The way in which the idea of writing the book came to the author was significant of the will that produced it. A lady friend wrote Mrs. Stowe a letter in which she said, “If I could use a pen as you can, I would write something that would make the whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is.” When the letter reached its destination, and Mrs. Stowe came to the passage above quoted, as the story is told by a friend who was present, she sprang to her feet, crushed the letter in her hand in the intensity of her feeling, and with an expression on her face of the utmost determination, exclaimed, “If I live, I will write something that will do that thing.”
The circumstances under which she executed her great task would ordinarily be looked upon as altogether prohibitory. She was the wife of a poor minister and school-teacher. To eke out the family income she took boarders. She had five children of her own, who were too young to be of any material assistance, and, in addition, she occasionally harbored a waif that besought her protection when fleeing from slavery. Necessarily the most of her time was spent in the kitchen. There, surrounded by meats and vegetables and cooking appliances, with just enough of the common deal table cleared away to give space for her writing materials, she composed and made ready for the publisher by far the most remarkable work of fiction this country has produced. Slavery is dead, but Mrs. Stowe’s masterpiece lives, and is likely to live with growing luster as long as our free institutions survive, which it is to be hoped will be forever.
One of the most remarkable early workers in the Abolition cause was Mrs. Lucretia Mott, a little Quaker woman of Pennsylvania. The writer saw her for the last time shortly before her death. She was then acting as presiding officer of an “Equal Rights”—meaning equal suffrage—meeting. Sitting on one hand was Susan B. Anthony, and on the other Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and next to one of them sat a stately negro.
She was then an aged woman, but her eye seemed to be as bright and her movements as alert as they had ever been. Framed by her becoming Quaker bonnet, which she retained in her official position, the face of the handsome old lady would have been a splendid subject for an artist.
Mrs. Mott gave much of her time and all the means she could control to the cause of the slave. She was an exceedingly spirited and eloquent speaker. On one lecturing tour she traveled twenty-four hundred miles, the most of the way in old-fashioned stage-coaches. By a number of taverns she was denied entertainment.
Like other pioneers in the same movement, Mrs. Mott was the victim of numerous mobbings. One incident shows her courage and resourcefulness. An Anti-Slavery meeting she was attending was broken up by rowdies, and some of the ladies present were greatly frightened. Seeing this Mrs. Mott asked the gentleman who was escorting her, to leave her and assist some of the others who were more timid. “But who will take care of you?” he asked. “This man,” she answered, lightly laying her hand on the arm of one of the roughest of the mob. The man, completely surprised, responded by respectfully conducting her through the tumult to a place of safety.