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Mary Baker Eddy
BornMary Morse Baker
(1821-07-16)July 16, 1821
Bow, New Hampshire
DiedDecember 3, 1910(1910-12-03) (aged 89)
Newton, Massachusetts
Resting placeMount Auburn Cemetery,Cambridge, Massachusetts
Other namesMary Baker Glover, Mary Patterson, Mary Baker Glover Eddy, Mary Baker G. Eddy
Known forFounder of Christian Science
Notable workScience and Health (1875)
Spouse(s)George Washington Glover (m. 1843–1844); Daniel Patterson (m. 1853–1873); Asa Gilbert Eddy (m. 1877–1882)
ChildrenGeorge Washington Glover II (b. 1844)
Parent(s)Mark Baker (d. 1865); Abigail Ambrose Baker (d. 1849)

Mary Baker Eddy (July 16, 1821 – December 3, 1910) established the Church of Christ, Scientist, as a Christian denomination and worldwide movement of spiritual healers. She wrote and published the movement's textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures and 15 other books. She started several weekly and monthly magazines—the Christian Science Sentinel, The Christian Science Journal, and The Herald of Christian Science—that feature articles on Christian Science practice and verified testimonies of healing. In 1908, at the age of 87, she founded The Christian Science Monitor, a global newspaper that has won seven Pulitzer Prizes.[1] Eddy's book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures has been 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.[2] In 1995 Eddy was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.[3] In 2002, The Mary Baker Eddy Library opened its doors, giving the public access to one of the largest collections about an American woman.[4]

Early life[edit]

Bow, New Hampshire[edit]


Eddy was born Mary Morse Baker in a farmhouse in Bow, New Hampshire to farmer Mark Baker (d. 1865) and his wife Abigail Barnard Baker, née Ambrose (d. 1849). Eddy was the youngest of the Bakers' six children: boys Samuel Dow (1808), Albert (1810), and George Sullivan (1812), followed by girls Abigail Barnard (1816), Martha Smith (1819), and Mary Morse (1821).[5]

Mark Baker was a strongly religious man from a ProtestantCongregationalist background, a firm believer in the final judgment and eternal damnation, according to Eddy.[6]McClure's magazine published a series of articles in 1907 that were highly critical of Eddy, stating that Baker's home library consisted of the Bible—though Eddy responded that this was untrue and that her father had been an avid reader.[7][8]

Eddy wrote that her father had been a justice of the peace at one point and a chaplain of the New Hampshire State Militia.[9] He developed a reputation locally for being disputatious; one neighbor described him as "[a] tiger for a temper and always in a row."[10]McClure's reported several similar stories from neighbors, including that he once killed a crow with his walking stick for violating the Sabbath.[11] The magazine described him as a supporter of slavery and alleged that he had been pleased to hear about Abraham Lincoln's death.[12] Eddy responded that Baker had been a "strong believer in States’ rights, but slavery he regarded as a great sin."[9]

The Baker children inherited their father's temper, according to McClure's; they also inherited his good looks, and Eddy became known as the village beauty. Life was nevertheless spartan and repetitive. Every day began with lengthy prayer and continued with hard work. The only rest day was the Sabbath.[13]


Eddy and her father reportedly had a volatile relationship. Ernest Sutherland Bates and John V. Dittemore wrote in 1932 that Baker sought to break Eddy's will with harsh punishment, although her mother often intervened; in contrast to Mark Baker, Eddy's mother was described as devout, quiet, light-hearted, and kind.[14] Eddy experienced periods of sudden illness, perhaps in an effort to control her father's attitude toward her.[15] Those who knew the family described her as suddenly falling to the floor, writhing and screaming, or silent and apparently unconscious, sometimes for hours.[16]Robert Peel, one of Eddy's biographers, worked for the Christian Science church and wrote in 1966:

