Contesting Harriet Beecher Stowe: Morality, Proslavery Southern Women, and Uncle Tom's Cabin

Saturday, January 6, 2018
Atrium (Marriott Wardman Park)
Elizabeth Willett, Central Connecticut State University
This poster examines the female proslavery authors who responded to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and how they used their own understanding of Christianity to formulate their position. Authors such as Mary Henderson Eastman, Caroline Lee Hentz and Sarah Josepha Hale used the moral superiority conferred upon well-to-do white southern women to parallel the transgression of Adam and Eve to the infiltration of Northern thought in Southern society, which they believed to be a corrupting influence on their own idyllic Eden. As a result of this increasingly tense relationship, the authors also discussed the immoral treatment of freedmen and slaves in the North, as well as the emerging idea of “white slavery,” with the intention of portraying the Northern abolitionists as hypocritical by emphasizing the exploitation of impoverished white workers in the industrial North. For all of their similarities, each author still offered fundamentally different responses to Stowe, resulting in unique assertions based on personal moral beliefs. The female authors of “anti-Tom” literature were able to advocate for the retention of slavery in American society because they condoned the patriarchal structures that maintained slavery and consequently their own subjugation.
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