James Holly vs. Harriet Beecher Stowe

Here's a match-up that may have you scratching your hair shirt. James Theodore Holly, pioneering African-American bishop and missionary versus Harriet Beecher Stowe, author and abolitionist. Two 19th century figures who had a major impact upon race relations in the United States and abroad.

Yesterday F.D. Maurice defeated David of Wales in a day that saw a brief technical glitch in the initial daily e-mail sent out to subscribers. "Yes, Virginia, there are Lent Madness gremlins."

What's that? You say you don't receive these fantabulous e-mails insuring that you never miss a vote? Go to the home page and look on the right side just under the Voting 101 video -- enter your e-mail address and voila! You'll receive every match-up in your inbox at 8:00 am Eastern Standard Time.

Finally, as we enter into another exciting and occasionally heart-wrenching day of voting, remember that what we say about confessing our sins to a priest in the Episcopal Church also applies to engaging in Lent Madness: "All may, none must, some should."

Holly__James_TheodoreJames Theodore Holly

James Theodore Holly was the first bishop of the Episcopal Church in Haiti and the first African-American bishop in the Episcopal Church. He was born in 1829 to freed blacks in Washington, D.C. Holly was self-educated and taught himself Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and Creole over the course of his life.

As a young adult, Holly devoted his time to the cause of abolitionism and greater inclusion of African Americans in the Episcopal Church. He also worked alongside Frederick Douglass and Lewis Tappan and served as an editorial assistant for The Voice of the Fugitive, an abolitionist newspaper in Canada. Although he was baptized and remained Catholic through his young adult years, in 1852—a year after he married his wife Charlotte—Holly was received into the Episcopal Church. Three years later, he was ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and in 1856, a priest.

Holly founded the Episcopal Society for Promoting the Extension of the Church Among Colored People, a forerunner of the Union of Black Episcopalians. While a member, he passionately advocated for the Episcopal Church to make a public statement in opposition to slavery.

Emboldened by his belief that people of color could experience unique opportunities and freedom outside of the United States, Holly, his family, and a small group of emigrants left the United States for Haiti in 1861. During their first year on the island, many of the emigrants died, including Holly’s mother, his wife, and two children. Nevertheless, Holly went on to found Trinity Episcopal Church as well as a host of schools and health clinics. He was ordained the first missionary Bishop of Haiti in 1874.

Holly’s leadership and vision helped create a more culturally inclusive church in a period of great racial upheaval. Along with Holly’s dogged determination of a life of equality for all, his ministry expanded the geographical and cultural parameters of the Episcopal Church and served as a voice for the voiceless. At the time of his death in 1911, the Episcopal Church in Haiti had more than 2,000 members, fifteen parish churches, and fifteen ordained clergy. And today, the Episcopal Church in Haiti, with nearly 90,000 members, is the largest diocese in The Episcopal Church.

Collect for James Theodore Holly
Most gracious God, by the calling of your servant James Theodore Holly you gave us our first bishop of African American heritage. In his quest for life and freedom, he led your people from bondage into a new land and established the Church in Haiti. Grant that, inspired by his testimony, we may overcome our prejudice and honor those whom you call from every family, language, people, and nation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Maria Kane

harriet bcHarriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe put pen to paper and changed the world. She actually wrote more than twenty books in her lifetime but is best remembered for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which brought home the moral evil of slavery in graphically emotional terms.

Born June 14, 1811, Stowe was raised in a progressive and very devout household. She enrolled in a school run by her older sister and received an education in the classics, unusual for a girl at the time. At twenty-one, she moved to Cincinnati, Ohio (now known primarily as the headquarters city of Forward Movement, sponsors of Lent Madness) to join her father, who had moved there to serve as president of Lane Theological Seminary. There, she met Calvin Ellis Stowe, a professor at the seminary and fellow abolitionist. They got married in 1836 and had seven children. Their home became a stop on the Underground Railroad and Harriet continued with her writing and work as an abolitionist.

Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a response to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This law stated that if any former slave was captured in the North, they had to be forcibly returned South and returned to their owner, or sold.

By this time, Stowe and her family had moved to Maine, where her husband was teaching theology at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Stowe would gather students and faculty to read over the chapters as she completed them. The book was published in June of 1851, when Stowe was forty-one years old. In a letter to an English Lord Chief Justice, “I wrote what I did because as a woman, as a mother, I was oppressed and broken-hearted with the sorrows and injustice I saw, because as a Christian I felt the dishonor to Christianity.” Initially, the novel came out in installments in the newspaper The National Era. She was paid only $400—considered a small payment, even for that time. When Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in novel form, the book sold a staggering 300,000 copies in less than a year.

The book not only articulated slavery as intellectually wrong but also as emotionally wrong, with the effects of slavery played out in the tragic lives of its characters. And the book sparked outrage over slavery like nothing else had to that point. In 1862, Stowe went to the White House to meet with President Lincoln. Her son reported that Lincoln greeted her with “So you’re the little lady who wrote the big book that started this war.”

Stowe kept writing through the rest of her life, though nothing ever matched the success of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. And she kept fighting injustice. In her family’s summer home of Mandarin, Florida, she founded several integrated schools and promoted the ideal of equal education.

She died in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1896.

Collect for Harriet Beecher Stowe
Gracious God, we thank you for the witness of Harriett Beecher Stowe, whose fiction inspired thousands with compassion for the shame and sufferings of enslaved peoples, and who enriched her writings with the cadences of The Book of Common Prayer. Help us, like her, to strive for your justice, that our eyes may see the glory of your Son, Jesus Christ, when he comes to reign with you and the Holy Spirit in reconciliation and peace, one God, now and always. Amen.

-- Megan Castellan


James Holly vs. Harriet Beecher Stowe

  • Harriet Beecher Stowe (51%, 2,899 Votes)
  • James Holly (49%, 2,733 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,630

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213 comments on “James Holly vs. Harriet Beecher Stowe”

    1. I cast my one vote for Holly in the hopes that this will give him some of the notoriety that Harriet Beecher Stowe already enjoys.

      1. I agree with Bonnie - this is a toughie, but I'm a sucker for the lesser known and the under-represented. Besides, "Bishop of Haiti" has a saintly ring to it in any era, let alone being the first one during the mid 1800's. That gets a big "wow" from me.

    2. Just read a HBS quote that I thought I'd pass on to make voting even more difficult.....
      Re: Uncle Tom's Cabin
      "I didn't write it. God wrote it. I merely did the dictation."

      1. If I hadn't already vote for Harriet, that quote would have been the clincher. Thank you for sharing this.

  1. Would James Holly have been better off leaving his wife, mother and children in a house of virgins?

    That said, he got my vote because he does seem like someone who has had a great impact on our church, Hollys gotta stick together and I had to read Uncle Tom's Cabin in college.

    1. LOL! Normally I would not support putting women in virgin houses, but it might not have been a bad thing in this case. 🙂

      1. I think a House of Virgins would be a wonderful place if we used the definition of virgin that says a virgin a woman complete unto herself, having nothing to do with whether she has been sexually active.

    2. I agree. HBS was a wonderful figure, but Holly was more of the church in a "strange land."

  2. What are the LM rules for a regulation-contest tie? Some kind of sudden-halo overtime?

    1. Great question. Perhaps the SEC might provide us with a link to the official LM rules and regulations. This would be the guidebook from which the "One Christian, One Vote" policy we are reminded of daily, is explained in great detail. Oh, mercy, the Official LM (2014, Tim/Scott) may be available in the Lentorium!

      Love all you crazed Episcopalians and HUGE thank you to Tim & Scott for hosting the event!

  3. A truly wrenching decision, but inspired by Bishop Michael Curry's Crazy Christian Sermon from Convention, I'll go out a limb and vote for Harriet. Glory, glory!

