A New Year at the Stowe House

Sitting in Harriet’s Writing Room, one of the former front parlors of the house where Harriet Beecher Stowe lived from 1850-52, I can often imagine the lively scenes which undoubtedly took place here. I see Harriet tending to the fire on the small, drafty hearth to my right, which must have been hard-pressed to heat this large, high-ceilinged room.  I can imagine her sitting in front of the very window I’m sitting in now, soaking up the meager rays of the winter sun. With Christmas just over, and her latest novella, “The First Christmas in New England” hot off the press, I image her trying to scratch a few lines here and there for the latest new story she has brewing — before baby Charles, who was born in this house a few months earlier, wakes up from his nap. The rest of her large brood, as well as some of the children of Bowdoin professors whom she and her sister teach here, are lively in other parts of this expansive house, and their exuberance can be heard coming from all quarters.

Does Harriet have any resolutions for this New Year, I wonder?  Or is she, like so many writers, just trying to keep all the parts of her busy life together long enough to pen her next story amidst the chaos and confusion around her? Harriet’s life wasn’t easy, and like most women I know, she seems to have been the consummate multi-tasker. But her many distractions were never used as excuses for not speaking her mind or talking about issues that concerned her. Harriet spoke with her pen, and her words changed the world around her, not unlike another great American who would follow generations after, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, whom we remember and honor this month. The power of our words and our thoughts should never be underestimated, and must be expressed at all costs. Whether or not this was her conscious intention as a resolution for the New Year in 1850, it is one of the many legacies Harriet has left for us, and one of the gifts I admire her for most.

~ Cathi Belcher, Stowe House Guide

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