Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

May 1, 2014

A visit with Harriet Beecher Stowe

Best-selling author comes alive for Civil War programs

By Judy Wakefield
jwakefield@andovertownsman.com

---- — She was a best-selling author in her day as her novel about slavery sold 300,000 copies in the U.S. and 1 million more in Great Britain in the first year after it was published. Her book was translated into all major languages, and it was the second best-selling book after the Bible in America.

Author Harriet Beecher Stowe, who lived in Andover for 12 years, wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in 1852 and it was called “the most popular novel” of that time. There’s a story that when President Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the start of the Civil War, Lincoln declared, “So this is the little lady who started this great war.”

Fast forward to 2014, and if Stowe were alive, Oprah would join President Lincoln and probably interview the regarded author. Stowe’s influence remains even today. In fact, the 2013 Academy Award-winning film, “Twelve Years a Slave,” is based on a slave narrative published in 1855 by Solomon Northup, who dedicated his book to Stowe.

On Wednesday, May 7, a book discussion on “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” will take place at Memorial Hall Library, 2 North Main St. in downtown Andover.

Friends of Memorial Hall Library President Susan McKelliget, who pens The Townsman’s All Those Years Ago column, and Andover Historical Society president Jane Cairns will collaborate on the talk, which starts at 7 p.m.

Anyone who wants to connect more with Stowe will get a chance the following week when Andover storyteller Susan Lenoe brings her to life in a program on Thursday, May 15, at 7 p.m., also at the library. Lenoe will portray Stowe as she reminisces about her role in the abolitionist movement, her family joys and trials, and her life in Andover. The program is supported in part by a grant from the Andover Cultural Council.

Both events are part of the Andover Historical Society’s “Lest We Forget: Andover and the Civil War” series, an ongoing collaborative effort hosted by numerous institutions in town that launched last month and is being well-received.

“It’s going fantastic. The collaboration with partners throughout town is great,” said Carrie Midura, programs and public relations manager at the Andover Historical Society.

Midura said some 1,000 people attended last month’s appearance by Harvard University President and noted Civil War expert Drew Gilpin Faust at Phillips Academy to discuss her book, “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War.” The 2008, critically acclaimed examination of how America’s understanding of death was shaped by the many casualties of the Civil War was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award.

Documentary film maker Ric Burns, who was the co-writer of PBS’ award-winning, 1990 documentary, “The Civil War,” which was based on Faust’s book, joined her for the program.

Memorial Hall Library caps off the month with tours of Memorial Hall, which was constructed in 1873 to honor the town’s Civil War veterans. The public will be able to view the huge marble plaques inscribed with the names of those who served, as well as artifacts specific to Andover’s history in the late 1800s. Tours will be offered on Thursday and Friday, May 29 and 30, at 10 a.m. and Wednesday, June 4, at 1 p.m. To make a reservation, email mhl.org/eventcalendar or 978-623-8401, ext. 31.

Copies of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” are available while supplies last by calling 978-623-8401, ext. 49, or emailing straina@mhl.org. For more on the town’s entire Civil War series, visit andoverlestweforget.com.