Catharine E. Beecher

In many ways a precursor to today's self-help books, nineteenth-century domestic manuals gave advice on topics ranging from "Proper Hours for Rising and Retiring" to "Economical use of Nutmegs." [Hale 190] Some, like Catharine Beecher's A Treatise on Domestic Economy, for the use of Young Ladies At Home, and At School (1841), are discourses on domestic duties and their value in society; others, like Sarah Josepha Hale's The New Household Receipt-Book (1853), are lists designed for quick reference in times of domestic crisis. Ultimately they are all handbooks for the achievement of an intangible - the Christian home - by very tangible means - clean floors and proper ventilation. The woman of the house, by her own toils and indirectly by her supervision of the servants, determines the moral character of the home.

Although mainly aimed at the perfection of the interior, many domestic manuals of the time also offered advice on the location and construction of the ideal home. In The American Family Encyclopedia of Useful Knowledge published in the U.S. in 1845, T. Webster and Mrs. Parkes devote the entirety of Book I (pages 25 to 84) "On The Domestic Residence" to "Choice of a Situation," "Classes of domestic Buildings," etc. [Webster/Parkes, xv.] Of these none is more comprehensive than the combined works of Catharine E. Beecher -- A Treatise on Domestic Economy and (with Harriet Beecher Stowe) The American Woman's Home.

A Treatise on Domestic Economy
Catharine E. Beecher (1841)

The American Woman's Home
Catharine E. Beecher &
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1869)
The Exterior | The Interior The Exterior | The Interior