Catharine Esther Beecher

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Catharine Esther Beecher

Birthplace: Guilford, New Haven, Connecticut, United States
Death: May 12, 1878 (77)
Elmira, Chemung, New York, United States (apoplexy)
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Rev. Lyman Beecher and Roxana Ward Beecher
Sister of William Henry Beecher; Edward Beecher; Mary Foote Perkins; George Beecher; Harriet Beecher Stowe and 2 others
Half sister of Frederick Porter Beecher; Isabella Beecher Hooker; Rev. (USA), Thomas Kinnicut Beecher; Brevet Brig. Gen. (USA), James Chaplin Beecher; Frederick William Beecher and 1 other

Occupation: Teacher, Author
Managed by: Ivy Jo Smith
Last Updated:

About Catharine Esther Beecher

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Catharine Esther Beecher was an American educator known for her forthright opinions on women’s education as well as her vehement support of the many benefits of the incorporation of kindergarten into children's education.

Early life and education

Beecher was born in East Hampton, New York, the daughter of outspoken religious leader Lyman Beecher. She was the sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the 19th century abolitionist and writer most famous for her groundbreaking novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, and of clergymen Henry Ward Beecher and Charles Beecher.

Beecher was educated at home until she was ten years old, when she was sent to a private school where she was taught the limited curriculum available to young women. The experience left her longing for additional opportunities for education. She taught herself subjects not commonly offered to women.


• Beecher was born September 6, 1800 to a wealthy and predominate family in East Hampton, New York to Lyman and Roxanna (Foote) Beecher

• She took over the domestic duties of her household at the age of 16 following her mothers death

• Became a Teacher in 1821 at a school in New Haven, Connecticut

• 1823 her fiancée Alexander M. Fisher was lost at sea


• Though she was born to a wealthy and socially affluent family her education started rather late and was almost entirely self taught.

• Educated at home till the age of 10

• Private school Litchfield, Connecticut

• Taught only the limited curriculum approved for women

• Self Taught subjects that were not available to her

• Math, Latin, Philosophy

Midlife in the West

• She moved to the Midwest in 1831 with her father to campaign for more schools and teachers in the frontier

• Returned East in 1837

Late Life

• 1837 Beecher retired from administrative work

• After returning East she started The Ladies Society for Promoting Education in the West

• 1847 Co-Founded the Board of National Popular Education with William Slade

• 1852 she founded the American Women’s Educational Association

• Their goal was to recruit and train teacher for frontier schools

• Send women into the West to civilize the young

• Became a model for future schools developed in the West

Quote: “Woman’s great mission is to train immature, weak, and ignorant creatures to obey the laws of God; the physical, the intellectual, the social, and the moral”

• In 1878 she died from Apoplexy

Views on and advocacy of education

To provide such educational opportunities for others, in 1823 Beecher opened the Hartford Female Seminary, where she taught until 1831. The private girls school in Hartford, Connecticut, had many well-known alumni, including Catharine’s sister Harriet. Later, Catharine was engaged to marry Professor Alexander Fisher of Yale University, but he died before the wedding was to take place. In 1841 Beecher published, “A Treatise on Domestic Economy for the Use of Young Ladies at Home and at School”, a book which discussed the underestimated importance of women’s roles in society. The book was edited and re-released the following year in its final form. Catherine Beecher was a strong advocate of the inclusion of Physical Education daily and developed a program of calisthenics performed to music.

In 1831, Catharine Beecher suggested teachers read aloud to students the passages from writers with elegant styles, “to accustom the ear to the measurement of the sentences and the peculiar turns of expression” (Wright & Halloran, 2001, p. 215). She went on to have the students imitate the piece read using words, style, and turns of expression in order to develop, “a ready command of the language and easy modes of expression” (Wright & Halloran, 2001, p. 215). In 1846, Beecher pronounced that women not men should educate children and established schools for training teachers in western cities. She advocated that young ladies find godly work as Christian teachers away from the larger Eastern cities. The Board Of National Popular Education which was her idea trained teachers in four-week sessions in Connecticut and then sent them out West. She believed that women had a higher calling to shape children and society.

Views on Education • Beecher recognized public schools responsibility to teach moral, physical, and intellectual development of children. • Promoted the expansion and development of teacher training programs deducting that teaching was more important to society than lawyers or doctors. • Beecher was a strong advocate of the inclusion of Physical Education daily and developed a program of calisthenics performed to music.

Women as Educators • Beecher believed that women have inherent qualities that make them the preferred sex as teachers. • As men left teaching to pursue business and industry she saw the untapped potential of educated women and encouraged education of women to fill the increasing need for teachers. • Women are natural teachers; teaching is an extension of their domestic role. • Pushed and transformed teaching into women’s work versus a profession that women could thrive in.

Influential changes over time

In 1862, John Brinsley recommended students analyze and imitate classical Greek and Latin models while Beecher recommended English writers (Wright & Halloran, 2001). They both believed that frequent practice and the study of important authors helped students acquire writing skills. Perhaps these ideas provided the groundwork for Katie Wood Ray’s encouragement to include lots of time for lots of talk about topics of interest and to read anchor texts so that students can learn to write like a writer (Ray, 2006).

Beecher founded The American Woman’s Educational Association in 1852, an organization focused on furthering educational opportunities for women. She also founded the Western Female Institute in Cincinnati (along with her father Lyman) and The Ladies Society for Promoting Education in the West. She was also instrumental in the establishment of women’s colleges in Burlington, Iowa; Quincy, Illinois; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Beecher strongly supported allowing children to simply be children and not prematurely forcing adulthood onto them. She believed that children lacked the experience needed to make important life decisions and that in order for them to become healthy self-sufficient adults, they needed to be allowed to express themselves freely in an environment suited to children. It was these beliefs that led to her support of the system of kindergartens.

View on Women

She believed that women should be educated so that they can be better mothers and teachers • Feminity allowed women to understand and carry out the responsibilities of motherhood and education • Domestic Laborers o Wrote books on domestic virtues • She believed that women did not have to be married with children to fulfill their female/domestic duties, but that an unmarried women could teach and thus share their feminine virtues with the world. This would also prepare single women in the hopes they choose motherhood. • Women are intellectually capable • Anti-Suffragist o Women could best influence society as mothers and teacher o Did not want women to be corrupted by the evils of politics • Contradiction because she advocated women as teachers and mothers but lived a life where she rarely taught and never married

Accomplishments Schools • 1823 Co-Founded Hartford Female Seminary o School to train women to be mothers and teachers o Began with one room and 7 students and grew to almost 100 students with 10 rooms and 8 teachers in 3 years o Small class sizes o Used advanced students to teach others o Connected all classes to general principles o Motivated students to go beyond the text/instruction • 1832 Western Female Institute • 1852 American Women’s Educational Association founded colleges in Burlington, Iowa, Quincy, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin Published Works • 1829 Suggestions Respecting Improvements in Education • 1837 An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism with reference to the Duty of American Females • 1839 The Moral Instructor for Schools and Families: Containing Lessons on the Duties of life • 1841 A Treatise on Domestic Economy for the Use of Young Ladies at Home and at School • 1845 The Duty of American Women to Their Country • 1846 Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book • 1846 The Evils Suffered by American Women and Children: the Causes and Remedy • 1856 Physiology and Calisthenics for Schools and Families • 1871 Woman Suffrage and Woman’s Profession • 1874 Educational reminiscences and suggestions.

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Catharine Esther Beecher's Timeline

September 6, 1800
Guilford, New Haven, Connecticut, United States
May 12, 1878
Age 77
Elmira, Chemung, New York, United States