Catherine Beecher Treatise on Domestic Economy pt. 10

Catherine Beecher, Lover of Christ, Defender of Home Making and Encourager of Womanhood

Treatise on Domestic Economy

It is impossible for a conscientious woman to secure that peaceful mind, and cheerful enjoyment of life, which all should seek, who is constantly finding her duties jarring with each other, and much remaining undone, which she feels that she ought to do. In consequence of this, there will be a secret uneasiness, which will throw a shadow over the whole current of life, never to be removed, till she so efficiently defines and regulates her duties, that she can fulfill them all.

And here the Writer would urge upon young ladies the importance of forming habits of system, while unembarrassed with multiplied cares which will make the task so much more difficult and hopeless. Every young lady can systematize her pursuits, to a certain extent. She can have a particular day for mending her wardrobe, and for arranging her trunks, closets, and drawers. She can keep her workbasket, her desk at school, and all her conveniences in proper places, and in regular order. She can have regular periods for reading, walking, visiting, study, and domestic pursuits. And by following this method, in youth, she will form a taste for regularity, and habit of system, which will prove a blessing to her through life.


A greater amount of exercise is needed in this country for women. It is found, that owing to the climate and customs of this Nation, there are no women who secure so little of this healthful and protecting regimen. Walking and riding and gardening, in the open air, are practiced by women of other lands, to a far greater extent, than by American females. Most English women, in the wealthier classes, are able to walk six to eight miles on a stretch, with out oppressive fatigue; and when they visit this Country, always express their surprise at the inactive habits of American ladies. In England, the regular daily exercise, in the open air, is very commonly required by the mother, as a part of daily duty, and is sought by young women for enjoyment.


In past ages and in aristocratic countries, leisure and indolence and frivolous pursuits have been deemed lady- like and refined, because those classes, which were most refined, patronized such an impression. But as soon as ladies of refinement, as a general custom, patronize domestic pursuits, then these pursuits will be deemed lady-like. But it may be urged , that it is impossible for a women who cooks, washes and sweeps, to appear in the dress, or acquire the habits and manners, of the lady; that the drudgery of the kitchen is dirty work, and that no one can appear delicate and refined, while engaged in it. Now all this depends on circumstances. If a women has a house, destitute of neat and convenient facilities; if she has no habits of order and system; if she is slack and careless in person and dress;-then all this may be true. But, if a women will make sacrifices of costly ornaments in her parlor, in order to make her kitchen neat and tasteful; if she will sacrifice costly dishes, in order to secure such conveniences for labor as to protect from exposures; if she will take pain to have dresses, in which she works, made of suitable materials, and in good taste; if she will rise early and systematize and oversee the work of family, so as to have it done thoroughly, neatly, and in the early part of the day; she will find no necessity for any such apprehensions.

Every American women, who values the institution of her Country, and wishes to lend her influence in extending and perpetuating such blessings, may feel she is doing this, whenever, by her example and influence, she destroys the aristocratic association, that would render domestic labor degrading.


There is no period, in a young ladies life, when she will not find such knowledge useful to herself, and to others. The state of domestic service, in the country, is so precarious, that there is scarcely a family, in the free States, where it can be affirmed, that either sickness, discontent, or love of change, will not deprive them of all their domestics, so that every female member of the family will be required to lend some aid in providing food and the conveniences of living. Every young lady is the member of some family, which will need her aid in such emergencies, and the better she is qualified to render it, the happier she will be, herself, and the more she will contribute to the enjoyment of others.

A pupil of the Writer, at the end of her schooldays, married, and removed to the West. She was an entire novice in all domestic matters; an entire stranger to which she removed. In a year she became a mother and her health failed; while, for most the time, she had no domestics at all. She was treated with politeness by her neighbors, and wished to return their civilities; but how could this young and delicate creature, who had spent all her life at school, or in visiting and amusements, take care of her infant, attend to her cooking, washing, ironing, and baking, take care of her parlor, chambers, kitchen, and cellar, and yet visit and receive company? If there is any thing that would make a kindly heart ache with sorrow and sympathy, it would be to see so young, so amiable, so helpless a martyr to the mistaken system of female education now prevalent. “I have the kindest of husbands” said the young wife, after her narrative of sufferings, “and I have never regretted my marriage; but since this babe was born, I have never had a single waking hour of freedom from anxiety and care. O! how little young girls know what is before them, when they enter the married life!” Let the mother, whose eye may rest on these lines, ask her self, if there is no cause for fear that the young objects of her care may be thrown into similar emergencies, where they may need a kind of preparation, which as yet has been withheld?


The person who decides what shall be the food and drink of the family, and the modes of preparation, is the one who decides, to a greater or less extent, what shall be the health of the family. In a healthy state of the body, as soon as the blood has lost its nutritive supplies, the call of hunger is felt, and then, if the food is suitable, and is taken in the proper manner, this sensation ceases as soon as the stomach has received enough to supply the wants of the system. But our benevolent Creator, in this, as in other duties has connected enjoyment with this operation needful to sustain our bodies. In addition to the allaying of our hunger, there is gratification of the palate, secured by the immense variety of food, some articles of which are far more agreeable than others.

This arrangement of Providence, designed for our happiness, either through ignorance, or want of self control, has become the chief cause of various diseases and sufferings that afflict those classes which have the means of seeking a variety to gratify the palate. If mankind only had one article of food, and only water to drink, they would never be tempted to to put any more into the stomach, than the calls of hunger required. But the customs of society, which present incessant changes, and great a variety of food, with those various condiments that stimulate appetite, lead almost every person very frequently to eat merely to gratify the palate, after the stomach has been abundantly supplied, so that hunger has ceased.

The health of the family depends, not merely on the quantity of food taken in; but very much, also, on the quality. Some kinds of food are very pernicious in their nature, and some healthful articles are rendered very injurious by the mode of cooking.

It is important to secure a proper proportion of animal and vegetable diet. Some medical men suppose that an exclusive vegetable diet is proved by the experience of many individuals to be fully sufficient to nourish the body, and bring, as evidence, the fact, that some of the strongest and robust men in the world, are trained, from infancy, exclusively on vegetable food. But, though this is not a common opinion of medical men, they all agree, that, in America, far to large a portion of the diet consists of animal food.

The End

Domestic Economy pt 1, Domestic Economy pt 2, Domestic Economy pt 3, Domestic Economy pt 4, Domestic Economy pt 5, Domestic Economy pt 6, Domestic Economy pt 7, Domestic Economy pt 8, Domestic Economy pt 9, Domestic Economy pt 10

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