Lot 11: Rare Signed Photo of Eunice Beecher, 19th Century's Most Famous Scorned Woman
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: Rare Signed Photograph of Eunice White Beecher, the 19th Century’s Most Famous Scorned Woman ********** BEECHER, EUNICE WHITE. (1812-1897). Wife of influential American minister Henry Ward Beecher whose adulterous affair with a member of his congregation became a cause célebre in 1872. SP. (“Eunice Ward Beecher”). 1p. Cabinet. N.p., N.d. A sepia bust portrait by the Brooklyn photographer Alva Pearsall showing Beecher wearing a lace cap, shawl and corsage. ********** Beecher met Eunice while he was attending Amherst with her brother, and the two were engaged for five years before marrying. Despite a lengthy illness at the beginning of their marriage, Eunice authored From Dawn to Daylight: A Simple Story of a Western Home using the penname of “A Minister’s Wife.” She gave birth to 11 children (four of which survived to adulthood), and in the 1870s she wrote several works on homemaking including Motherly Talks with Young Housekeepers, All Around the House; or, How to Make Homes Happy and Home. ********** Initially a reluctant seminarian, Henry Ward Beecher became one of the most influential clergymen of his time. His audacious unorthodoxy and bold oratory probably served as the basis for his immense popularity, which surpassed the size of his congregation. In churches and lecture halls around the country, Beecher advocated the emancipation of slaves and women’s suffrage. From the pulpit of Brooklyn’s New Plymouth Church, and despite his many extramarital affairs, he publicly condemned the free love doctrine of outspoken feminist Victoria Woodhull, one of his longtime critics. On November 2, 1872, Woodhull retaliated by publishing in her Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly an account of Beecher’s affair with the wife of fellow reformer and newspaperman Theodore Tilton. Tilton sued Beecher for adultery, charging him with alienating his wife’s affections. The lengthy and inconclusive trial cost Beecher $118,000 and a good deal of his reputation. However, his popularity did not flag. He again pursued the lecture circuit, in part to repay the large debt incurred during his litigation. His radical views earned him the disapproval of the Association of Congregational Ministers from which Beecher withdrew his membership in 1882. Ever more radical, he published the controversial Evolution and Religion in 1885 which further served to bolster his lecture appearances until his death. The Beechers remained married until the end of Henry’s life; the long-suffering Eunice survived him by another ten years. ********** Signed on the lower blank portion of the image. Some edge wear and light paper loss at the corners of the gilt-edged photographers mount. In fine condition and unusual.