Harriet Beecher Stowe’s greatest work was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but her greatest battle may have been with Alzheimer’s. Stowe’s War, an original work by a local playwright, with actress Susan Chase (Harriet) and actor Rick Bonnette (Mark Twain) will deal with this terrible disease and the friendship, humor, and courage of two of America’s most consequential authors- Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain.
“So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War!”
This remark by Abraham Lincoln, and an anecdote about rifles being shipped by Harriet and her church to Bloody Kansas in sealed crates marked as “Beecher Bibles”, may be historically accurate. The audience will decide and then clamor to see Harriet’s portrait on United States One Hundred Dollar bill just as the worthy Harriet Tubman’s will soon appear on the Twenty Dollar bill.
Stowe’s battles did not end with the Civil War. In 1884, decades removed from having written Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet at age 74, was struggling with the loss of her husband, two sons, and her health. Her “quirky” behavior had also become something more than neighborhood gossip. The courageous Stowe continued to write and challenge Americans on the most contentious issues of her day. The 15th Amendment granted voting rights to all men regardless of “race, color or previous condition of servitude The 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote followed nearly 35 years later. Her contributions are forgotten today.
Stowe’s War begins with Harriet and but then embraces her friend and neighbor Mark Twain. Twain was stuck 400 pages into his master work, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
He “liked it… tolerably well… but nearly burnt it” in frustration.
With bills to pay and deadlines to meet, Twain sought help and direction from his friend and neighbor, Harriet Beecher Stowe. It is here that Stowe’s martyred Uncle Tom and Twain’s runaway slave Jim first meet (for our purposes). In one of her toughest battles Harriet struggled to hold her friend Sam Clemens to a “higher standard”. This was a battle she lost.
Mark Twain’ classic shows the wounds of this pitched literary battle. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn defies the casual reader, inspires the careful reader, and challenges most readers. The book is still banned in some libraries and schools today. This is a fate Stowe experienced as well. In her time she was revered and reviled for creating the character of Uncle Tom. Today she is just ignored. Stowe’s War will prove that Harriet Beecher Stowe and Samuel Langhorne Clemens have never been more relevant!