My dear Friends, - This volume embraces, in a concise form, many valuable portions of my other works on Domestic Economy, both those published by Harper and Brothers and those published by J. B. Ford and Co., together with other new and interesting matter. It is designed to be a complete encyclopaedia of all that relates to a woman's duties as housekeeper, wife, mother, and nurse.
The First Part embraces a large variety of recipes for food that is both healthful and economical, put in clear, concise language, with many methods for saving labor, time, and money, not found in any other works of the kind. It also gives more specific directions as to seasonings and flavors than the common one of "Season to the Taste," which leaves all to the judgment of the careless or ignorant. The recipes have been tested by some of the best housekeepers, and all relating to health has been approved by distinguished physicians of all schools.
The Second Part contains interesting information as to the construction of the body, in a concise form, omitting all details, except such as have an immediate connection with a housekeeper's practical duties. These are so simplified and illustrated, that by aid of this, both servants and children can be made so to understand the reasons for the laws of health, as to render that willing and intelligent obedience which can be gained in no other way.
It is my most earnest desire to save you and your household from the sad consequences I have suffered from ignorance of the laws of health, especially those which women peculiarly need to understand and obey.
God made woman to do the work of the family, and to train those under her care to the same labor. And her body is so formed that family labor and care tend not only to good health, but to the highest culture of mind. Read all that is included in our "profession," as detailed in the Second Part of this work, and see how much there is to cultivate every mental faculty, as well as our higher moral powers. Domestic labor with the muscles of the arms and trunk, with intervals of sedentary work, are exactly what keep all the functions of the body in perfect order, especially those which, at the present day, are most out of order in our sex. And so the women of a former generation, while they read and studied books far less than women of the present time, were better developed both in mind and body.
It was my good fortune to be trained by poverty and good mothers and aunts to do every kind of domestic labor, and so, until one-and-twenty, I was in full enjoyment of health and happiness. Then I gave up all domestic employments for study and teaching, and in ten years I ruined my health, while my younger sisters and friends suffered in the same mistaken course. And my experience has been repeated all over the land, until there, is such decay of female constitutions and health, as alarms, and justly alarms, every well-informed person.
After twenty years of invalidism, I have been restored to perfect health of body and mind, and wholly by a strict obedience to the laws of health and happiness, which I now commend to your especial attention, with the hope and prayer that by obedience to them you may save yourselves and households from unspeakable future miseries.
I wish I could give you all the evidence that I have gained to prove that woman's work in the household might be so conducted as to be agreeable, tasteful, and promotive of both grace and beauty of person. But this never can be generally credited till women of high culture set the example of training their sons and daughters, instead of hired servants alone, to be their domestic helpers.
According to the present tendency of wealth and culture, it is women of moderate or humble means who will train their own children to health and happiness, and rear prosperous families. Meantime, the rich women will have large houses, many servants, poor health, and little domestic comfort, while they train the children of foreigners to do family work, and in a way that will satisfy neither mistress nor servant; for a woman who does not work herself is rarely able to properly teach others. Choose wisely, then, O youthful mother and housekeeper! train yourself to wholesome labor and intelligent direction, and be prepared to educate a cheerful and healthful flock of your own children.
Your friend and well-wisher,
Catharine E. Beecher. New York, April 2, 1873.