Mary Baker Eddy (July 16, 1821 – December 3, 1910) was the pioneer of a system of prayer-based healing that led her to found the Church of Christ, Scientist in 1879. She was the author of its fundamental doctrinal textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which has sold more than ten million copies. She is also the founder of the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, founder of a publishing house, and founder of the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper The Christian Science Monitor.
Mary Baker Eddy overcame years of ill health and great personal struggle to make an indelible mark on American society. She made her discovery of Christian Science at a time when women could not vote and were generally barred from pulpits, seminaries, and the medical profession.
In 1995 Eddy was elected to the National Women’s Hall of Fame and in 1998 she was named one of the 25 “most significant religious figures for Americans in the 20th Century” by the PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.
Mary Baker Eddy was born Mary Ann Morse Baker, the youngest of the six children of Abigail Ambrose and Mark Baker on July 16, 1821, near Concord, New Hampshire in the town of Bow. Named Mary Ann Morse after her grandmother, she never used her full name Mary Ann, but signed herself Mary (Cather and Milmine 1909). She spent most of her childhood suffering from a variety of childhood diseases. Her poor health was reportedly related to a spinal weakness that caused spasmodic seizures, followed by prostration, which resulted in a complete nervous collapse. It is referred to as chronic invalidism.
Both her parents were descendants of members of the Congregational Church. Raised with Puritan values, daily Bible reading, and talk of God's healing power, she spent many years looking for healing.
One of Mary Baker’s brothers was Albert Baker, a graduate of Dartmouth College, who studied law with Franklin Pierce (who later became President of the United States), and was admitted to the bar in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Albert helped home-school her in moral science, natural philosophy, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew grammar.
The Baker family moved to Tilton when Mary was fifteen and she then attended the private school of Professor H. Dyer Sanborn. Under his instruction and the guidance of the Rev. Enoch Corser, pastor of the Tilton Congregational Church, she began to develop her intellectual and spiritual maturity.
In 1843 Mary Baker married George Washington Glover, her thirty-three-year-old brother-in-law. She was twenty-two. George Glover's sister had married Mary's eldest brother, Samuel, in 1831. Originally from Concord, New Hampshire, Glover had established a business in Charleston, South Carolina.
About a year after their marriage, while on a business trip to Wilmington, North Carolina, her husband contracted yellow fever and died in about nine days. Mrs. Glover returned to her father's home. She gave birth to a boy not long after her return, and she named him after her husband, George Washington Glover.
Mary Baker Glover suffered a prolonged illness following childbirth. Her son's custody become a major issue when her mother died in 1849. In 1850 her father married Elizabeth Patterson Duncan. Her father made it clear that the boy wasn't welcome and he stayed with a series of different relatives. Later her sister, Abigail Tilton, offered her a home, but with the stipulation that her son George was not welcome. She felt she couldn't take care of her ill sister and the young boy. As a result George W. Glover was sent to live in North Groton, New Hampshire, forty miles away from his mother. He lived with the family's former servant, Mahala, who had married a farmer, Russell Cheney. She wrote the poem "The Mother at Parting with her Child" soon afterward.
In 1853, Mary married Daniel Patterson, a relative of her father’s second wife. Mary's father warned Patterson about his daughter's invalidism, but he chose not to heed the advice. She had hoped Patterson would take her son in, but he also decided he wanted no part of him. Although the couple lived near the Cheneys in North Groton in 1855, George Glover's adopted family took the boy with them when they moved to Minnesota in 1856. George Glover did not see his mother again for twenty-three years.
The marriage to Patterson proved unhappy, and the couple separated after 13 years, when Daniel deserted her. Seven years later, she sought and obtained a divorce on the grounds of his adultery.
In 1877 Mary Baker Glover was married for the third time to Mr. Asa G. Eddy, who had been sent to her for treatment. She had healed him, had taken him through one of her classes, and placed many of her affairs in his charge. He died in 1882, reportedly of heart disease.
