Perceptive and Personal Quotes by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was the ultimate working mother, obliged to supplement her husband’s meager income to support their large family. Consciously using storytelling as social commentary, Stowe’s overarching theme is of writing passionately for a cause.

Though the literary merits of her work have long been debated, there’s little dispute that Uncle Tom’s Cabin caused a major shift in public perception of slavery. Here are quotes by Harriet Beecher Stowe that shed light on her own private life as well as her perceptions of humanity.

“Friendships are discovered rather than made.”

“Since I began this note I have been called off at least a dozen times – once for the fish-man, to buy a codfish – once to see a man who had brought me some baskets of apples – once to see a book man…then to nurse the baby – then into the kitchen to make chowder for dinner and now I am at it again for nothing but deadly determination enables me to ever write – it is rowing against wind and tide.” (on interruptions, from a letter to her sister-in-law, 1850)

“So subtle is the atmosphere of opinion that it will make itself felt without words.”

“Our children are just coming to the age when everything depends on my efforts. They are delicate in health, and nervous and excitable and need a mother’s whole attention. Can I lawfully divide my attention by literary efforts? (From a letter to her husband, 1841)

“The greater the interest involved in a truth the more careful, self-distrustful, and patient should be the inquiry. I would not attack the faith of a heathen without being sure I had a better one to put in its place, because, such as it is, it is better than nothing.” (From a letter to William Lloyd Garrison, 1853)

Harriet Beecher Stowe

See also: Quotes from the Novels of Harriet Beecher Stowe

“Perhaps it is impossible for a person who does no good to do no harm.”

“Everyone confesses that exertion which brings out all the powers of body and mind is the best thing for us; but most people do all they can to get rid of it, and as a general rule nobody does much more than circumstances drive them to do.”

“If I am to write, I must have a room to myself, which shall be my room … All last winter I felt the need of someplace where I could go and be quiet and satisfied.” (From a letter to her husband, 1841)

“The past, the present, and the future are really one: they are today.”

“One hundred thousand copies of Dred sold in four weeks! After that who cares what critics say? Its success in England has been complete, so far as sale is concerned. It is very bitterly attacked, both from a literary and a religious point of view. The Record is down upon it with a cartload of solemnity; the Athenaeum with waspish spite; the Edinburgh goes out of its way to say that the author knows nothing of the society she describes; but yet it goes everywhere, is read everywhere, and Mr. Low says that he puts the hundred and twenty-fifth thousand to press confidently. The fact that so many good judges like it better than Uncle Tom is success enough.” (From a letter to her husband, September 1856)

harriet beecher stowe

You might also like: Harriet Beecher Stowe on Motherhood and Writing

“I wrote what I did because as a woman, as a mother I was oppressed and broken-hearted, with the sorrows and injustice I saw, because as a Christian I felt the dishonor to Christianity — because as a lover of my country I trembled at the coming day of wrath. It is no merit in the sorrowful that they weep, or to the oppressed and smothering that they gasp and struggle, not to me, that I must speak for the oppressed — who cannot speak for themselves.” (On Uncle Tom’s Cabin in a letter to Lord Denman, January 20, 1853)

“So much has been said and sung of beautiful young girls, why don’t somebody wake up to the beauty of old women?”

“To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.”

“The power of fictitious writing, for good as well as for evil, is a thing which ought most seriously to be reflected upon.”

“I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak… I hope every woman who can write will not be silent.”

“You ask with regard to the remuneration which I have received for my work here in America. Having been poor all my life and expecting to be poor the rest of it, the idea of making money by a book which I wrote just because I couldn’t help it, never occurred to me. It was therefore an agreeable surprise to receive ten thousand dollars as the first-fruits of three months’ sale. I presume as much more is now due.” (From a letter, 1853)

“Common sense is seeing things as they are; and doing things as they ought to be.”

“… I have been the mother of seven children, the most beautiful and most loved of whom lies buried near my Cincinnati residence. It was at his dying bed that I learned what a poor slave mother may feel when her child is torn away from her.” (From a letter, 1853)

“There is more done with pens than with swords.”

“Everyone confesses in the abstract that exertion which brings out all the powers of body and mind is the best thing for us all; but practically most people do all they can to get rid of it, and as a general rule nobody does much more than circumstances drive them to do.” (“The Lady Who Does Her Own Work” in The Atlantic Monthly, 1864)

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe page on Amazon

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