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Harriet Beecher Stowe

by Joan D. Hedrick

Library Journal : In writing this biography of Stowe, the most substantial since Forrest Wilson's Crusader in Crinoline won a Pulitzer Prize in 1941, Hedrick (women's studies, Trinity Coll., Ct.) has created an engaging and informative book that brings to life not just the complex and fascinating woman and writer but also the 19th-century America that shaped her and was shaped by her. Hedrick manages to weave into this immensely readable biography a history teeming with the domestic detail of the famous Beecher clan, the settling of the West, and the impact of the Civil War and the abolition movement. At the same time, Hedrick constructs a fascinating portrait of women's lives in the 19th century. Stowe rarely failed to give an adoring public what it wanted, from her wildly popular serial novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851-52) through the long, lucrative career that filled America's nostalgic need for novels about old New England. This biography is worth adding even to collections that own Wilson's book. Highly recommended.

Ellen Finnie Duranceau, MIT Lib. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

Publishers Weekly : This first major biography of Stowe (1811-1896) in some 50 years offers an insightful account of the life and work of the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin . Hedrick, director of women's studies at Trinity College in Connecticut, is especially good at laying out the context of Stowe's life: the constraints and opportunities for well-born New England women in the 1800s; the influence of the Bible and of ``parlor literature and parlor music'' on her work; and how the lack of political outlets for women helped fuel her outrage against slavery. In Uncle Tom's Cabin , published in weekly installments from June 1851 to April 1852 in the magazine National Era , Stowe modeled the characters mainly on her own black domestic servants without considering that ``her position as white mistress to black servants radically compromised her perceptions.'' Nonetheless, Hedrick praises her for forcing whites to confront ``the voices of a colonized people.'' Hedrick includes much information on Stowe's family life and lengthy but checkered writing career, noting that while she contributed to a new cultural vitality by supporting the Atlantic Monthly , founded in 1857, she and other women writers were ultimately disregarded. Regrettably, the book ends with Stowe's death and doesn't track the 20th-century debates about the place of Stowe's most famous work in our cultural canon.

Copyright 1993 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms