Catharine E. Beecher ou l’idéologie domestique au service de la stabilité sociale
Though often remembered only as the sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Isabella Beecher Hooker and Henry Ward Beecher, Catharine E. Beecher was more widely known than any member of her eminent family in the 1840s. Her Treatise on Domestic Economy (1841) and her Duty of American Women to their Country (1845) expounded an ideology of domesticity which, while advocating the religious and cultural values inherited from her conservative New England background, elevated women’s status and expanded women’s influence in American society. Warning her readers that a cataclysm equal to the French Revolution was approaching America, Catharine Beecher urged middle-class women to become the saviors of their country, first as imperial mothers and “conservators of the domestic state”;, then as professional teachers socializing destitute children and waging a battle against destructive social forces. With such global pretensions and ambitions to moral power, Catharine Beecher and other women writers usurped the cultural authority of the patriarchs. Thus, Beecher’s ideology of domesticity emerged as a kind of paradox: conservative, trying to reconcile the civil and political inequality of women with an egalitarian democracy, disapproving of female involvement in political action, and fundamentally bound to Beecher’s class interests, it was nevertheless critical of the narrow sphere of private affairs allotted to women and constantly subversive of it.
Published : 2008-07-11