Calvin and Harriet Beecher Stowe: Partners for freedom

Calvin and Harriet Stowe

He was a young seminary professor and biblical scholar. She belonged to a leading family of social activists and clergymen. Together, they helped change the course of American history.

Calvin E. Stowe graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME, with highest honors before entering Andover Theological Seminary in 1825. He completed his theological studies with the Andover Class of 1829.

Stowe taught Greek at Dartmouth College and Biblical Literature at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. At Lane, Calvin met and married Harriet Elizabeth Beecher, daughter of the school’s renowned president, Lyman Beecher.

The marriage, it turned out, was no ordinary one. It grew to be a great alliance for American social reform and freedom.

Harriet’s brother was Henry Ward Beecher, one of the era’s most celebrated clergyman and preachers. Her sister was the writer and reformer Catharine Beecher, a prominent champion for improved education for women and girls.

Convinced of his wife’s own talents, Calvin told Harriet she "must be a literary woman." He remained one of her greatest supporters.

In Ohio, Calvin Stowe became a rigorous and well-known champion of free, universal public education, in part to integrate the rising tide of new immigrants into American society. The Ohio legislature distributed a copy of Stowe’s Report on Elementary Education in Europe to every one of the state’s 8,500 school districts.

Harriet Stowe wrote stories and novels and gathered material for her most famous work, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which she wrote mostly in Brunswick, Maine, while Calvin taught at Bowdoin College.

In 1852, the year before Calvin Stowe’s return to Andover Theological Seminary as professor of sacred literature, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, burst onto the American literary and political worlds as a sensational best-seller. Exposing the brutal reality of slavery in the American South, Harriet's book ignited Abolitionist sentiments on the Andover campus and throughout the nation.

The Stowe name became one of the most hated in the slave-owning states of the South. During the years before the Civil War and Emancipation, the Stowes entertained leading Abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth in their Andover home. They also became prominent members of the Abolitionist community in Andover and in the rest of the North.

When Calvin retired after the war, another of Harriet’s brothers, Charles Beecher, opened a school in Florida to teach newly emancipated slaves. At his urging, Calvin and Harriet joined him each winter, extending their activist partnership well into their golden years.

About Andover Newton’s History

Since 1807, the Andover Newton community has crossed borders, climbed over barriers, and made connections. The nation’s oldest theological school and its first graduate institution, Andover Newton’s many innovations created the model used by almost all American theological schools today. Few schools of any kind have had as profound and lasting an impact on American life--- in religious and public service, in government, on public and higher education, in literature, linguistics, scholarship, social justice, equality, freedom, and the development of America’s core ideals and values.

Andover Newton alumni and alumnae have included the founders of schools and colleges around the world, many nationally distinguished preachers, clergymen, and scholars of theology, three presidents of Brown University, the 9th president of Dartmouth College, and the author of the national hymn, “America.”

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