From the age of eight Eddy began having spiritual experiences when she heard her name being called by an unseen voice. In her teens she boldly rebelled against Calvinist doctrines like predestination as she was being admitted as a member of her parents’ Congregationalist church.
Poor health began to afflict her during her adolescence and as she became an adult and married she experimented with allopathic medicine and alternative therapies, particularly with homeopathy. Following her first husband's sudden death she developed an interest in mesmerism (hypnosis), animal magnetism, spiritualism, and clairvoyance. She also continued her study of the Bible with an intense focus on the healing powers of Jesus.
In 1862 Eddy received treatment from mental healer, Phineas P. Quimby in Portland, Maine, and was cured quickly. Though her health tended to fluctuate, she maintained a devoted relationship with him and his ideas until he died in 1866. His influence would shape her belief of Christian Science as she integrated her own Christian faith with Quimby's ideas.
A crucial turning point in Eddy's life occurred one month after Quimby died. A severe fall on an icy sidewalk left her in critical condition. Unable to call on Quimby she asked for her Bible and, while reading an account of Jesus' healing, found herself suddenly well.
She spent the next nine years in intensive scriptural study, healing activity, and teaching. In 1875 she published Science and Health. In this book she stated her belief in the "science" behind Jesus' healing method.
When the existing Christian churches did not embrace her beliefs, Eddy decided to start her own church. In 1879 she secured a charter for the Church of Christ, Scientist, established "to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing." Two years later, she founded the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, where she taught her classes until 1889, when she closed the institution to focus on a major revision of Science and Health, which became Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Eddy proved effective at teaching hundreds of students, most of them women, to go out across the nation as Christian Science practitioners, organizing societies and recruiting more practitioners. She retained her charter to the College and reopened it in 1899.
In 1884 Eddy spent a month in Chicago, initiating the westward expansion of her church. In 1888 she again visited Chicago, this time to attend the National Christian Scientist Association where she made an address at the Central Music Hall before an audience of about four thousand. A year later she addressed an audience in Steinway Hall, New York, but thereafter withdrew more and more from public appearances.
In 1888, a reading room for her writings and other publications opened in Boston. In 1894, Boston-area Christian Scientists moved into the first church building (The Mother Church), built under Mrs. Eddy's direction. In 1895 she published a church manual, establishing guidelines that are followed to this day.
During the formative stages the church saw many rivalries, scandals, and dissident movements. One such example was the dispute between Mary Baker Eddy and Edward J. Arens, her former student, and Julius Dresser, who along with his wife and son, disputed Eddy's originality. The main accusation against Eddy was that she plagiarized Quimby's works. Eddy also found herself the subject of severe criticism from such notables as Mark Twain and Willa Cather. She would later explain that the phenomena of self-will used by Quimby to heal was distinct from the understanding of spiritual principles she used for healing.
Christian Science agrees with mainstream Christianity with regards to the existence of an all-powerful God and the authority and inspiration of the Bible. Christian Scientists also believe the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus to be essential to human redemption.
A fundamental difference between Christian Science and traditional Christianity lies in its belief that creation is entirely spiritual and perfect and matter does not exist. Sin, sickness and death also do not exist; we only think they do. "The only reality of sin, sickness, or death is the awful fact that unrealities seem real to human, erring belief, until God strips off their disguise" (Science and Health, 472:27-29).
A central tenet of the Church of Christ, Scientist is spiritual healing of disease, for its own sake as well as for its evidence of redemption from the flesh. The church's most controversial practice is refusal of medical help for disease. Modern Christian Scientists, however, offer the caveat that healthcare decisions are always a matter of individual choice.
Their core teachings are read at every church service in the "Scientific Statement of Being":
In 1883 the Journal of Christian Science was first published. It later became The Christian Science Journal with Eddy as the editor and publisher. It was also published in German as Der Herold der Christian Science. She also founded the Christian Science Sentinel; The Christian Science Quarterly (which contained the weekly Christian Science Lesson-Sermons); and The Christian Science Monitor, a daily newspaper that went on to win seven Pulitzer Prizes, including three for International Reporting (1950, 1967 and 1996).