  4. This is indeed a toughie, but my vote goes to a guy who can teach himself Greek and Hebrew!

  5. A vote for James Holly. As a continuing education junkie myself, I admire his life of self education.

  6. Both very worthy candidates, but I voted for Holly because of his stronger relationship to the church. It gives him the slight edge over a woman who was most certainly doing God's work.

  7. Really SEC? Are you kidding? How these two could end up against each other in the first round is beyond me. Both are worthy candidates, but my vote goes to Holly because of his ties to the church and his work to expand it to those in need.

  8. Yikes! I'm not sure my heart will withstand Lent Madness if this keeps up. Terribly torn, but Holly, because Haiti is our companion diocese.

    1. I agree with your choice. I also voted for Holly as he made great sacrifices to bring faith and hope to the people of Haiti. He had such strength in the face of sorrow and loss. Both were great people but my vote went to Holly.

    2. Our companion church and school, St. Paul's is in Haiti. My vote will go to HSB as she is decidedly the underdog today, but I am very grateful for Holly and will remember him as the founder of the Episcopal Church in Haiti and directly responsible for St. Paul's.

  9. I think both of these people deserve my vote. I went with Harriet because she touched more people, but think that's not the way to measure Christian witness.

  10. Such a hard choice! Maybe the hardest one I've faced thus far this year. But I'm going to have to go with the author - to honor my daughter who writes, and who helps me to see the world in new ways.

    1. I have a sneaking suspicion Susan B is my mother. If so, sorry Mom, but I voted for Bishop Holly. But it was indeed a very hard choice!

  11. After reading Uncle Tom's Cabin for the first time this past summer, I have to vote for Harriet. She's a woman of strong faith who changed the world.

  12. The obvious choice, Holly, gets my great admiration, but the 'underdog'
    Harriette Beecher Stowe wins my vote. What a woman! (Courageous enough to change the world from a grass-roots perspective -- as a woman in the 19th century yet!)

  13. I served as a missionary in Haiti, and witnessed first-hand Bishop Holly's amazing spirit and grit in a very hard place. His legacy is a church that is considered the people's church in Haiti, where there are more than 200 parishes, congregations, missions and preaching stations, along with more than 200 schools (often providing the poor with their only access to education), the best college predatory school, a university, dozens of medical clinics, a hospital, and a living faith that is incredible. The Diocese of Haiti brings hope in a land where there often is no hope, and is strong because it focuses on the people at all times. It is a living Gospel that is beyond inspirational. Bishop Holly sacrificed so much, in a country that today remains the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, in order to preach the Gospel through word AND deed. And yet he remains an unsung and barely known hero of the Church. Today is our chance to remedy that - And so I vote for him in gratitude for a life well-lived in service to our Lord..

  14. I am voting for Bishop James Holly because of two little boys who slept on my couch one night. They were members of Les Petites Chanteurs from L'Echole de Musique Ste. Trinite. They were far from home, on tour to raise money to rebuild their school and cathedral. They were tangible proof that "the Living God" is known in the Episcopal Church in Haiti. I am grateful to Bishop Holly for giving me the chance to know these boys.

  15. Though I love Holly's story and am an advocate of continued education and missionary work which he did so much for, I have to go with Harriet. She did yes, a "little thing" in writing Uncle Tom's Cabin, but that little thing was revolutionary and caused many people to open their eyes, even Lincoln saw it. To be a woman, with an education, who along with her family helped slaves on the underground railroad and in print. That saved people and probably put her family in danger many a time but for the right cause. I have to give my heart to a woman who risked everything for the right cause.

  16. This is a tough choice. But, as someone who spends several weeks each year working in an Episcopal Church compound in Haiti, my vote must go to Bishop Holly. Mesi anpil, Pere Holly, for your work to establish the Episcopal Church among the rich, vibrant culture which is Haiti.

