Philadelphia: Henry Perkins, 1837. First edition. Original green publisher's cloth binding with gilt to front board. Slight toning to spine; faint dampstaining to fore-edges of boards. Contemporary ownership and gift inscriptions to the header of title, the first reading "George Frederick Mumm," and the second "To Miss Alsop - G.F.M. Providence RI, 18 Sept. 92." With occasional light scattered foxing and a small chip to the outer margin of pages 3-4 not affecting text; it is overall and internally clean and pleasing book. Scarce in trade, Catharine Beecher's cornerstone text in the debate on women's role in abolitionist activism has appeared only three times at auction since 1918; the present is the only copy on the market.
The elder sister of famed author Harriet Beecher Stowe, Catharine Beecher was an educator, author, and advocate for women's education. An opponent to slavery like many other members of her family, Catharine nevertheless balked at the title "abolitionist," which she felt was associated with agitation and protest. Rather, she believed that the best methods for ending slavery were persuasion and compromise, through "the doctrine of gradual emancipation." She also had specific ideas about where women's role in activism lies -- and about the dangers that women's outspoken involvement in abolition could pose. "Woman is to win every thing by peace and love; by making herself so. much respected, esteemed, and loved that to yield to her opinions and gratify her wishes will be the free will offering of the heart. But this is to be all accomplished in a domestic space." In so doing, Beecher argues, the men of their families will be persuaded to take up the mantle of activism in public and change the world on their behalf. Taking particular issue with Angelina and Sarah Grimke's recent abolitionist tour, she continues, "the moment a woman begins to feel the promptings of ambition, or the thirst for power, her aegis of defence is gone...a woman may seek the aid of cooperation and combination among her own sex to assist her in her appropriate offices of piety, charity, maternal and domestic duty; but whatever in any measure throws a woman into the attitude of a combatant, either for herself or others, whatever binds her in a party conflict throws her out of her appropriate sphere." Beecher's assertions, addressed specifically to Angelina Grimke in letter form, though always intended for public reading through publication, prompted Grimke's own response a year later. And in conversation, the books reveal the already intersectional relationship between abolition and women's rights that would emerge almost a decade later in Seneca Falls. A foundational dialogue in the history of U.S. activism, and one whose echoes shape conversation about Black American and women's rights today.
Feminist Companion 77. (Item #3970)