If you could have dinner with any historical figure, who would it be?
I want to retroactively fill out every first-day-of-school-getting-to-know-you survey so that I can replace my cliche answer of George Washington (no disrespect, George) with my new historical heroine: Harriet Beecher Stowe.
You guys, this woman. Harriet Beecher Stowe authored the revolutionary novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I’ve loved this story and its characters (besides Simon Legree of course) since I first read it in 8th grade. I appreciated it even more when I read it again in college. Only recently, though, have I studied the life of Mrs. Stowe.
I’ll spare you a Civil War history lesson, but let me say this: Stowe was fierce! When Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, Stowe’s abolitionist heart responded. As a Northerner who despised the institution of slavery, she knew she had to do something. She conveyed the plight of slaves in Uncle Tom’s Cabin in such a way that Northerners acted and Southerners raged. She braved the criticism of an entire region to fight for what she knew was right.
Although the causes of the Civil War are complex, Stowe certainly highlighted the injustices of slavery in an emotionally stirring way.
Shortly after the Civil War began, Stowe met with President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C. It’s rumored that President Lincoln said to her, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”
Now whether or not he said this is up for debate. Some historical critics claim this is merely family legend, but I’d like to think Honest Abe uttered those exact words.
One of the things I find most remarkable about Harriet Beecher Stowe is the fact that she wrote this lengthy, complex narrative after her SEVEN children went to sleep each night.
This was the 1800s, people! This was before instant pots and washing machines. I can’t even fathom how much a full day of housework exhausted Mrs. Stowe. In my mind’s eye I see this little lady beating out rugs, hand-washing mountains of laundry, plucking the feathers from a chicken and then cooking it, mending and sewing clothing, lovingly rearing her children, kissing them each goodnight, and then sitting down to write a book that reached millions and fueled the flames of social justice.
And then there’s me. I enjoy so many modern conveniences, and when I get my son to sleep I . . . . . Netflix.
I will never measure up to the caliber of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, but she proves that seemingly ordinary women (and men) can change the world. President Nelson once said, “We need women who know how to make important things happen.”
I revere Stowe for her courage, principles, wisdom, her unyielding passion, grit, and vision.
Inscribed above her place of rest reads, “Her Children Rise up and Call Her Blessed.” And so do I.