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Beecher, Catharine) Anonymous.

Sketches of Universal History, Compiled from Several Authors.


[Beecher, Catharine] Anonymous. (Pierce, Sarah). Sketches of Universal History. Compiled from several authors. For the use of schools. Volume I. New Haven, CT: Printed by Joseph Baker, 1811.
16mo.; contemporary ownership signature on first leaf and front cover; few minor emendations to the text; printed wrappers; soiled; corners chipped. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
First edition of volume one; volumes two, three, and four were published between 1816 and 1818; all four volumes border on the rare; republished in the 1820s. With a list in the rear of approximately one hundred subscribers, nearly all female, including Catharine Beecher of Litchfield. S&S 23942b (one copy; NUC adds another).
Born in 1800, Beecher moved to Litchfield, Connecticut when her father, Lyman Beecher, was called to the parish there. In 1810 she entered Sarah Pierce's school for young ladies, quickly evolving into one of the top students. Pierce's school for young ladies was one of the best of the new academies for girls established in American at the turn of the century. She founded it in her home in 1792, and taught well-to-do girls from all over the country; in 1827 her school was incorporated as the Litchfield Female Academy. Sketches of Universal History was used at Miss Pierce's school as a textbook and she probably edited it herself, writing in the preface: "Having from long experience found that children and youth imbibe ideas most easily, when placed in the form of question and answer, and not finding any historical work of that kind, of sufficient length to interest the mind, I have compiled these Sketches for the use of Schools…"
The subscription list, which includes the eleven-year-old Catharine Beecher, demonstrates that Miss Pierce's students came from some of the most prominent families in America. Perhaps more interestingly, it also shows us that the subscribers were students required to buy their teacher's textbook-especially fascinating considering the ages of these students. This, of course, explains why the subscribers are virtually all female. Vanderpoel's Chronicle of a Pioneer School records the entire subscribers' list of this book for 1811 on pages 397-400, with a note indicating that subscribers were "probably" pupils and their parents.
It seems reasonable to speculate upon the possible effects of this sort of education upon a Connecticut lad of virtually the same age as Catharine Beecher, Bronson Alcott, whose own Temple School in the 1830s emphasized the question and answer method for moral questions directed to his students.
Beecher went on to distinguish herself as an educator (see "Anthologies, Hale, Woman's Record), and co-authored The American Woman's Home with her sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe.

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