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Catharine Esther Beecher

Catharine Esther Beecher

Catharine Esther Beecher was born on September 6, 1800 in East Hampton, New York to Roxana Foote and Reverend Lyman Beecher. As one of the eventually fifteen siblings born to Reverend Beecher, Catharine was a prominent member of a family that achieved remarkable influence and success in the spheres of American literature, education, religion, and social justice. Catharine herself achieved success as a vocal advocate for women's education and the necessity of a well-educated, knowledgable woman having power in the domestic sphere. When Catharine was ten, the Beecher family moved to Litchfield, Connecticut, where she attended Sarah Pierce's nationally-recognized academy for girls. Despite Pierce's advocation of the equality of women's intellect, the curriculum was still a fairly conventional one, encompassing geography, grammar, arithmetic, painting, embroidery and the piano. Catharine went on to study math, Latin, and philosophy on her own. Catharine was heavily influenced by her father's evangelical religious views, more by her turning away from them than by her assimilation of them. What she did take from her father's religious ideals was the moral basis of education--that educating oneself was an obligation to God and a necessity for the soul. After the death of her fiancé in a ship wreck, Catharine founded the Hartford Female Seminary, a rigorous academy of higher education for women. It was the first of five schools she was to open during her lifetime. Catharine dedicated herself to her work as an educator, author, and social commentator and never married. In her literary works, Miss Beecher advocated for the expanded power of women within the domestic sphere. She sought to inspire women to take a dominant role in the household as moral leader of the family and master of the domestic realm. In her many works on household management, she advocated that women needed a rigorous education in order to efficiently and effectively manage their homes. Believing that the importance of the role of women in society was grossly underestimated, Beecher advocated that women could influence the more traditionally male-controlled spheres of politics, law, religion and commerce, by imparting to their children and husbands a sound educational and moral foundation. Providing sound, practical advice in a highly readable format, Beecher excelled at helping women take control of their homes and allowing them to find success and satisfaction within the home. With their combination of practical advice, friendly tone, and moral philosophy, Catharine Beecher's works were hugely popular during their time and continue to have an enduring power today. Catharine Beecher died in Emira, New York on May 12, 1878.