A Disenfranchised Woman Altered History With a Pen and Paper. Of Course You Can Change the World

Never give up … for that is just the place and time when the tide will turn. ~Harriet Beecher Stowe

It’s a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done. ~Harriet Beecher Stowe


Years ago, a woman named Harriet sat down at a table with pen and paper, and wrote a story that would change the world.

Because she had been published before, the publisher of a weekly magazine was willing to take a chance on her and publish her story in installments. Still, he was skeptical – Harriet was a woman (gasp!) – and the topic was one that had never sold well because it was so heady.

The topic was slavery.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was 40 years old when she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1851. She based it on stories and news she had heard and seen as a resident of Cincinatti, Ohio – just across the river from the slave state of Kentucky. She had no reason to believe that her work would be well received. She had no reason to believe that it would be a best seller. But she was moved to tell a story that would educate and inform her fellow Americans of “what an accursed thing slavery is.”

She did just that.

First published in weekly installments, the impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was not realized until after it was published in book form in 1852. It wasn’t just a best seller. In the United States, it sold 10,000 copies in one week and over 300,000 copies in its first year. Worldwide, it sold over 1.5 million copies.

The only book that sold more copies in the 1800’s was the Bible.

With Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Stowe made a mental picture of slavery available to anyone who could read. Suddenly, Americans were able to relate to slavery in a very different way – inspiring an entire generation of abolitionists, and contributing to the outbreak of the Civil War. (Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s success in Europe has also been cited as a reason Europe did not intervene to assist the Confederacy.)

Legend has it that when Stowe met Abraham Lincoln in 1862, he greeted her by saying “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great big war.” Perhaps that’s simply urban legend, but it underscores the breadth and depth of what she accomplished.

Even though her pen was her only source of power.

As a woman, she couldn’t vote. She couldn’t hold elected office. She couldn’t even join the major political parties. Her primary source of power – her main outlet to rage against the injustices that she saw – was to write about them.

So this singular politically disenfranchised woman helped change the course of American – and world – history by simply sitting down at her table with a pen and paper.

Her bravery in doing so “inspires us to believe in our own ability to effect positive change.”

We may know that we have the ability to effect positive change, but it’s easy to overestimate our own insignificance. Isn’t it?

We can convince ourselves of inaction by thinking we are just one speck of dust in the grand cyclone of humanity. We imagine that we are just a drop in the bucket – one voice in the wilderness.

“Why should anyone listen to me?” we wonder.

But what if Stowe had said that same thing? She couldn’t vote, she couldn’t own property – she was a second-class citizen by any definition. So what if she had let her status silence her? What if she decided to stay quiet because she wasn’t an expert, or because she was a woman, or she thought nobody would listen, or because speaking out was a little too uncomfortable.

What if she convinced herself that her voice was insignificant?

You, friend, have power. You can vote. You can organize. You can write. You can donate, and raise money, and call Congress. You have infinitely more power available to you than a middle-aged disenfranchised woman who just happened to change the world.

Don’t diminish your voice.

Don’t diminish your power.

Use it.

Let’s get to work.


Actions for the week of April 9, 2019

Tuesday: Quick! Save the Internet!

On Tuesday, (today!!) the House will debate the Save the Internet Act, which will restore net neutrality. This is a bipartisan issue – but that doesn’t mean that Trump isn’t still planning on vetoing it.

Right now, give a call to your congress critter and let him/her know that you expect them to support net neutrality! Hurry!

Then head over to Battle for the Net for next steps: https://www.battleforthenet.com

Wednesday: Sign, Share and Help Make a Stand

For any of you who are in Missouri, this is a very easy lift: please sign and share a petition that I created to oppose concealed carry expansion. (Petition available HERE.)

In case you haven’t heard, the Missouri House has passed a bill that would permit concealed carry in college campuses – and even in private K-12s. But that bill wasn’t passed in the regular course of business. Oh, no.

This bill is so insanely unpopular and ill-conceived that they couldn’t advance the full bill. Instead, the sponsor created an amendment that he tacked onto another, related, bill.

And that’s what they rammed through, without giving constituents a real chance to weigh in.

Well, we are in the process of fixing that, by weighing in via every conceivable way.

Hence the petition (again, available HERE).

