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Oct 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Lyman Beecher! (October 12, 1775)

As opposed to celebrating Cristóbal Colón this Columbus Day, who really stole all he could see in 1493, let's celebrate the birthday of Lyman Beecher who was born on October 12, 1775 in Connecticut.

1775 was a banner year for America, when Americans began their fight for independence from Great Britain, thus becoming the United States of America. Lyman Beecher was born. He was an intelligent man, studying at Yale and following religious pursuits.

He became a renowned preacher, especially in 1806 when he preached a sermon concerning a duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, where Hamilton died from his wounds. It was at this time that slavery was a hot topic and abolition was demanded. He proposed colonization of Africa to send America's slaves to Africa, to their freedom. Beecher was also anti-Catholic. Despite Lyman's fiery views and disagreeing ways, hell-fire and damnation sermons, Reverend Lyman managed to marry three times and beget 13 children. In 1851 after Rev. Lyman's retirement from Lane Theological Seminary, he moved to Brooklyn to live with his son Henry until he died in 1863.

It very well may be through these children that Lyman recieves his fame though. His daughter, Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote the fictional account of a slave in Uncle Tom's Cabin in the early 1850's which inspired many to take a stand against slavery, his son Henry Ward Beecher was a noted preacher who slandered his good name with a tabloid style affair, and another daughter Isabella Hooker was a noted woman's suffragist as well as an abolitionist who helped create the New England Women's Suffrage Association. Another daughter Catharine was well known for her views on eduation and founded schools as she promoted the idea of kindergarten, among others.

I became interested in the Beecher's because I just started reading "Harriet and Isabella" by Patricia O'Brien.


"It is 1887, and Henry Ward Beecher lies dying. Reporters from around the world, eager for one last story about the most lurid scandal of their time, descend on Brooklyn Heights, their presence signaling the beginning of the voracious appetite for fallen celebrities we know so well today.
When Henry Ward Beecher was put on trial for adultery in 1875, the question of his guilt or innocence was ferociously debated. His trial not only split the country, it split apart his family, causing a particularly bitter rift between his sisters, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Isabella Beecher Hooker, an ardent suffragist. Harriet remained loyal to Henry, while Isabella called publicly for him to admit his guilt. What had been a loving, close relationship between two sisters plummeted into bitter blame and hurt.
Harriet and Isabella each had a major role in the social revolutions unfolding around them, but what happened in their hearts when they were forced to face a question of justice much closer to home? Now they struggle: who best served Henry -- the one who was steadfast or the one who demanded honesty?"

Mathew Brady Studio Albumen silver print (carte de visite), circa 1861 8.5 x 5.3 cm (3 5/16 x 2 1/16 inches) National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.  This photo shows Harriet Beecher Stowe, her father Lyman Beecher, and her brother Henry Ward Beecher. Isabella had a falling out with the family when the scandal broke about Henry regarding his adultery trial in 1875, but Harriet stood by him. I am enjoying the book, which made me take a look at who the man was who brought these innovating children to life.

Happy Birthday Lyman, and America thanks you for your children!

Incidentally, it is also the birthday of King Edward VI, the heir that Henry VIII fought so hard for.. but sadly died at age 15. Claire at The Anne Boleyn Files has a great write up here on the boy king.