The American Woman's Home

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Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, 2002 - Family & Relationships - 388 pages
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The American Woman's Home, originally published in 1869, was one of the late nineteenth century's most important handbooks of domestic advice. The result of a collaboration by two of the era's most important writers, this book represents their attempt to direct women's acquisition and use of a dizzying variety of new household consumer goods available in the post-Civil War economic boom. It updates Catharine Beecher's influential Treatise on Domestic Economy (1841) and incorporates domestic writings by Harriet Beecher Stowe first published in The Atlantic in the 1860s. Today, the book can be likened to an anthology of household hints, with articles on cooking, decorating, housekeeping, child-rearing, hygiene, gardening, etiquette, and home amusements. The American Woman's Home, almost a bible on domestic topics for Victorian women, illuminates women's roles a century and a half ago and can be used for comparison with modern theories on the role of women in the home and in society. Illustrated with the original engravings, this completely new edition offers a lively introduction by Nicole Tonkovich and notes linking the text to important historical, social, and cultural events of the late nineteenth century. Nicole Tonkovich is associate professor of Literature at the University of California, San Diego and the author of Domesticity with a Difference: The Nonfiction of Sarah Josepha Hale, Catharine Beecher, Fanny Fern, and Margaret Fuller. "A valuable book made conveniently available." -Choice

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Review: The American Woman's Home

User Review  - Donnagarnet - Goodreads

I love reading old cookbooks & "house wife manuals". This is by sisters Catherine Beecher & Harriet Beecher Stowe. It's fascinating to learn how things have changed: for example, the Beecher sisters ... Read full review

Review: The American Woman's Home

User Review  - Goodreads

I love reading old cookbooks & "house wife manuals". This is by sisters Catherine Beecher & Harriet Beecher Stowe. It's fascinating to learn how things have changed: for example, the Beecher sisters ... Read full review

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About the author (2002)

Catharine Esther Beecher was one of the most influential social reformers of her time, and she practically invented the science of home economics. Beecher did not support women's suffrage, believing that a woman's domain was home and duty to family and that through this work, as opposed to active political involvement, women could influence society with feminine values. She actively promoted education, specifically for women, as well as home economics for housewives. Beecher was a prolific writer and among other works wrote "Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt-Book", and with her sister Harriet Beecher Stowe, "The American Woman's Home". Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist and author, a national celebrity in her day. Her novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin "depicted life under slavery for African Americans, using the powerful symbols of home and kitchen to expose the immorality of slavery. The novel reached millions as a novel and play, influencing the abolitionist cause in America and Britain and energizing anti-slavery forces in the American North while provoking widespread anger in the South. She wrote more than 20 books, including novels, three travel memoirs, and collections of articles and letters. Although Stowe agreed with her sister on the role of education for women and the worth and dignity of women's labor, she disagreed with Catharine on the extent to which women should engage in politics, and she approved of women's suffrage.

Harriet Beecher was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, one of nine children of the distinguished Congregational minister and stern Calvinist, Lyman Beecher. Of her six brothers, five became ministers, one of whom, Henry Ward Beecher, was considered the finest pulpit orator of his day. In 1832 Harriet Beecher went with her family to Cincinnati, Ohio. There she taught in her sister's school and began publishing sketches and stories. In 1836 she married the Reverend Calvin E. Stowe, one of her father's assistants at the Lane Theological Seminary and a strong antislavery advocate. They lived in Cincinnati for 18 years, and six of her children were born there. The Stowes moved to Brunswick, Maine, in 1850, when Calvin Stowe became a professor at Bowdoin College. Long active in abolition causes and knowledgeable about the atrocities of slavery both from her reading and her years in Cincinnati, with its close proximity to the South, Stowe was finally impelled to take action with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. By her own account, the idea of Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) first came to her in a vision while she was sitting in church. Returning home, she sat down and wrote out the scene describing the death of Uncle Tom and was so inspired that she continued to write on scraps of grocer's brown paper after her own supply of writing paper gave out. She then wrote the book's earlier chapters. Serialized first in the National Era (1851--52), an important abolitionist journal with national circulation, Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in book form in March 1852. It was an immediate international bestseller; 10,000 copies were sold in less than a week, 300,000 within a year, and 3 million before the start of the Civil War. Family legend tells of President Abraham Lincoln (see Vol. 3) saying to Stowe when he met her in 1862: "So this is the little lady who made this big war?" Whether he did say it or not, we will never know, since Stowe left no written record of her interview with the president. But he would have been justified in saying it. Certainly, no other single book, apart from the Bible, has ever had any greater social impact on the United States, and for many years its enormous historical interest prevented many from seeing the book's genuine, if not always consistent, literary merit. The fame of the novel has also unfortunately overshadowed the fiction that Stowe wrote about her native New England: The Minister's Wooing (1859), Oldtown Folks (1869), Poganuc People (1878), and The Pearl of Orr's Island (1862), the novel that, according to Sarah Orne Jewett, began the local-color movement in New England. Here Stowe was writing about the world and its people closest and dearest to her, recording their customs, their legends, and their speech. As she said of one of these novels, "It is more to me than a story. It is my resume of the whole spirit and body of New England.

Tonkovich is Associate Professor of Literature at the University of California, San Diego.

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