Catharine Beecher

United States educator

Catharine Esther Beecher September 6, 1800 – May 12, 1878) was an American educator known for her forthright opinions on female education as well as her vehement support of the many benefits of the incorporation of kindergarten into children's education. She published the advice manual The American Woman's Home with her sister Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1869. Some sources spell her first name as "Catherine".


  • Permit me first to present some facts in regard to the situation of an immense number of young children in this land, for whom your sympathies at this time are sought. Few are aware of the deplorable destitution of our country in regard to the education of the rising generation, or of the long train of wrongs and sufferings endured by multitudes of young children from this neglect.
  • two millions of American children are left without any teachers at all, while, of those who go to school, a large portion of the youngest and tenders are turned over to coast, hard, unfeeling men, too lazy or too stupid to follow the appropriate duties of their sex.
  • while every intelligent man in the Union is reading and saying every day of his life that unless our children are trained to intelligence and virtue, the nation is ruined; yet there is nothing else for which so little interest is felt, or so little done
  • our two millions of little children, who are growing up in heathenish darkness, enchained in ignorance, and in many cases, where the cold law provides for them, enduring distress of body and mind greater than is inflicted on criminals, whee is the benevolent association for their relief? Where is there a periodical sported by the charitable, to tell the tale of their wrongs! Where is there a single man sustained by Christian benevolent to operate in their behalf? Instead of spending time and money and employing agents to save the children of our country from ignorance and sin, the whole benevolent energies of the Christian world are engaged to remedy the evils that spring from this neglect. Children are left to the full influence of ignorance and neglect till moral health and strength are ruined, and then the cure is sought in temperance lectures, Bibles, tracts, colporteurs, and home missions. If all the labor and money spent for these objects at the West, for the last twenty years, had bene employed in securing, for the generation now on the stage, six hours a day of good moral and intellectual training by well qualified teachers, who will firm that the result would not have been better?
  • the daughters of wealth have there intellectual faculties and their sensibilities developed, while all the household labor, which would equally develop their physical powers, and save from ill-health, is turned off to hired domestics, or a slaving mother. The only remedy for this evil is, securing a proper education for all classes, and making productive labor honorable, by having all classes engage in it.
  • Work of all kinds is got from poor women, at prices that will not keep soul and body together; and then the articles thus made are sold for prices that give monstrous profits to the capitalist, who thus grows rich on the hard labors of our sex
  • there is almost nothing which a man cannot believe, if only he wishes to believe it
  • The educating of children, that is the true and noble profession of a woman — that is what is worthy the noblest peers and affections of the noblest minds.
  • Another cause which deeply affects the best interests of our sex is the contempt, or utter neglect ad indifference, which has befallen this only noble profession open to woman. There is no employment, however disagreeable or however wicked, which custom and fashion cannot render elegant, interesting, and enthusiastically sought. A striking proof of this is seen in the military profession. This is the profession of killing our fellow-creatures, and is attended with everything low, brutal, unchristian, and disgusting; and yet what halos of glory have been hung around it, and how the young, and generous, and enthusiastic have been drawn into it! If one-half the poetry, fiction, oratory, and taste thus misemployed had been used to embellish and elevate the employment of training the mind of childhood, in what an altered position should we find this noblest of professions!
  • It is the high character of my countrywomen, and the great power and influence they thus command, which has been my chief encouragement in laboring in this cause.
  • One single vulgar, or deceitful, or licentious domestic may, in a single month, mar the careful an anxious training of years.
  • It is to be lamented that the principle of national patriotism has had very little nourishment in our country, and, instead, has given place to sectional or state partialities. The South and the North, the East and the West, instead of uniting to cherish common interests and a common amor patriae, have rather been thrown apart by clashing interests and jealousies, while this sacred principle has been drawn around only some small portion of our common country.
  • all must see that the surest, as well as the most peaceful method of bringing to an end all social evils, all wrong, and all injustice, is to train the young children of our nation “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.”

Quotes about Catharine Beecher

  • Emma Willard, Mary Lyon, Catharine Beecher, and the several other women pioneers who established institutions of higher learning for women with curricula equal in content to that offered men, did not plan to challenge gender-defined separate spheres for women and men. They merely wished to upgrade "woman's sphere" and extend her educational and economic opportunities by training large numbers of teachers to furnish the newly established public schools of the nation. In this endeavor they admirably succeeded and the literally thousands of schools founded and staffed by their pupils in the 1840-70s bear testimony to their achievement.
  • Emma Willard, Catharine Esther Beecher and Mary Lyon accomplished similar feats of institution-building and ideological indoctrination to create new careers for women and imbue them with a missionary zeal for promoting the education of their sex. Both women, like their earlier predecessor, firmly proclaimed themselves opposed to woman's rights advocacy, yet they, like Emma Willard, educated a significant cohort of community leaders, many of whom became feminists.
  • The anarchist-feminists' denial of gender-based distinctions precluded their use of many of the arguments for equality utilized by the mainstream feminists during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For example, the followers of Catharine Beecher could demand access to the teaching profession on the grounds that the female nurturing instinct made women biologically better suited than men to educate the young.
    • Margaret S. Marsh, Anarchist Women, 1870-1920 (1981)
  • Kathryn Kish Sklar, in her biography of Catharine Beecher, has referred to an ideology of domesticity" that began to take shape in the 1830s. Middle-class women, without the economic functions that had occupied their grandmothers, began to conceive of their roles in different terms. Economic productivity gave way to emotional productivity. Catharine Beecher and her followers attempted to direct the attention of Americans toward the home, the domain where women predominated. While they insisted on the maintenance of separate spheres for the functions of men and women, they attempted to establish the significance to the larger society of the roles women played within their defined sphere."
    • Margaret S. Marsh, Anarchist Women, 1870-1920 (1981)
  • I had always resented the pains that militant suffragists took to belittle the work that woman had done in the past in the world, picturing her as a meek and prostrate "doormat." They refused, I felt, to pay proper credit to the fine social and economic work that women had done in the building of America. And in 1909, after we took over the American Magazine, I burst out with a series of studies of leading American women from the Revolution to the Civil War, including such stalwarts as Mercy Warren, Abigail Adams, Esther Reed, Mary Lyon, Catharine Beecher, the fighting antislavery leaders-not omitting two for whom I had warm admiration, if I was not in entire agreement with them, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
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