Domesticity with a Difference: The Nonfiction of Catharine Beecher, Sarah J. Hale, Fanny Fern, and Margaret Fuller

By Nicole Tonkovich | Go to book overview

Chapter One
HER FATHER'S BEST BOY
Catharine Beecher and Margaret Fuller

On 30 September 1845, Margaret Fuller reviewed Catharine Beecher "Duty of American Women to Their Country" for the New-York Daily Tribune. In this review, she notes especially that Beecher had proposed a reasonable solution to the problem of how single, orphaned, and widowed women might support themselves economically. According to Fuller, while critics have objected that her own Woman in the Nineteenth Century, published two years earlier, "exhibit[ed] ills without specifying any practical means for their remedy," Beecher's book offered "not only such a principle, but an external method for immediate use" ( Woman in the Nineteenth Century 1855, 226-27). Fuller's generous review suggests that she and Beecher shared domestic concerns. However, their similarities in this regard have, in the intervening 150 years, been obscured as a result of the vagaries of literary history and canonicity. In fact, their interest in the economic plight of single (white, upper-class) women is only one of many issues on which their views coincide. Without a doubt, the similarities of their family backgrounds and education undergirded their adult concerns with women's place in their families, in the schools dedicated to their education, and as educated professionals in their communities.


Catharine Beecher (1800-1878)

When Catharine Beecher was about five years old, Lyman Beecher opened a small school in his home, taught by his wife, Roxana, who was assisted by her sister Mary. The curriculum included courses in "the higher English branches, besides French, drawing, painting, and embroidery"; Lyman

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