This was when life took on the look of a nightmare, overburdened nerves gave way, and she would end in a state of unconsciousness that would sometimes last for hours and send the family into a panic. On such an occasion Lyman Durgin, the Baker's teen-age chore boy, who adored Mary, would be packed off on a horse for the village doctor ..."[17]

Gillian Gill wrote in 1998 that Eddy was often sick as a child and appears to have suffered from an eating disorder, but reports may have been exaggerated concerning hysterical fits.[18] Eddy described her problems with food in the first edition of Science and Health (1875). She wrote that she had suffered from chronic indigestion as a child and, hoping to cure it, had embarked on a diet of nothing but water, bread, and vegetables, at one point consumed just once a day: "Thus we passed most of our early years, as many can attest, in hunger, pain, weakness, and starvation."[19]

Eddy experienced near invalidism as a child and most of her life until her discovery of Christian Science. Like most life experiences, it formed her lifelong, diligent research for a remedy from almost constant suffering. Eddy writes in her autobiography,"From my very childhood I was impelled by a hunger and thirst after divine things, - a desire for something higher and better than matter, and apart from it, - to seek diligently for the knowledge of God as the one great and ever-present relief from human woe." She also writes on page 33 of the chapter, "Medical Experiments," in her autobiography, "I wandered through the dim mazes of 'materia medica,' till I was weary of 'scientific guessing,' as it has been well called. I sought knowledge from the different schools, - allopathy, homeopathy, hydropathy, electricity, and from various humbugs, - but without receiving satisfaction."[20]

Tilton, New Hampshire[edit]

In 1836 when Eddy was fifteen, the Bakers moved twenty miles to Sanbornton Bridge, New Hampshire, known after 1869 as Tilton.[21]

My father was taught to believe that my brain was too large for my body and so kept me much out of school, but I gained book-knowledge with far less labor than is usually requisite. At ten years of age I was as familiar with Lindley Murray's Grammar as with the Westminster Catechism; and the latter I had to repeat every Sunday. My favorite studies were natural philosophy, logic, and moral science. From my brother Albert, I received lessons in the ancient tongues, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.[22]

As a youngster, she was often tutored by Albert, a brilliant young man in his own right who clerked for Franklin Pierce as a lawyer and later became a state politician himself before his untimely death. Another tutor was the Reverend Enoch Corser, who was Mary's spiritual guide, as well. He told his son Bartlett concerning Mary, "I never before had a pupil with such depth and independence of thought. She has some great future, mark that She is an intellectual and spiritual genius." "Bright, good, and pure, aye brilliant!"

Eddy completed her education at the Holmes Academy in Plymouth and Sanbornton Academy at the Bridge, between the years 1838 and 1842, when the present Tilton School served as a female college. She had an instructor of more than average talents in Professor Dyer Hook Sanborn. He was the author of a treatise on normal school teaching, and his "Analytical Grammar" went through eight editions. He was also the town's "superintending school committee" and he became Representative in 1845. Lucy Cross, historian of Northfield, states that it was a "celebrated school," for he was a "model educator," turning out "many finely educated lady teachers."[citation needed] Mary Baker Eddy served as a substitute instructor at the same institution after its name had changed to the New Hampshire Conference Seminary and Female College.

Bates and Dittemore write that Eddy was not able to attend Sanbornton Academy when the family first moved there, but was required instead to start at the district school (in the same building) with the youngest girls. She withdrew after a month because of poor health, then received private tuition from the Reverend Enoch Corser. She entered Sanbornton Academy in 1842.[23]

She was received into the Congregational church in Tilton on 26 July 1838 when she was 17, according to church records published by McClure's in 1907. Eddy had written in her autobiography in 1891 that she was 12 when this happened, and that she had discussed the idea of predestination with the pastor during the examination for her membership; this may have been an attempt to reflect the story of a 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple.[24] She wrote in response to the McClure's article that the date of her church membership may have been mistaken by her.[25] Eddy objected so strongly to the idea of predestination and eternal damnation that it made her ill:

