In establishing mothers as the executors of power, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe performed a remarkable role in both anti-slavery and women’s rights movements. The writers indicate that the account devoted to Eliza Harris, published in Slave Narratives of the Underground Railroad, is based on genuine occurrences, with fictional names and dialogues, while real identities are properly disguised (Rudisel and Blaisdell 95). In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the story very first opens with Eliza Harris, the female slave protagonist. The novel’s powerfully empowered and distinct female characters, such as Eliza and Mrs. Bird, advance the argument against slavery throughout the narrative. Maternal inclinations in Stowe’s novel are colorblind and serve as a source of enlightenment to white mothers in order to feel sympathy for black female slaves.
Stowe makes a direct plea to her reader, who she expects to be a white, northern Christian mother in the nineteenth century. She denounces racial prejudice while portraying motherly emotions and the fearful separation of Eliza from her beloved child. “But stronger than all was maternal love”, the author stressed while portraying Eliza’s sentiments and traits (Stowe 3). Stowe first and foremost portrays Eliza as a mother, a heroine, and then as an enslaved Black person. Eliza’s maternal instincts are just as powerful and holy as those of any white woman, and the author makes her readers empathize with the heroine by demonstrating this. Driven by her motherly instincts, Eliza decides to flee her mistress and her enslaver to keep her family intact. She even sends her mistress a parting letter in which she promises to “going to try to save her boy” (Stowe 47). Her escape was rather a selfless act of parental love that all mothers, whether black or white, can identify with than a rebellion toward the unjust system.
Mrs. Bird is yet another of the most enduring and powerful mothers that readers encounter. She is described as having an “unusually gentle and sympathetic side” and that her “husband and kids were her entire world” (Stowe 92). Nevertheless, Mrs. Bird is a staunch supporter of black women, which is revealed when she tries to persuade her husband to provide Eliza with a safe haven. Stowe presents her readers with a prominent lady who has the intention to change things and uses her own power to influence her husband, being a role model for many white mothers. Mrs. Bird likewise attempts to convince her husband and, subsequently, Stowe’s readers to ask himself, on a personal level, whether it is “right and Christian” for him to do something like send away a helpless mother (Stowe 93). Mrs. Bird took a shift and urged Eliza not to worry before even getting Senator Bird’s permission, showing how motherly love unifies women regardless of race or class. Throughout the novel, Stowe heavily references Christianity and the idea of being a good mother, which is perhaps the only sort she thinks is capable of ending oppression.
At first sight, Stowe’s presentation of maternal ideals might seem conventional. Every page of the novel extols the mother’s qualities, a renowned character whose mild influence over family life in the 19th century was thought to remedy the atrocities against humanity created in the patriarchial domain. However, in order to examine the connections to racial segregation and slavery, Uncle Tom’s Cabin explicitly makes use of motherhood and maternalism. Through a foundation of female characters serving as mother figures, such as Eliza and Mrs. Bird, the story encourages women to show empathy for their fellow mothers, putting any racial prejudice aside.
Rudisel, Christine, and Robert Blaisdell. “Eliza Harris.” Slave Narratives of the Underground Railroad. Dover Publications, 2014, 95-97.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin: or Life Among the Lowly. Dover Publications, (1852) 2005.