Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Women in Christian Science

 

Mary Baker Eddy

By Alfred Farlow

Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy was born at Bow, New Hampshire, a few miles distant from Concord, the Capital City of the state. Her home commanded a charming view of the picturesque valley of the Merrimac Riven. She was the daughter of Mark and Abigail Ambrose Baker. Her great-grandfather was Captain Joseph Baker, among her ancestors were Captain Joseph Lovewell and General John Macneil, of Revolutionary fame. Her father was a well-to-do farmer and gave his daughter Mary all the school privileges that his neighborhood afforded. Besides school advantages, Mary Baker's educational opportunities were enhanced by private tutors, among whom were Rev. Enoch Corser, of Sanbornton Bridge Academy, and Professor Dyer H. Sanborn, the author of Sanborn's grammar.

In her youthful days Mrs. Eddy wrote both prose and poetry which were acceptable for publication in the periodicals of their day. Letters written to members of her family in her early girlhood, which have recently been published in Munsey's Magazine, give evidence of her close observation and depth of thought, as well as of her piety. These letters show that peculiar fondness for her home and the members of her family -which is always in evidence in a deeply spiritual nature.

Samuel B. G. Corser, A.M., her boyhood friend, referred to her as the "brightest pupil" in his father's class, and declared that, "intellectually and spiritually, she stood head and shoulders above any girl in the community," that "she discussed philosophical and religious subjects" with his father which were oftentimes too deep for his comprehension.

In 1843 she was united in marriage with George W. Glover, a contractor and builder of Charleston, North Carolina. Mr. Glover was at one time a member of the governor's staff, and thus received the title of colonel. He was a man of large affairs. The records of Charleston show that between 1839 and 1844 he transferred thirteen pieces of real estate, while two were transferred to him in that city. Most of his property, however, consisted of slaves, which Mrs. Eddy was unwilling to own, and which she allowed to go free after Colonel Glover's death. During her early widowhood Mrs. Eddy earned some means by her pen. She possessed advanced ideas, and found ready acceptance for her writings with progressive thinkers.

At the early age of twelve she had pronounced religious Opinions, some of which conflicted with those of her father and his co-religionists, notably a disbelief in the doctrine of eternal punishment. She contended that if her brothers and sisters, none of whom had made any public profession of religion, but all of whom were honorable, trustworthy and commendable citizens, were to be debarred from the heavenly estate, she wished to remain outside also. While wrestling over this religious problem she became ill. In her book, "Retrospection and Introspection," she states that on this occasion her mother "bathed" her "burning temples," bade her "lean on God's love, which would give" her "rest, if" she "went to Him in prayer, as" she "was wont to do, seeking His guidance." She further states, "I prayed; and a soft glow of ineffable joy came over me * * * * the 'horrible decree' of predestination, as John Calvin rightly called his own tenet, forever lost its power over me. When the meeting was held for the examination of candidates for membership, I was, of course, present. The pastor was an old-school expounder of the strictest Presbyterian doctrines. He was apparently as eager to have unbelievers in these dogmas lost, as he was to have elect believers converted, and rescued from perdition; for both salvation and condemnation depended, according to his views, upon the good pleasure of infinite Love. However, I was ready for his doleful questions, which I answered without a tremor, declaring that I could never unite with the church, if assent to this doctrine was essential thereto * * * * To the astonishment of many, the good clergyman's heart also melted, and he received me into their communion, and my protest along with me." Mrs. Eddy continued a member of the Congregational Church until after she organized a church of her own. It was in 1866, after many disappointments and sorrows which culminated in invalidism that she met with an accident while living in Lynn, Massachusetts. As a result she found herself in a critical condition, and in her extremity her thoughts turned to God, and, as she afterwards more fully realized, she thus came in touch with the divine influence, and was instantly healed. This experience caused her to ponder upon the subject of spiritual healing.

She was impressed that what she had experienced on the momentous occasion above mentioned might be repeated in all cases of sickness and disorder, if mortals could but understand how to approach the infinite Spirit. For the next three years she made a constant study of this subject, searched the Scriptures night and day, and finally arrived at the conclusions which, in 1875, she set forth to the world in her text-book, "Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures." She attached the name "Christian Science" to her teaching, and at once began to put her ideas to a practical test by healing the sick. The propaganda of her system of thought was effected by the circulation of her book and also by the personal instruction which she gave to those who sought it. In 1879 she established the Christian Science Church, of which the name was afterwards changed to First Church of Christ, Scientist. This, the mother church of the denomination has at the present time a membership of tens of thousands, and it has branch churches in all parts of the United States and in many foreign countries. In this dissemination of her healing apprehension of Truth, Mrs. Eddy has contributed very largely to the health, happiness and general wellbeing of mankind.

Christian Science is founded upon the Scriptural declaration that God is Spirit, Mind, Truth, Love, Good; that man is made in God's own image and is, therefore, spiritual, and not material, a point which accords with the generally accepted truism that "like begets like," and that, in accordance with the Master's teaching, "the flesh (matter) profiteth nothing," material sense is false, a deception which will vanish from consciousness through spiritual awakening. This teaching of Christian Science does not mean that the universe is unreal, but that it is not what it seems to be to uneducated human thought, to that quality of understanding which does not perceive objects from the spiritual viewpoint. Christian Science teaches that when one has attained to that spiritual perfection which St. Paul denominated "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," the creations of God will be recognized as spiritual, and will appear infinitely more wonderful and beautiful than are the projections of our present material concept of being. This corrected view of man and the universe, the Christ-idea, destroys the false foundation of human woe and thus heals the sick. Christian Science reforms the sinner by destroying his false belief of life, substance and intelligence in matter, and of pleasure or benefit in sin, and thereby removes the incentive to do wrong.

Mrs. Eddy was an indefatigable worker. Although her books brought her a liberal income she spent relatively little money on herself, her whole aim in life being to advance the cause of Christian Science and to do good. She made her church the principal legatee of her fortune. She was an eloquent and fluent speaker, an inspiring teacher and a brilliant and convincing conversationalist.

In the early part of her life as leader of the Christian Science Church, she resided in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1889 she removed to Concord, New Hampshire, where she resided until 1908, when she returned to Boston, taking up her residence in the beautiful suburb of Chestnut Hill, where she remained until her demise, December 3, 1910.

Mrs. Eddy was not only much beloved by her own followers, but was highly respected by the community at large, and on the event of her passing away the newspapers of the country spoke in appreciative terms of the character which she had attained and of the good which she had accomplished.

Sue Harper Mims
Mrs. Mims was one of the most prominent women in the Christian Science movement in America, and a social leader of Atlanta, Georgia. She was born in Brandon, Massachusetts, May, 1842, and was the daughter of the late Colonel William C. Harper and Mrs. Mary C. Harper. Her father was a lawyer of great learning and distinguished ability. She became the wife of Livingston Mims in 1866, one of the most prominent business men of Atlanta, a gentleman of aristocratic lineage and culture. For many years he was president of the Capital City Club, by which President and Mrs. Cleveland were entertained while on a visit to that city. Mrs. Mims gathered about her a circle of literary, artistic and musical people, exerting a wide influence for intellectual and ethical culture. She is a devoted follower of Mrs. Eddy, and has been one of the prime movers and teachers of Christian Science in the South.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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