Are you related to Harriet Beecher Stowe? As part of its celebrations this year to commemorate the writer’s 200th birthday, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Connecticut, is hosting a get-together for her family members. “Branching Out: A Gathering of Stowe’s Family” is scheduled to take place in June.
Even if you can’t claim the writer in your family tree, there are plenty of reasons to visit the Stowe Center. One is to take a tour of Stowe’s last residence, a Gothic-style house where she lived for more than two decades. It’s located in Hartford’s Nook Farm neighborhood, an enclave of writers and intellectuals that included Mark Twain (his mansion is next door).
Although Stowe once described herself as “retired and domestic,” her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin caused a furor across the country and overseas. She was inspired to write the book after the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which made it a crime to assist runaway slaves. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852 and selling 10.000 copies its first week, changed how Americans viewed slavery and is credited with galvanizing the abolitionist movement. In its first year, 10,000 copies were sold in the U.S. and 1.5 million in Great Britain.
The tour does an excellent job illuminating the impact and legacy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and it also goes beyond the success of Stowe’s best-known book to reveal the different aspects of her career and her personal interests. She wrote numerous other works, including the domestic guide The American Woman’s Home with her sister (“the Martha Stewarts of their day,” according to our guide). Adorning the house are some of Stowe’s paintings, along with decorative pieces brought back from her European travels.
The Stowe Center regularly hosts a robust schedule of events, including a monthly book club discussion on classic and contemporary works, a walking tour of the historic neighborhood, and themed seasonal tours such as “Stowe and Women’s Rights” in March. See the full calendar here.
[Photos © Harriet Beecher Stowe Center]