One of the front two parlors of the former home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, at 63 Federal Street, has been turned into a public exhibit space to commemorate Stowe’s literacy legacy. Her anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which she wrote when she lived at the Brunswick home between 1850 and 1852, helped spark the American Civil War.
Bowdoin hosted an open house May 9, 2016, to celebrate the completion of Harriet’s Writing Room and the designation of the Harriet Beecher Stowe House with the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. In 1850, the Stowe family offered shelter to runaway slave John Andrew Jackson, who later wrote the book, The Experience of a Slave in South Carolina.After Interim Dean for Academic Affairs Jen Scanlon introduced President Clayton Rose, he commented on the “essential mission we have to preserve memory,” to ensure that we understand the past and stay focused on making today’s world better. “The house is a deep reminder of the memory of Harriet Beecher Stowe, her conviction, and the remarkable impact she had in the work she did,” he said. “It is that notion of memory that is most important and plays into the essence of what Bowdoin as an educational institution is all about.”
The research of Associate Professor of Africana Studies and English Tess Chakkalakal and senior Katie Randall helped the house gain recognition with the Network to Freedom. Randall, who spoke at the open house, said that after two years of work, it has been remarkable for her to watch the house be transformed.
“When I started working here, the house was somewhat defunct, it wasn’t playing an active role,” Randall said. “It had all these stories but wasn’t speaking to the here and now. I think now with the use of the house [as academic office and meeting space] and the writing room being opened to the public, it’s getting the chance to speak again.”