Biography: Mary Baker Eddy
Learn more about the leader of the Christian Science movement.
Mary was born in Bow, New Hampshire, in 1821, when the nation’s religion was swirling in evangelicalism. However, Mary Baker’s upbringing was still under the order of male heads of households. Acquiescing to the 19th century attitude that women were to get married and bear children, Mary wed George Glover in the year 1843. They moved to the Carolinas only for Glover to die six months later of Yellow Fever, leaving behind a pregnant Mary. She returned to live with her parents and lost all her husband’s property. Not reflecting America’s independent initiative, Mary showed little signs of becoming self-supportive. Regrettably, when her child was about four years old, Mary’s mother died, altering the home dynamics and soon thereafter Mary’s child was placed in a foster home.
In the year 1853, Mary looked to another man to support her and hopefully her child. However, after wedding Daniel Patterson, her intent backfired. Patterson was unwilling to unite Mary and her child. At this frustrating and disappointing juncture, Mary’s consciousness began nursing a persistent certainty that all cause and effect belonged to God.
Fortunately, the 19th century religious scene sympathized with Mary’s growing sense of individual power to look, not to the clergy’s learning and authority, but to an inspired interpretation of Scripture for the ultimate arbiter and healer.
She prayed, but also experimented with spiritual healing. Then one evening, in 1866, Mary fell hard on the ice and was taken to bed. The attending physicians couldn’t help her, but a few days later, Mary glimpsed the omnipotence of Spirit and its consequent spiritual existence as an all-presence of harmony. Mary’s strength was immediately restored, and she regarded her discovery of Mind’s healing power as that which set a new trajectory for the rest of her life.
Unlike today, religion was popular in the 19th century. People gladly turned to religion for answers to the era that saw an agricultural way of life morph into an industrial age, that felt new technologies revamp lifestyles, and that had the horrors of a civil war imprinted on their brains. However, Mary did not start a religious organization right away. Her salient point of Christian service was to understand and promote spirituality.
In 1873, Mary divorced Daniel Patterson and became a woman in her own right. She was developing a metaphysical system of Mind-healing that was proving successful, healing patients of enteritis, jaundice, tumors, pain, liver disease, and fevers. Christian Science, Eddy argued, interprets a universe of divine Mind and its infinite manifestation, revealing the powerlessness and emptiness of all that works against Life, God.
The first Christian Scientist Association was organized by Mary and six of her students in 1876. They held regular meetings. In 1877, Mary wed Dr. Asa Eddy. Two years later, in 1879, the Association group decided to form a church, calling it The First Church of Christ, Scientist. Eddy was pastor of the church and witnessed tremendous spiritual growth as she preached.
Her calling, however, also included teaching, therefore she opened the Massachusetts Metaphysical college in 1881 and began teaching a mounting number of students. Amid all this activity, Dr. Eddy died in the year 1882. After a brief mourning over Dr. Eddy’s death, Mary forged forward as leader of the Christian Science movement.