Harriet Beecher Stowe came from a family that left a huge spiritual and social footprint in American history. She was born into a lineage that produced a prolific group of religious leaders, educators, writers, and antislavery and women's rights advocates.
Her father, Rev. Lyman Beecher, had thirteen children by two wives. All seven of his sons went into the ministry: Dr. Edward Beecher, Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, Revs. George, Charles, William, Thomas, and James Beecher all played very public roles.
James C. Beecher, the youngest son, was the only one to serve as a soldier (1861-1866). During the Civil War he commanded the 35th United States Colored Troops, a regiment of freedmen, mostly ex-slaves from North Carolina, one of the first black units to be formed.
And his daughters were all very religious and played major public roles in reforming society as well. In addition to Stowe's important role in social reform her sister, Catharine Beecher was an early female educator and writer who helped found numerous high schools and colleges for women. Her step-sister, Isabella Beecher Hooker, was a well known women's rights advocate.
Lyman Beecher inculcated the importance of human responsibility and his children all found their own unique ways of serving God through action. And their cumulative actions had a significant impact on nineteenth and twentieth century America.
Harriet and her minister husband had seven children themselves and also instilled a sense of religious responsibility in them. Unfortunately only their twin daughters and their son Charles survived them. Three of their four sons died tragic deaths. Charles Edward, her youngest son, was ordained as a minister in 1878. He married Susan Monroe and had three children. From the mid 1880s until the late 1890s he was minister of the Simsbury, Connecticut, Congregational Church, not far from his parents' home in Hartford. Stowe's daughter Georgie was married to Henry Allen, an Episcopal priest.
A third generation of Beechers included Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the daughter of Mary Finch Perkins and Frederick Beecher Perkins, the grandson of Lyman and nephew of Harriet. In 1898, she published Women and Economics, which argues for the socialization of housework through the establishment of communal kitchens and day nurseries in order for women to work outside their homes. In 1895, she settled in Chicago where she lived with Jane Addams in Hull House. Perkins was greatly influenced by the work of Edward Bellamy and became a socialist. She wrote and lectured extensively and in 1896 she was a delegate to the International Socialist Congress in London. In 1915, she helped found the Woman's Peace Party with Jane Addams and others.
Three generations of Beecher-Stowes thus influenced the moral direction of America for almost a century. And while the influence of religion diminished, as evidenced in Charlotte's life, still the social responsibility gene was dominant.
From a Unificationist perspective Harriet Beecher Stowe and her family played an important role in the Divine Providence of God in America. Unificationists believe that while God does 95 percent of the work of restoration he cannot be successful without the fulfillment of five percent of man's responsibility. A God-centered lineage that reaches through all generations is a goal of God's providence of restoration.
Harriet Beecher Stowe was born into a lineage that understood the importance of living for the sake of others. She, in turn, did her part to honor her father and mother by raising her children in a God-centered home and showing a living example of self-sacrifice for the family, society, nation, and the world.