094 The American Woman’s Home

Listen to “094 The American Woman’s Home” on Spreaker.

On the podcast this week Kelly and I discuss a 19th century urban homesteading book written by Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, The American Woman’s Home. The book was written mostly by Catherine, with some contributions from Harriet (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin). It’s likely that Catherine realized that attaching her famous sister’s name would sell more copies. Published in 1869, The American Woman’s Home covers a great deal of territory, everything from indoor air quality to houseplants, to childcare to housing the homeless. The book is in line with her family’s activism on issues such as women’s education, temperance and the abolition of slavery. We discuss many of Catherine’s specific recommendations including: butter, bread, terrariums, indoor plants, earth closets and art (she suggests everyone own a print of Eastman Johnson’s “Barefoot Boy” and Bierstadt’s “Sunset in the Yosemite Valley“).

You can read the full text of An American Woman’s Home online here.

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  1. I wonder if a layer of wool felt over the mattress of oat straw would make it more comfortable and less ‘pokey’?

  2. Regarding poverty and homelessness…How about How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis (originally published in 1890)? I purchased my copy (a Dover edition) at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City.

  3. A thought about the question of the awful sounding sour-milk-bread. Why use bad milk instead of a sour dough starter? I suspect that some people actually like that novel flavor. Some delicious cheeses smell like old socks afterall. While I enjoyed hearing the authors’ strongly opinionated judgements, I wondered if their remarks about the “terrible” way people prepare food was also a reflection of their unfamiliarity with those foods. I for one, would rather eat fresh fish than that stinky fermented Swedish delicacy.

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