Henry Ward Beecher (June 24, 1813 – March 8, 1887) was a prominent Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, abolitionist, and speaker in the mid to late 19th century. An 1875 adultery trial in which he was accused of having an affair with a married woman was one of the most notorious American trials of the 19th century. In 2007, The Most Famous Man in America: A Biography of Henry Ward Beecher by Debby Applegate won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.
Born in Litchfield, Connecticut, he was the son of Lyman Beecher, a Presbyterian preacher from Boston, and Roxana Foote. Roxana died when Henry was three. Henry was the eighth of 9 children, some of whom were famous in their own right, including: Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin; noted educators Catharine Beecher and Reverend Thomas K. Beecher; and the noted activists Charles Beecher and Isabella Beecher Hooker. In addition, Henry was the uncle of Edgar Beecher Bronson.
The Beecher household was exemplary of the orthodox ministry that Lyman Beecher preached. His family not only prayed at the beginning and end of each day but also sang hymns and prepared for other rigorous church obligations. The family members were expected to participate in prayer meetings, attend lectures and other church functions. "Undue frivolity was discouraged, so they did not celebrate Christmas or birthdays. Dancing, theater, and all but the most high-toned fiction were forbidden."