The Power of Words

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Harriet Beecher Stowe. She was the author of one of the greatest American novels: Uncle Tom's Cabin. This piece of literature, published in 1852, convinced many skeptical Americans to adopt an anti-slavery position; the book is viewed as one of the major influencers of the Civil War. Upon meeting Stowe, President Abraham is said to have remarked, "so you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war." I love that a person with a perspective was able amplify it to stratospheric levels using only words. Although I've never fully read Uncle Tom's Cabin*, I think of it fondly because of my neighborhood. Harriet moved to Walnut Hills when her father, Lyman Beecher, took the presidency of the Lane Seminary (located where the Cadillac dealership on Gilbert Avenue stands today). Here she met her husband, Calvin Stowe, who was a professor at the seminary. In 1848, Harriet's young son died of cholera, and she could not escape the grief she associated with Cincinnati. She left two years later but was able to utilize her experiences while living here for her book. Harriet traveled throughout the region and saw slavery firsthand in Kentucky. She even had a friendship with John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Stowe's Cincinnati home still stands in our community. It is well-maintained by a local group of racially diverse women who wish to honor Harriet's legacy. It's yet another reason I'm proud to live in this neighborhood.

On the day of her birth, I'm grateful for those like Harriet Beecher Stowe who use their talents to make the world change the way we see things.


*I tend to lose focus with the book's antiquated language but I continually come back to it for insight. It's in public domainā€”available free online and in audio format too.