passion, which was the more alarming and inexplicable in proportion to the general softness of her nature.”

Here we see Stowe’s obvious depiction of what a virtuous woman should be.

Further Reading

Bio-Political Resistance in Domestic Ideology and Uncle Tom’s Cabin-This article critiques Stowe’s domestic ideology and insinuates that it is an illness


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