Harriet Beecher Stowe Biographer To Present Public Lecture

“Writing a Woman’s Life” is the topic of a lecture by Joan Hedrick at the University of Southern Maine on Thursday evening, October 22, at 7:30 p.m. in the University conference center. A Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Joan Hedrick is Charles A. Dana Professor of History at Trinity College. Drawing on her experience of researching and writing about Stowe, Hedrick will explore the challenges and choices a biographer faces, especially those related to gender.

Presented by the university’s American and New England Studies Program and co-sponsored by the Maine Humanities Council, the lecture is the product of connections between historians of northern New England and scholars studying nineteenth century American women.

A member of the most prominent family of clergymen in nineteenth-century America, Stowe packed her antislavery anger into the fictional world of her 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She took an unlikely path to literary fame, emerging as a leading antislavery voice in the U. S. Her moral indignation gave her a public voice at a time when women conventionally occupied a private, domestic sphere. The process of how, against the grain of social expectations, Stowe became a public figure is one of the most interesting parts of the story.

One of the foremost biographers of our time, Joan Hedrick is a highly qualified guide for others who seek to understand and explain the lives of nineteenth century women. She has been widely recognized for her expertise as a biographer, historian, literary scholar, teacher, public speaker, and program administrator. In addition to receiving the Pulitzer Prize, her 1995 biography, Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life, was given the Christopher Award and was designated a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Professor Hedrick is visiting Portland, Maine, in conjunction with a scholarly conference, another co-sponsor of her lecture. Conference participants will examine the life of Ellen Harmon White, a native of the Portland area and eventual cofounder of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. Like Professor Hedrick, this group of 65 scholars from across the United States seeks to understand the life of a nineteenth century New England woman who was not expected to fill a public role. In the lecture and the discussion afterwards, conference participants, undergraduates, graduate students, faculty members, and the general public will be able to probe Professor Hedrick’s expertise as they refine their own historical and biographical projects or seek a deeper understanding of local history.

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