The Little Woman Who Started a Great War

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For Ages 8-12

In the nineteenth century, the best-selling book in the world was the Bible.  Can you guess what the second best-selling book was?  You might never read it in school.  After all, the book isn’t really politically correct anymore.  Then again, it wasn’t politically correct in 1852, either. 

* * *

Harriet Beecher Stowe hated slavery.  A mother of seven, living just across the river from the slave state of Kentucky, she and her husband hid African Americans in their home as they fled slavery on the Underground Railroad.  Harriet started writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a fiction series for an anti-slavery magazine.  Soon, it was published as a book.  In 1852, 500,000 copies sold in America and Great Britain. 

Harriet was a Christian.  She believed every American Christian was responsible for the terrible crime of slavery.  Even though her book was a novel, she sometimes stopped the story to lecture her readers about the evils of slavery. 

Harriet wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin hoping to change America.  God used her in a mighty way, but it wasn’t easy for Harriet.  People couldn’t seem to stop arguing after reading Harriet’s book.  Those in the North were surprised and upset by Harriet’s descriptions of the lives of slaves.  Americans from the South loudly denied abusing their slaves. 

In the ten years after Harriet wrote her book, more than twenty books defending slavery were published.  People hated Harriet.  She received threats and hateful mail.  Some people accused Harriet of lying about slavery.  Harriet may have been scared, but she didn’t think anyone should own another person.  In 1853, Harriet published A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, defending her research on slavery. 

Still, Harriet’s troubles continued.  People started making plays called “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” supporting slavery and making fun of African Americans.  Many people who never read Harriet’s book saw the plays, thinking they were written by Harriet.  It was a mess! 

* * *

Was it worth it?  Harriet risked her life, and the lives of her husband and their seven children.  For ten years after writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet’s life was full of constant turmoil and attacks.  Why didn’t she quit?  Was ending slavery really that important?  To Harriet, ending slavery was important enough to risk her whole family.

All through the Bible, God has recorded for us the stories of men and women who were called by God for a purpose.  These men and women persevered through adversity and opposition.  Let’s look at just three of these people:

  • Esther was an orphan, raised by her uncle Mordecai.  In January, 478BC, Esther was married to King Xerxes of Persia.  Esther risked her life to save the people of Israel.  God used her in a mighty way. 

“If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die.  Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”  (Mordecai) Esther 4:14(NLT)

  • Paul was called by Jesus to share the Good News with the Gentiles (people who aren’t Jewish).  He was attacked, shipwrecked, and imprisoned.  In the end, he was martyred for Jesus.  Still, he persevered so that people like you and me could learn of God’s plan for eternal salvation.

“…but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Paul) Philippians 3:13b,14(NLT)

  • In the days before Israel had kings, Deborah was the only female judge.  She led   the Israelites to victory in war against the Canaanites.  It wasn’t easy, and Deborah was unusual, but she loved the Lord and her people.

“…for the Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.”  (Deborah)  Judges 4:9b(NLT)

            * * *

So, what about Harriet?  Did her perseverance pay off?  Was she able to convince Americans that all human life is valuable and precious? 

It seems people really were listening to Harriet.  Nine years later after Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published, the United States went to war against itself.  Harriet met President Abraham Lincoln a year into the Civil War.  He said, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!”  Though some historians don’t think he said that, Lincoln and Harriet really did meet because of her novel and its effect on the country.  In the end, Harriet Beecher Stowe helped end slavery in America.

* * *

To persevere means to stick to a course of action until you achieve your purpose.  As Christians, our purpose should always be to glorify God. 

Jesus was the ultimate example of perseverance.  Isn’t it amazing to know that God gave up all of heaven, and His glory to become a man?  He suffered, died, and rose again so that you and I can be forgiven for our sins.  But Jesus didn’t sacrifice for just a few people; He died so that all people have the opportunity to be forgiven.

~ Danika Cooley

Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.


  1. says

    Sarah – Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin as evidence against slavery. The book is aimed at adults, though high schoolers could definitely read it. My hesitation with reading it aloud to an 11 year old would concern the subject matter.

    The book addresses slavery in all of its brutal ugliness, including infanticide and intimate assault (I’m trying to be careful here, as I did write this for kids, and one may read the comments…). has a very in-depth overview of the book that you may find helpful.

    Thanks for reading!


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