Harriet’s Writing Room

Writing Room
Interior view of Harriet's Writing Room

This front room, which is entered from the south side of the building, is open to the public free of charge.   The room is staffed by a knowledgeable guide, and individuals and groups are invited to visit the room to discover and reflect on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s literary legacy and her writing process. 

The room is furnished with pieces that evoke the time Harriet Beecher Stowe spent in the house with her children, her sister Catharine, and her husband, Calvin Stowe, a Bowdoin College professor.  A large central table with benches offers visitors a comfortable place to sit to write a postcard or flip through a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and other works of American literature from the period. Wall text and reproductions of photographs and maps allow visitors to learn more about the people and places of the mid-nineteenth century when Stowe wrote the novel that made history.

Fireplace
Detail of fireplace in Harriet's Writing Room

With its fireplace and view on to Federal Street, this room likely served as a formal reception or living space when the Stowe family occupied the home in the early 1850s.  The room is now a public exhibit space that serves to educate people about Stowe's life in Brunswick and encourage visitors to reflect on her literacy legacy.

Harriet Beecher Stowe spent her days in the home juggling her writing with caring for her six children and running a small school, while her husband, Rev. Calvin Stowe taught Natural and Revealed Religion at Bowdoin College. 

“Since I began this note,” she noted in a letter, “I have been called off at least a dozen times; once for the fish-man . . . once to see a man who had brought me some barrels of apples . . . once to see a book-man . . . then to nurse the baby; then into the kitchen to make a chowder for dinner; and now I am at it again, for nothing but deadly determination enables me ever to write.” 

Despite the many distractions, by 1851 Stowe had begun drafting Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a sentimental novel grounded in real-life events, places, and people.  On Saturday evenings, Stowe would invite family and friends into her home for readings of the in-progress work before sending off chapters to the National Era in Washington, D.C. for publication.  Among her guests was Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a Bowdoin student in the class of 1852 who would go on to become a general in the Union Army, Governor of Maine, and President of Bowdoin College. 

“On these occasions,” Chamberlain remembered, “a chosen circle of friends, mostly young, were favored with the freedom of her house, the rallying point being, however, the reading before publication, of the successive chapters of her Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the frank discussion of them.”