I am going to deliver the signatures, printed out in hard copy form, to the Speaker of the Missouri legislature. We’ll be broadcasting that on social media, and we’ll be sure to tag the Missouri Senate, which will take this bill up soon.

We’re already past the number of signatures we need to fill a ream of paper – but now I want to fill a banker’s box. The Google tells me that’s about 4,500 signatures.

Help me/us get there? I know there are more than 4.5k folks who know this is a bad idea. So please, sign – share, and then stay tuned for the delivery!

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/tell-the-missouri-legislature-we-oppose-guns-everywhere

Thursday: Tell Congress We Want the Mueller Report

This morning, AG Barr is testifying before the House appropriations committee, and just from what he’s already said it’s clear the new theme emerging from the White House is delay, dodge, duck, dip, dive, dodge, delay. With special focus on delay.

They’re banking on us to move on, to forget, to continue on with our days and not speak out about the fact that they’re hiding one of the most consequential reports in history from us.

They’re literally begging us to move on.

So we have GOT TO continue to speak out on this, okay? Just a simple call to your Senators and your Congress(wo)man will do, but please ask your friends and fellow resisters to do the same. We can’t give up now.

Friday: Defund Hate

This week there’s been additional news reports that Trump may be re-instituting (or attempting to re-institute) his draconian and unconstitutional family separation policy.

Now, I have my suspicions that he’s doing that to keep our focus on a humanitarian crisis rather than on either his tax returns or the Mueller Report.

But we can walk and chew gum at the same time, can’t we? And we now have one lever of power in government – the power of the purse. Indivisible and some other groups have joined together to form the Defund Hate project, that will reduce spending and cut off Trump’s ability to raid other funds to pay for his pet immigration projects.

From Indivisible’s Defund Hate project:

If your MoC sits on the Appropriations Committee in the House, then they are going to be the ones making the decisions over funding levels for both ICE and CBP. That means you have a lot of power to influence the outcome.

Here are two specific asks you can make:

  1. Demand that funding for ICE and CBP be cut to “FY16” levels. Funding levels for ICE and CBP have have dramatically increased since the agencies were created in 2003—yes, even under Obama. But under Trump, the increases have been striking. For example, detention has exploded by about 50% under Trump. Now that Democrats have retaken the House, they should demand cuts that would at the very least bring us back to Obama-era funding levels. Cutting to “FY16” means bringing funding for these agencies down to what they were at the end of fiscal year 2016, the last of the Obama years. That is just a first step toward defunding these agencies for good.
  2. Prohibit ICE and CBP from raiding other accounts. Under Trump, ICE has been able to steal from other DHS accounts—thereby going around Congress—in order to expand its enforcement activities. Congress could quickly put a stop to this practice by adding language into the FY20 appropriations bill that would prohibit it.
If your MoC is Not an Appropriator

Even if your MoC doesn’t sit on the Appropriations committee, they can still have a meaningful impact on the process. They can submit their own funding level requests for DHS directly with appropriators. Right now there is a letter (known as a “Dear Colleague”) being circulated, led by Congresswomen Pramila Jayapal (WA) and Norma Torres (CA), formally requesting the same asks outlined above.

Ask that your MoC “sign-on” to the “Jayapal-Torres-Chu Dear Colleague” requesting cuts to ICE and CBP.


WHEW! GO, TEAM!

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THANK YOU FOR READING. THANK YOU FOR WRITING. I READ AND RESPOND TO EVERY E-MAIL. (REALLY! I REALLY DO!) WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER. DON’T YOU FORGET IT.

2 thoughts on “A Disenfranchised Woman Altered History With a Pen and Paper. Of Course You Can Change the World

  1. Thank you SO much for writing the article about Harriet Beecher Stowe and showing her picture. I am in the process of listening to her book on audiobooks so was happy to read a little about her life. As an older woman I am amazed at all of the wonderful women in American history that was never taught or shared with us and probably continues not to be with younger women. I am on a mission to learn all I can with about these incredible women who sacrificed themselves for the rest of us women. Thank you again for sharing this. Her book is incredibly sad and unfortunately her story is a part of our history that really has not been taught like it should be.

    Like

    1. I completely agree, Patty! There are so many women – like Harriet – who have done so many wonderful things, yet haven’t had their stories shared. I aim to fix that… 😉 Thanks for sharing!

      Like

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