Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers, by Jean Fritz

Between my computer breaking, the book I finally got from the library that I couldn't wait to start and have hardly been able to put down since, and life, I'm just now getting this review done.  I finished last Saturday, so it hasn't been too long. 

I was one of the people who vaguely knew who this woman was, knew that she had written a book (Uncle Tom's Cabin - on my list of to read) that I may or may not have read once upon a time in Junior High, and that's about it.  I thought she was African-American - that's how little I knew about her.  I wanted an autobiography or biography to read while I waited for the above mentioned book, and I couldn't be happier that I chose this one.

Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in the era of the Civil War.  She was raised by a well-known preacher who wanted his sons to be preachers, too, since daughters weren't good for much outside of marrying them off or them becoming teachers.  Harriet felt oppressed by this her whole life, felt there was fire burning within her that she didn't know what to do about, since her options were so limited.  She married and had kids, just like any woman should've done in those days, and even became a teacher at the insistence of her oldest sister.  This never made her happy - in fact, she was prone to depression, like most of her family.

She always opposed slavery, but didn't become an actual abolitionist until later in her life.  She helped with the finances by writing articles for the media.  Then she got an idea of writing something that helped the fire she felt burning within - a book about slavery.  It started as magazine articles that she couldn't get published fast enough, because her readers longed for the next edition.  She used fictional characters that were based on people she'd met and based the events in the book on stories she's heard from people, both black and white, over the years of her life.  The book was an instant success in both America and England.  She was very well-known in that time period for this book and her views as well as her speeches (that were delivered by men, since it was considered improper for a woman to speak to the masses), although a lot of people in the South, after realizing what the book was about, didn't like her.  She was an advocate of Abraham Lincoln, but only after she met him personally to make sure he really would sign the Emancipation Proclamation like he said he would. 

She and her family played huge roles in the Civil War.  This woman is my new hero, next to Mother Teresa.  She rocked the literary world and lived a stellar life.  I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a quick book, one that tells an excellent story about an excellent woman. 

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