Catharine E. Beecher’s 1841 A Treatise on Domestic Economy laid the groundwork for the American environmental canon, including Walden (1854) by Henry David Thoreau and Silent Spring (1962) by Rachel Carson. In conversation with other nineteenth-century American writers, Beecher promoted a way of thinking about nature as home and illuminated current usage of energy and economy as opposing, gendered metaphors. Situating daily life in a new energy regime, Beecher was an early theorizer of fossil fuels, positing domestic economy as a corrective to the political economy of industrial capitalism. Despite seemingly regressive views of women’s place in the home and society, Beecher’s writings on domesticity during the historic transition to fossil fuels speak to our own moment of climate and public health crises. To reassess Beecher in light of the environmental humanities is to discover in domestic economy a way of thinking about nature as something in which we live and, equally important, that lives in us.

You do not currently have access to this content.