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Harriet Beecher Stowe Influenced Home Economics and Gardening

Updated: Mar 23

Women's History Month in March

Harriet Beecher Stowe: Source: Commons Wikimedia/ Project Gutenberg

Contributions To Home Economics

Harriet Beecher Stowe and her sister Catherine were leaders in the Home Economics movement. They founded a small private school in Mandarin Florida with the help of their brother where that taught home economics and science to students. The taught emancipated blacks students at this school and disadvantaged children.

After the Civil War, Harriet Beecher Stowe focused on the domestic role of women as a way to raise money for women's rights. In the 1860's she published a monthly column in the Atlantic that gave tips on kitchen design, cooking, and household advice. This resulted in her publishing four successful books in her retirement years. She advocated for women's rights, education, and property ownership.

Harriet Beecher Stowe disliked the way Americans cooked meat. She disliked the mass-produced modern stoves, and convenience food. In her essays, she discussed a better method for cooking meats the way European chefs did using pan frying and roasting. In her book Oldtown Folks she had one chapter that described the many types of pies served at Thanksgiving. Her book lists cranberry, apple, huckleberry, cherry, green currant, peach, custard, and pumpkin.

Stowe helped the Freedman's Bureau with founding a school for black children during the time blacks had been freed in Mandarin. Many women activists used home economics and cooking as a way to raise money for women's rights. This tapped into the more acceptable movements of women and helped promote women's rights. They sold cookbooks, cooked for special events, and wrote for newspapers and magazines to raise money.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center located at 77 Forest Street in Hartford is a museum that offers tours and other educational programs. It was the house that Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in during her retirement. The kitchen is the last room seen on the tour and has a coal stove and large table in the center.

Harriet Beecher Stowe is best know for her book called Uncle Tom's Cabin. It is about the negative effects of slavery and this books has influenced both men and women on their attitudes towards African Americans.

Uncle Tom's Cabin Image Source: Wikipedia

Harriet Beecher Stowe as Mentor to Maria Parloa

Harriet and her sister Catherine wrote a book called The Principal of Domestic Science. In the book she wrote about bread, butter, meat, vegetables, and tea & coffee. She became a mentor to Maria Parloa a domestic servant that eventually became a professional baker, cookbook author, and pioneer and owner of a cooking school in Boston.

Maria met Harriet Beecher Stowe when she was visiting the Appledorf Hotel located on an island near Portsmouth New Hampshire. Maria worked there as a pastry chef, and she published her first cookbook called The Appledorf Cookbook in 1872. She had the support of Harriet Beecher Stowe and other influential women.

Mary Parloa Photo Source: Cooks Info/Public Domain

Maria's close relations with Harriet Beecher Stowe led to her spending five winters teaching at the small private school that Harriet Beecher Stowe owned in Florida. Maria taught cooking classes and spent the summers as a pastry chef at New England resorts. She graduated from the Maine Central Institute.

Later Maria Parloa gave a series of cooking lectures in Boston and discovered many people were interested. With the help of Harriet Beecher Stowe and other influential women she raised money by fundraising and eventually opened her own cooking school in Boston. The school was called Miss Parloa's School of Cooking.

Both Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mary Parloa were considered influencers in Home Economics movement during this time and women activists.

Harriett Beecher Stowe and Gardening

Harriet Beecher Stowe House In Hartford Source: Flicker/Ed Schipul

She was an avid gardener that enjoyed planting flowers, vegetables, and herbs. She connected to gardening morally and believed an attractive yard conveyed being a good neighbor to others. In her book Uncle Tom's Cabin she conveyed the character Tom as a man that grew a very organized garden and kept a well landscaped yard.

When she moved into the house on Forest Street, she traded plants with family and friends, transported seed, and embraced alternative medicine. She wrote about gardening and planted flowers, vegetables, and herb gardens. Harriet Beecher Stowe had extensive knowledge of Victorian era plants.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center Gardens have a self-guided tour of the gardens located on the property. The gardens have a dogwood tree planted in 2002 that is one of the largest in CT. The gardens have an Oval Garden with tulips, zinnias, and ornamental tobacco. A kitchen garden at the Stowe Center raises fresh herbs and vegetables.

Their Blue Cottage Garden has flowers in the theme of 1870s in yellow and pink, and blue with colors that range from pale blue grey to violet. Harriet Beecher Stowe liked wildflowers she grew, painted, and used wildflower in arrangements. The center has a Wildflower Garden too.

The High Victorian Garden at the Stowe Center maintains Victorian plants like elephant ears and castor bean plants. There is a Heritage Rose Garden and Pink and Red Garden with assorted flowers. She had a Paw Paw tree that produced a tropical fruit that tasted like mango, banana, berries, and pineapple.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was a writer, activist, teacher, mother, gardener and cook. She wore many hats and helped many different people in her lifetime. Visit the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center to learn more about the house and gardens.

Gardening Illustration: Public Domain Pictures


Harriet Beecher Stowe Cookery: Meat Department, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, American Food Writing an Anthology With Classic Recipes, Library of America

Mary Parola and Harriet Beecher Stowe School Bio, Historic Cooking Schools, Historic Kitchen, 2024

The Forgotten Cookbooks That Fueled Women's Suffrage by Sam O'Brien, Atlas Obscuras : Wonderous Foods to Explore, March 30 2022

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center Gardens, Connecticut Quest Museum

Harriet Beecher Stowe Garden Map

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford CT

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