Granby Abolitionist's Work Was Published Before 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'

Granby native Emily Clemens Pearson's "Jamie Parker, the Fugitive" appeared months before Harriet Beecher Stowe's seminal anti-slavery work.

Visitors at Lost Acres Farm were told the story of Granby native Emily Clemens Pearson, an early abolitionist writer, on Saturday.

Clemens’ first work Jamie Parker, the Fugitive was published in her name in Hartford in February 1851, according to historian Cathy Saunders, a professor at George Mason University who has researched her life. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, one of the most influential pieces of abolitionist literature, was first seen in a serial form in June 1851.

Clemens grew up at what is now ; a property owned at that time by a branch the locally influential Holcomb family, of which she was a member. The home at the farm, built in 1762, is significantly the same as it was in Clemens’ time. Lost Acres Farm proprietors Ginny and Tom Wutka live there today.

While Clemens was published before Stowe, her work was not as widely recognized. Stowe’s more stable financial and social standing may have been a factor, as were their individual interpretations of how the abolition of slavery should occur. While both women were strong advocates of ending slavery and Saunders said there weren’t many large differences between the two, Pearson was, at the time, viewed as having more radical beliefs. Saunders said Clemens’ views were more egalitarian than Stowe’s.

Clemens’ publication (under the pseudonym of Pocahontas) of Cousin Franck’s Household, which appeared after the first installments of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, may have been seen as derivative of Stowe’s work.

Additionally, Stowe’s talents for telling a story that got readers involved and interested were more pronounced than Clemens’.

“Emily wasn’t as good at developing the main character in a book,” Saunders said, drawing on her study of Clemens’ work.

Ginny Wutka had more than 50 attendees on hand Saturday for her 24th quilt happening, where enthusiasts purchase cloth and quilts, discuss their mutual interests and much more. A major part of recent happenings have been historical talks given at the event, which have focused on issues in Civil War and pre-Civil War America.

While she wasn’t as enduringly popular as Stowe, Clemens was still an influence on the abolitionist movement and attitudes towards slavery. Her work and life are an interesting part of the history of Granby.

Note: The Clemens family name had also been spelled “Clemmons” and “Clemons” in various records, according to Cathy Saunders’ research. This article used the spelling “Clemens” for consistency.


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