  17. Today it is almost wicked to have to vote. I am so impressed by Holly and have known very little about him before today. Thank you for educating us about this awesome man who was self educated. I have always been in awe of Harriet Beecher Stowe but today I must give Holly a vote.

  18. Two worthy opponents doing God's work for sure, but on a purely human level, one gave birth to 7 children! Harriet got my vote.

  19. An incredibly tough choice, but I'm glad someone early on raised the issue of the hypothetical house of virgins! I think one of our dear biographers cheated Holly a little by glossing over the loss of his family in his zeal for missionary work. Let's find out what happened and what he had to say about losing his family as he established the Episcopal Church in Haiti!

    1. Quote from Bishop Holly: He comforted me with a sense of His goodness; lifted up the light of His countenance upon me; and gave me peace by bringing to my spiritual apprehension that, as the last surviving apostle of Jesus was "in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ," on the forlorn isle of Patmos, so, by His Divine Providence, He had brought this tribulation upon me for a similar end in this isle in the Caribbean Sea.

  20. Ow. I thought that this one would be a no brainer, but bishop holly has a lot to recommend him! In the final analysis however, being the bluestocking that I am, my vote goes to harriet

  21. Another tough one between two worthy candidates. This year's pairings are already excruciating.

  22. Had to vote for Holly because of the struggle for equality within the very institution that should have known better. We know that outside the church there is work to be done but I think it is hard to keep faith when the very body of Christ on earth is blind and yet he did keep faith and we grow because of it.

      1. Perpetua, your story is exactly why I'm voting for Harriet. Her book changed hearts and minds and lives, across this country and around the world, and helped end the sin of slavery in this country and fire the passion for equality. She and Bishop Holly were powerful allies. The Bishop's work is no less remarkable. He brought comfort to so many even amid deep personal loss, and left a wonderful legacy of learning and light.

    1. Every major Protestant domination in the U.S. suffered a split during the Civil War. And both sides used scripture to justify their views. While many of the splinter groups have reconciled, there are still vestiges of those splits today! What makes anyone think that the church is immune from this kind of thing?

  23. The "Vote" button still doesn't work in the email that is sent out...I have to always (still!) click on the "Comment" button in order to get to a page where I can vote...this didn't happen last Lent!!

    1. I'm having the same problem with the "Vote" button and having to click on the "Comment" button.
      That said, this was a tough choice.

    2. I have that problem, too, but if you go to the very bottom of the page, there is a box that says "Having Trouble Clicking?" If you click on that link, another page appears. It looks like the original one, but it has buttons that let you vote.

    3. You can't vote directly from the email; you need to click on the title to go to the web site.

    4. This is my third year. The "Vote" thing is not a button. So it doesn't work for voting - you have to use either "Comment" or "See all Comments" to get to the Lent Madness website to vote.

  24. Last night I watched "12 years a slave" an agony to watch but good to force us to remember and never forget what slavery was like. That said this match up is agony too. I want to choose them both but since I attend Trinity Episcopal Church in Oshkosh I have to vote for Bishop Holly. But Ms Stowe certainly deserves recognition as well.

  25. I voted for Harriet because I read Uncle Tom's Cabin as a child in northern England and it changed the way I look at the world. Equality became a passion for me from that point on.

  26. As a current resident of West Virginia, after hearing about Ms. Stowe's utter disdain for the poor people of Appalachia (whom she called "poor white trash"), I wouldn't vote for her on a bet. However, I'm very thankful that Bishop Holly is such a worthy recipient of my vote!

      1. I grew up in a very poor part of Appalachia, in north Georgia. When I read your comment, Julie Murdoch, my hackles rose. But thank you, Gretchen, for those links. She puts the term in quotes, as it was commonly used at the time. She writes with compassion for these poor. So said hackles have returned to normal (what are hackles??), and I feel better about Harriet. Which means I'm still wrestling with this one!!