her death. Of equal importance were Beecher's contributions to the emerging
debate over the origins and scope of woman's influence on society. Although
her ideas about womanhood became more contested in the post-Civil War era,
especially when cast in the light of the debates over the Fourteenth and Fifteenth
Amendments to the Constitution, Beecher did not relinquish her position without
a fight. Retirement from public life was not something she relished. She wrote
endlessly, traveled, and lectured whenever possible. As support for woman's
suffrage gained ground, she redoubled her critique of the movement. In December 1870 Beecher debated woman's rights activist Mary Livermore at Boston's
Music Hall, and expanded and published her address, Woman's Suffrage and
Woman's Profession, in 1871.
Never having a home to call her own, Beecher moved about in her last years,
from relative to relative. In 1877 she made her last move, retiring to the Elmira, New York, home of her brother Thomas. The generosity of her brother and
sister-in-law, the availability of a nearby water cure establishment, and the presence of Elmira College, where she could lecture to young women, made her
last year tolerable. Two days after suffering a debilitating stroke, Catharine Esther Beecher died in her sleep on 12 May 1878.
Mary Kelly, and
Anne Margolis, The Limits of Sisterhood: The
Beecher Sisters on Women's Rights and Woman's Sphere ( Chapel Hill, N.C., 1988), 13.
Kathryn Kish Sklar, Catharine Beecher, a Study in American Domesticity ( New
York, 1976), 270.
Catharine Beecher, Woman's Suffrage and Woman's Profession ( Hartford, Conn.: 1871), dedication page.
Catharine Beecher, Educational Reminiscences and Suggestions ( New York, 1874), dedication page.
Barbara Miller Solomon, In the Company of Educated Women: A History of
Women in Higher Education in America ( New Haven, 1985), xviii.
Catharine Beecher, "Female Education," American Journal of Education 2
( 1827): 219-222, 264-269. The quote is on 221.
Catharine Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy ( New York, 1841), 222.
Kathryn Kish Sklar, "Catharine Beecher," in
G. J. Barker-Benfield and
, eds., Portraits of American Women: From Settlement to the Present ( New York, 1991), 178.
Joan M. Jensen, "Not Only Ours but Others: The Quaker Teaching Daughters of
the Mid-Atlantic, 1790-1850," History of Education Quarterly 24 ( 1984): 3.
Sklar, Catharine Beecher, 7.
Milton Rugoff, T he Beechers: An American Family in the Nineteenth Century
( New York, 1981), 43.
Sklar, Catharine Beecher, 18.
Boydston Kelly, and
Margolis, The Limits of Sisterhood, 34.