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Catherine Beecher, “Duty of American Females,” and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions

Catherine Beecher and Elizabeth Cady Stanton became influential activists for women’s affairs in the 19th century. Beecher, who was a conservative person, believed in the fact that the gender roles were god-ordained and therefore gave men superior positions compared to women, who were said to take charge of the domestic and moral duties. However, Stanton refuted these ideas through her Declaration of Sentiments, which highlighted the need for equal rights and women’s involvement in politics and religion. The analysis examines in detail the arguments of Beecher and Stanton and how they shaped their respective arguments on how women were perceived in society during the 1800s.

Catherine Beecher’s Traditional Gender Roles in the 1800s

Catherine Beecher was one highly respected person in the 19th century whose views about gender were entrenched in their social norms. In this regard, Beecher argued that these roles were ordained by heaven, which established men as a superior gender to women whose status was inherent. From her point of view, women’s duty was restricted to the domestic and social realm. However, Beecher believed women could effect change through peace, love, and moral guidance as wives, mothers, and educators. Women substantially contributed to society’s morality by raising and educating the next generation. However, she believed that this could only be done when the focus of women was placed on their duties as mothers and teachers. Becher’s views corresponded with the conservative norms that intended to keep women limited within domestic boundaries and affairs of the public, especially in politics.

Central to her belief was that women belong to the domain of the house. Women’s influence and power should only be applied at home, where they will make others respect, appreciate, and love them. According to Beecher, women retained sanctity in religion, chivalry, and the gallantry of romantic love due to their role as guardians and moral instructors of their children. She maintained that women’s victories should be attained peacefully to earn respect and love in the family and society. Beecher asserted that any deviation from this prescribed path for women’s lives would compromise women’s dignified and revered status in society.

Catherine Beecher was very much against women who actively participated in community affairs, especially in politics. She held that such engagement was improper and went against the way of nature ordained by heaven. Beecher worried that females could undermine their positions within society by taking part in public or political discussions, thereby disturbing social equilibrium. She warned that women should not seek coercive influences or act in a fighting manner, which was not part of their natural responsibilities. Becher insisted that women should not venture into roles not generally undertaken by them, emphasizing that their power was strongest in the domestic and social spheres.

Elizabeth cady stan’s counter-arguments on Catherine Beecher’s ideas.

Equality of Human Rights

However, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Declaration of Sentiments goes against Catherine Beecher’s belief that men are superior to women. This declaration states that all men and women are equal and have certain unalienable rights, just like in the United States Declaration of Independence. It directly attacks the core of Beecher’s belief in a divinely appointed order between genders. Stanton questions the assumption of the inherent superiority of men over women, arguing for their equal moral intelligence.‑ In this way, she disputes Beecher’s position that women are only necessary at home and should abide by such restrictive gender roles. Moreover, Stanton points out that women can take an equal part in promoting righteousness. This is a direct contradiction to what Beecher suggested about the role of women.

Right to the Elective Franchise

Stanton’s resolution calling for women’s electoral rights challenges Catherine Beecher’s view that women should not engage in politics. Beecher thought it inefficient and inapposite, lest it result in female loss of influence. On the other hand, Stanton advocates for female involvement in politics and the provision of voting rights for women. Stanton’s argument can only be understood in the context of what Beecher might attempt were elected to power. As such, Stanton believes that Beecher should be opposed because by pushing for the elective franchise, he seeks to remove the boundaries that can only limit women to the role of It underpins the more significant movement towards granting women the right to exercise their freedoms in the public sphere in the nineteenth century.

Participation in Religious Assemblies

In addition, Stanton’s statement advocating for men to encourage women to teach and speak in religious congregations is a direct challenge to Catherine Beecher’s viewpoint of female influence. Beecher asserted that women must confine their influence in matters concerning the household and society at the risk of losing their respectable social position. However, Stanton argues that women have a right to be counted and part of public discourse, even in religious gatherings. Stanton thus contests the traditional perception that men were endowed with more outstanding intellect, making them capable of making ethical judgments about religion. This attitude reflects the widening recognition of women as competent and deserving citizens in the public sphere, challenging Beecher’s proposals.


Stanton, Elizabeth, et al. Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions – Seneca Falls. 1848

Beecher Catherine. Duty of American Females. (1837)


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