Series: Library of Religious Biography (LRB)The life story of Harriet Beecher Stowe — woman of faith, fascinating Civil War figure, author of
Uncle Tom's Cabin
"So you're the little woman who started this big war," Abraham Lincoln is said to have quipped when he met Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin
converted readers by the thousands to the anti-slavery movement and served notice that the days of slavery were numbered. Overnight Stowe became a celebrity, but to defenders of slavery she was the devil in petticoats.
Most writing about Stowe treats her as a literary figure and social reformer while downplaying her Christian faith. But Nancy Koester's biography highlights Stowe's faith as central to her life — both her public fight against slavery and her own personal struggle through deep grief to find a gracious God. Having meticulously researched Stowe's own writings, both published and un-published, Koester traces Stowe's faith pilgrimage from evangelical Calvinism through spiritualism to Anglican spirituality in a flowing, compelling narrative.
Read a blog post by Nancy Koester about writing Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life
James M. McPherson
— Pulitzer Prize winner for Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
"The daughter, sister, and wife of prominent clergymen and theologians, Harriet Beecher Stowe outshone them all in her impact on American religion and reform. Her life and work were framed by a spiritual quest that led from her ancestral Calvinism to high-church Episcopalianism and even spiritualism. Nancy Koester's lucid narrative and penetrating analysis carry the reader along unfailingly on this fascinating quest."
— Pulitzer Prize winner for The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher
"It is impossible to overestimate the importance of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was in her lifetime the most famous and influential woman in the United States, bar none. But she has been largely forgotten today. Nancy Koester's comprehensive biography brings Stowe's personal story to life for a new generation while re-creating the fierce religious and cultural battles that inspired her to write the Great American Novel that helped turn the course of American history."
Booklist (starred review)
"An accessible and absorbing interpretive biography. . . . Koester engagingly and intelligently discusses each major novel, each family crisis, each journey, and each spiritual change, including a fluctuating interest in spiritualism after the deaths of two of [Stowe's] sons, without a whiff of academic fustiness. A top-notch read."