Social Change: Women Writers

In the mid-late 1800s, Harper & Brothers reprinted several milestone titles in the history of British feminist literature as well as the global canon, such as Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847), Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), and Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), as well as George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1872). The firm was among the first to champion American female authors as well, publishing Catharine M. Sedgwick’s The Linwoods (1835) and eight of her subsequent titles.

Harper & Brothers also published ten books and many articles by Catharine Beecher, famous for her advocacy of education for women in books like The Duty of American Women to Their Country (1845). Better known today are the works of Catharine’s younger sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe. The firm published Stowe’s The Mayflower (1843), a series of “Sketches of Scenes and Characters among the Descendants of the Pilgrims,” one of them named Uncle Tim. Stowe was also famous for her work Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852, published by John P. Jewett and Co.), which galvanized public opinion against the institution of slavery, both in America and abroad.

From these beginnings, HarperCollins went on to develop a strong list of women writers, which grew to include Zora Neale Hurston, Harper Lee, Agatha Christie, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Sylvia Plath, Pearl Buck, Doris Lessing, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and many others.