When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1862, he is reputed to have said “So you are that little woman who wrote the book which started this great war” This is almost certainly apocryphal but it does give a hint to the importance given to the impact of her story of slavery in the South of the USA. When the book was published, it awoke strong feelings of outrage and disgust in the North, and in the South, it was seen as a book full of exaggeration and distortion.
Stowe later said that she was inspired to write the book after her son died in a cholera epidemic in 1849 and she felt empathy towards slave mothers who had their children taken from them. It was though, the act of 1950 which made it law for those in the North to return runaway slaves to their owners which so enraged many abolitionists that in Harriett’s case, she put pen to paper and wrote her tale of Uncle Tom.
The book sold over 300,000 copies in the first year and H Beecher Stowe devoted herself to lecture tours. At one time, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the number 2 best seller, behind the Bible, in the USA. She died in 1896 aged 85.