Treatise Interiors

Of Catharine Beecher's many concerns when writing her Treatise on Domestic Economy, the health of the American woman was paramount. In addressing the question of how interiors should look, she did not ignore the more important problem of how the inhabitants felt. Because the well-being of the entire family rested on the shoulders of the mother, maintaining her health was essential. As a result, much of the Treatise is devoted to matters of health. Chapters "On the Care of Health," "On Healthful Food," "On Healthful Drinks" are followed by "On Cleanliness," "On Health of Mind," etc. In Catharine Beecher, A Study In American Domesticity, Kathryn Kish Sklar notes that the Treatise was, "a badly needed modern compendium of the domestic arts relating to health, diet, hygiene, and general well-being," and that it, "provided a solid basis for understanding how the body functioned and how to keep it functioning well." [Sklar, 154.]

Not until later chapters did Beecher turn to the physical domestic space. In all recommendations she adhered to the five points set out at the beginning of Chapter XXIV, "On the Construction of Houses": economy of labor, economy of money, economy of health, economy of comfort, and good taste.

Keeping with this spirit of economy, to the left is the simplest of the plans offered in the Treatise. Although a modest cottage, the individual rooms incorporated into the design are universal, as is the general message of frugality running through Beecher's text. For a tour of this dwelling as presented by Catharine Beecher, click here.













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