Harriet Beecher Stowe

The most famous of the large and illustrious Beecher clan to arrive in Walnut Hills in 1832, Harriet was just 21 years old and at first lived in the shadow of her older sister Catherine. The sisters worked together in Catherine’s Western Female Institute, and joined a literary circle known as the Semi-Colon Club. Both did a bit of writing, fiction and non-fiction, and published in local magazines; at least a few of Harriet’s early efforts appeared under her established sister’s name.
Harriet became fast friends with the young Lane Seminary Professor Calvin Stowe and his new wife Eliza. Eliza died childless in 1834, Harriet married Calvin in 1836, and they began a fast-growing family. The couple lived on Montgomery Road (now Gilbert Avenue) in the block south of the seminary; a promised campus house for the Professor never materialized. The failure of the Female Institute in 1837 marked the beginning of more serious hard times in the Stowe household; Lane Seminary struggled, and did not manage even to pay full salaries. Harriet Beecher Stowe began publishing as a source of family income; her writing could bring in $400 a year, half of Calvin’s earnings in the worst years. Both wife and husband had increasing health problems, and cholera took a young son.
In 1850, Calvin accepted a position at Bowdoin College in Maine, and Harriet moved to Maine to set up a house. She hoped to write a significant non-fiction article about the evils of slavery; she asked Calvin as he finished up the term at Lane to forward her some statistics on self-purchase by former slaves in Cincinnati. Through a connection with the editor of The National Era, whom Harriet had known in Cincinnati, she changed her format to serialized fiction, and published Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly in the magazine in 1851-1852. The wildly popular serial, quickly made available in book form, became the best-selling novel in ante-bellum America. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s long residence in Cincinnati of course provided the stories and life-experience required to compose Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
The Walnut Hills house that Harriet shared with Calvin, and for a time with her sister Caroline, is no longer standing. Her father’s house, her first residence in Cincinnati, is preserved as the Harriet Beecher Stowe House at the corner of Gilbert Avenue and Martin Luther King Drive.