Whether we live in a home, an apartment, or even a cave, most of us have within us a vision of how we want to live. We may have seen a picture of a room, or entire house, in a book or magazine that captivated us. I am mentioning this because recently I was riffling through my clipping file, and came across an article I had clipped out years ago about the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the famous novelist. The home’s living room really spoke to me: old-fashioned, graceful, peaceful and serene on a beautiful summer’s day. I realize now that this image has been hovering in the back of my mind for a long time, and that my own home has become a blurred replica of this image.
Harriet’s sister was Catharine Beecher, an influential writer on women’s issues. She was not a feminist by modern standards, but worked to educate housewives, many of whom lived lives of incredible drudgery. She wrote an extremely influential book called The American Woman’s Home that served as a guide to home life for generations of American women. Whenever you open your windows to let in fresh air, or strive to keep your home clean and orderly, to cook healthy food, to have a convenient kitchen, and to live a healthy lifestyle, you can thank Catharine Beecher. I can’t honestly say I’ve read the whole thing–it’s more than 500 pages long–but I do periodically dip into an online version that is available at several websites, and especially enjoy the gardening and sewing advice. If you have an eReader, consider going to the Project Gutenberg site (www.gutenberg.org) where you can download the entire book, if you wish. Or you can go to this link at the Michigan State University Library: http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/cookbooks/html/books/book_26.cfm and download the PDF version to read on your computer’s screen. (If your computer is old and feeble, the PDF version might take forever to download–they also have a “Page Image” version that is quicker, but has no navigation tools.)