Biography: Mary Baker Eddy
Learn more about the leader of the Christian Science movement.
Continued from page 2Negotiating the 19th century gender constraints and opportunities available to her religious setting, Mary Baker Eddy found resources within her experience to reinstate a Christianity juxtaposed with divine Mind-healing, to meet the personal health and ethical needs of the common people. With one student, in 1867, Eddy started the first school of Christian Mind-healing in Lynn, Massachusetts. In 1875, Eddy published a textbook on her methodology, soon branded Christian Science, called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which she revised over 300 times during her lifetime. Eddy managed a worldwide franchise of churches of Christ, Scientists, and also established The Christian Science Publishing Society to print Christian magazines and later a public newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor.
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. Eddy joined the ranks of other religious leaders and reformers and learned to exploit the print media. In 1883, she began editing and printing The Christian Science Journal.
Church membership grew. Eddy became painfully aware of the abuses of religious organization; therefore, she dissolved her church. Eddy reorganized it in 1892 and began writing and re-writing a Church Manual as guidance for members, in an effort to dislodge the embedded human tendency to maintain a rigid class-conscious status-quo instead of meeting the spiritual needs of humanity. Rather notably was a move in 1895, when Eddy instructed the churches to eliminate personal preachers and read verses selected from the Bible and Science and Health as an impersonal Pastor.
Eddy started and managed The Christian Science Publishing Society in 1998. Up until her death in 1910, Eddy worked unremittingly to proclaim the good news of spiritual healing.
Cheryl Petersen is a freelance writer and author of 21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, a revision of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health. Cheryl’s blog is www.HealingScienceToday.com.