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Henry Ward Beecher

Henry Ward Beecher was an influential abolitionist and Congregationalist clergyman who lived an exciting and scandalous life. It’s no surprise he was such an exciting guy considering he attended Amherst College. But life wasn’t always so exciting for Beecher. He was the eighth of thirteen children growing up in a house in Litchfield, CT. His father, Lyman Beecher, was a Presbyterian preacher. His mother died when he was only three years old. Every morning and evening, his family prayed and sang hymns. His father did not believe in “undue frivolity” aka any kind of fun, so they didn’t celebrate Christmas or birthdays, or own toys.

In high school, Beecher headed off to boarding school in Amherst, MA, where he met a boy named Constantine Fondolaik and entered into a relationship with him. He described Constantine as the “most beautiful thing I had ever seen”. The two went to Amherst College together after they graduated from high school. Constantine died young of cholera, but Henry continued to morn him throughout his life, and named one of his sons after him.

Beecher was an advocate of Women’s suffrage and Darwin’s theory of evolution. He was against slavery, and an advocate for allowing Chinese immigrants into the country. He argued that to allow Irish immigrants while excluding Chinese immigrants was an injustice.

Beecher, his wife, and his ten children lived in the fine city of Brooklyn. He was close to many attractive young women, but neglected his poor wife. In 1870, Elizabeth Tilton, the wife of Beecher’s friend Theodore Tilton, confessed to her husband that she had had an affaire with Beecher. A huge scandal followed, in which Tilton sued Beecher. The trial began in January 1872. After six months, the jury was still unable to reach a verdict, and so the trial ended. Two years later, Elizabeth Tilton confessed to the affair again, and what do you know, the church excommunicated her for it! Beecher was not excommunicated, and continued to be a popular national figure. The women of Her Campus Amherst are less then impressed with the way this whole thing went down.

In March 1887, Beecher had a stroke. He died in his sleep two days later. He was buried in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Evelyn is the Editor-in-Chief of the Amherst branch of Her Campus. She was a features intern at Seventeen Magazine during the summer of 2011 and a features intern at Glamour Magazine during the summer of 2013. She is a French and English major in the class of 2014 at Amherst College. She is also on Amherst's varsity squash team. She is an aspiring travel writer/novelist, and loves running, ice cream, and Jane Austen.
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