My mother, as she bathed my burning temples, bade me lean on God's love, which would give me rest if I went to Him in prayer, as I was wont to do, seeking His guidance. I prayed; and a soft glow of ineffable joy came over me. The fever was gone and I rose and dressed myself in a normal condition of health. Mother saw this and was glad. The physician marveled; and the "horrible decree" of Predestination – as John Calvin rightly called his own tenet – forever lost its power over me.[26]

Marriage, widowhood[edit]

Eddy was badly affected by four deaths in the 1840s.[27] She regarded her brother Albert as a teacher and mentor, but he died in 1841. In 1844, her first husband George Washington Glover (a friend of her brother Samuel's) died after six months of marriage. They had married in December 1843 and set up home in Charleston, South Carolina, where Glover had business, but he died of yellow fever in June 1844 while living in Wilmington, North Carolina. Eddy was with him in Wilmington, six months pregnant. She had to make her way back to New Hampshire, 1,400 miles by train and steamboat, where her only child George Washington II was born on 12 September in her father's home.[28]

Her husband's death, the journey back, and the birth left her physically and mentally exhausted, and she ended up bedridden for months.[29] She tried to earn a living by writing articles for the New Hampshire Patriot and various Odd Fellows and Masonic publications. She also worked as a substitute teacher in the New Hampshire Conference Seminary, and ran her own kindergarten for a few months in 1846, apparently refusing to use corporal punishment.[30]

Then her mother died in November 1849. Eddy wrote to one of her brothers: "What is left of earth to me!" Her mother's death was followed three weeks later by the death of her fiancé, lawyer John Bartlett.[31] In 1850, Eddy wrote, her son was sent away to be looked after by the family's nurse; he was four years old by then.[32] Sources differ as to whether Eddy could have prevented this.[33] It was difficult for a woman in her circumstances to earn money and, according to the legal doctrine of coverture, women in the United States during this period could not be their own children's guardians. When their husbands died, they were left in a legally vulnerable position.[34]

Mark Baker remarried in 1850; his second wife Elizabeth Patterson Duncan (d. 6 June 1875) had been widowed twice, and had some property and income from her second marriage.[35] Baker apparently made clear to Eddy that her son would not be welcome in the new marital home.[33] She wrote:

A few months before my father's second marriage ... my little son, about four years of age, was sent away from me, and put under the care of our family nurse, who had married, and resided in the northern part of New Hampshire. I had no training for self-support, and my home I regarded as very precious. The night before my child was taken from me, I knelt by his side throughout the dark hours, hoping for a vision of relief from this trial.[36]

George was sent to stay with various relatives, and Eddy decided to live with her sister Abigail. Abigail apparently also declined to take George, then six years old.[35] Eddy married again in 1853. Her second husband, Daniel Patterson, was a dentist and apparently said that he would become George's legal guardian; but he appears not to have gone ahead with this, and Eddy lost contact with her son when the family that looked after him, the Cheneys, moved to Minnesota, and then her son several years later enlisted in the Union army during the Civil War. She did not see him again until he was in his thirties:

My dominant thought in marrying again was to get back my child, but after our marriage his stepfather was not willing he should have a home with me. A plot was consummated for keeping us apart. The family to whose care he was committed very soon removed to what was then regarded as the Far West.