In 1908, just two years before her death, Eddy started The Christian Science Monitor because she felt that the "yellow journalism" of the American press was unfairly prejudicial against her faith. Its object and journalistic ethic established by her was "to injure no man, but to bless all mankind." The Monitor provides an independent voice in journalism, and, though published by The Christian Science Publishing Society, it is not a religious periodical. The newspaper reports national and international news, with related features and commentary.
From 1892 to 1908 Eddy resided at Pleasant View, a house situated on the outskirts of Concord, New Hampshire. It was here that Eddy spent her time fine-tuning the organization of the Christian Science church and in clarifying and deepening her own understanding of Christian Science.
In her final years she began withdrawing more and more and discouraged any personal adulation which the beneficiaries of Christian Science might be inclined to place upon her. By the time she died in 1910 her church was growing nationally and internationally (80 different countries), and her best-selling book was in the process of being translated for the first time (into German). Hundreds of tributes appeared in newspapers around the world. She is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge in a tomb at Halcyon Lake,
The church texts were frozen at Eddy's death and remain the authoritative documents for the Church. After Eddy died leadership in the Church passed to the five-person Board of Directors of the Mother Church in Boston, Massachusetts. They oversee the production of standard editions of all Eddy's writings.
In 1921 on the 100th anniversary of her birth, a 100-ton, 11-foot high granite pyramid was dedicated on the site of her birthplace in Bow, Massachusetts. A gift from the Freemasons (the only other religious society church members are permitted to join), it was later dynamited by order of the Mother Church Board of Directors. They also ordered her home in Pleasant View to be demolished as it was becoming a place of pilgrimage.
Today, almost 1,700 Christian Science churches are active in 76 countries throughout the world. People from all walks of life continue to practice this religion and use the system of health that Eddy codified almost 150 years ago.
Eddy’s book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures was a best seller for decades, and was selected as one of the “75 Books By Women Whose Words Have Changed The World,” by the Women's National Book Association. In 1995, Eddy was inducted in the National Women's Hall of Fame and in 1998 she was named one of the 25 “most significant religious figures for Americans in the 20th Century” by the PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. In 2002, The Mary Baker Eddy Library opened its doors, giving the public access to one of the largest collections about an American woman.
For more than a century, The Christian Science Journal and the Christian Science Sentinel have been publishing accounts of restored health based on the system of care that Eddy taught. The Christian Science Monitor newspaper has won several Pulitzer Prizes.
Mrs. Mary Beecher Longyear was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1851, the daughter of Samuel Peck and Caroline (Walker) Beecher. Her father was a member of the well-known Beecher family of New England. Mrs. Longyear and her husband John were very helpful to Eddy and the early Christian Science church in providing the funds to purchase land for the church and for the Christian Science Benevolent Association in Chestnut Hill.
Mrs. Longyear was a pioneer in the field of historic preservation. She searched the back roads of Massachusetts and New Hampshire to locate and purchase four houses in which Eddy once lived. She had portraits painted of Mrs. Eddy and Mrs. Eddy's early students and had reminiscences written by many of those who knew her.
For over three-quarters of a century the Longyear Museum has provided exhibits and resources about the life and achievements of Mary Baker Eddy. The Museum moved into its new building in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts in 1999.
"True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection."
"Sin makes its own hell, and goodness its own heaven."
"The time for thinkers has come. Truth, independent of doctrines and time-honored systems, knocks at the portal of humanity."
"Whatever enslaves man is opposed to the divine government. Truth makes man free."
"To talk the right and live the wrong is foolish deceit, doing one's self the most harm."
"Moral conditions will be found always harmonious and health-giving."
"We should master fear, instead of cultivating it."
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