Beecher, Catherine

Beecher, Catherine (Esther)

(1800–78) educator, author; born in East Hampton, N.Y. (daughter of Lyman Beecher, sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe). The eldest of eight surviving children, she was educated at home and in private school. In 1821 she began teaching and went through a religious crisis brought on by her father's attempt to force his Calvinist views on her. After her fiance's death in 1823, she founded the Hartford Female Seminary, launching a life-long campaign as lecturer, author, and advocate for women's education. She left her Hartford school in 1831 and later founded similar schools for young women in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Milwaukee, Wis.; to promote female education in the West she founded the American Women's Education Association in 1852. Her goal was to rescue women who wasted their lives in frivolous "feminine" pursuits as well as those exploited as factory hands, but her ideal woman was one who presided over an intelligent, cultured, well-managed household. Among her many published works was Treatise of Domestic Economy (1841), and in 1869 she and her sister Harriet Beecher Stowe collaborated on a new edition, retitled The American Woman's Home, which became an immensely influential guide for generations of American housewives. Although she was in the forefront on many social issues of her day, she did not believe that women should be involved in political affairs and she opposed woman suffrage.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.