After his removal a letter was read to my little son, informing him that his mother was dead and buried. Without my knowledge a guardian was appointed him, and I was then informed that my son was lost. Every means within my power was employed to find him, but without success. We never met again until he had reached the age of thirty-four, had a wife and two children, and by a strange providence had learned that his mother still lived, and came to see me in Massachusetts.[36]

Study with Phineas Quimby[edit]

In October 1862, Eddy became a patient of Phineas Quimby,[38] a magnetic healer from Maine. From 1862 to 1865, Quimby and Eddy engaged in lengthy discussions about healing methods practiced by Quimby and others. The extent to which he influenced her is much debated. Originally, Eddy gave Quimby much credit for his hypnotic treatments of her nervous and physical conditions and initially thought his brand of mesmerism entirely benign.[39]

Quimby was steeped both in the Protestant Christianity of his time and the science of the industrial revolution. He wrote in 1864, "The wise man, in like measure ... knows that the light of the body or natural man is but the reflection of the scientific man. Our misery lies in this darkness. This is the prison that holds the natural man, till the light of Wisdom bursts his bonds, and lets the captive free. Here is where Christ went to preach to the prisoners bound by error before the reformation of science."[40] In a letter to the Portland Evening Courier in November 1862, Eddy wrote:

With this physical and mental depression I first visited P. P. Quimby, and in less than one week from that time I ascended by a stairway of one hundred and eighty-two-steps to the dome of the City Hall, and am improving ad in-finitum. To the most subtle reasoning, such a proof, coupled to as it is with numberless similar ones, demonstrates his power to heal.[41]

She wrote in a letter in 1864, "I am up and about today, i.e., by the help of the Lord."[42] Eddy denied mesmerism in another letter to the Portland Evening Courier, claiming that Christ was the cure:

P. P. Quimby stands upon the plane of wisdom with his truth. Christ healed the sick, but not by jugglery or with drugs. As the former speaks as never man before spake, and heals as never man healed since. Christ, is he not identified with truth, and is not this the Christ which is in him? We know that in wisdom is life, `and the life was the light of man.' P. P. Quimby rolls away the stone from the sepulchre of error, and health is the resurrection. But we also know that light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.[43]

Quimby had his own notions concerning the nature of these unseen forces which Eddy accepted early on, but she later drew decidedly different opinions on the nature of thought on the body and rejected any form of hypnotism. It is evident that Eddy and Quimby worked together, appreciated one another, and learned from one another. Quimby reportedly later said that he learned more from Eddy than she did from him. Eddy clearly respected him and, at one point, referred to him as an "advanced thinker" with a "high and noble character."[44] However, she later disavowed the hypnotic aspect of Quimby's methods. She refutes hypnotism in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, calling it mere deception practiced by those who aim to control the patient. She states, "The Christian Scientist demonstrates that divine Mind heals, while the hypnotist dispossesses the patient of his individuality in order to control him."[45]

Fall in Swampscott[edit]

Eddy experienced a healing on February 4, 1866, after she slipped and fell on some ice while walking in Swampscott, Massachusetts on February 1 causing a spinal injury:

On the third day thereafter, I called for my Bible, and opened it at Matthew, 9:2 [And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.(King James Bible) ]. As I read, the healing Truth dawned upon my sense; and the result was that I arose, dressed myself, and ever after was in better health than I had before enjoyed. That short experience included a glimpse of the great fact that I have since tried to make plain to others, namely, Life in and of Spirit; this Life being the sole reality of existence.[46]

She later filed a claim for money from the city of Lynn for her injury on the grounds that she was "still suffering from the effects of that fall" (though she afterwards withdrew the lawsuit).[47] Gill writes that Eddy's claim was probably made under financial pressure from her husband at the time. Her neighbors believed her sudden recovery to be a near-miracle.[48] Eddy's attending physician Alvin M. Cushing, a homeopath, testified under oath that he "did not at any time declare, or believe, that there was no hope for Mrs. Patterson's recovery, or that she was in critical condition."[49]

Eddy wrote in her autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection, that she devoted the next three years of her life to biblical study and what she considered the discovery of Christian Science: "I then withdrew from society about three years,--to ponder my mission, to search the Scriptures, to find the Science of Mind that should take the things of God and show them to the creature, and reveal the great curative Principle, --Deity."[50]

Eddy became convinced that illness could be healed through an awakened thought brought about by a clearer perception of God and the explicit rejection of drugs, hygiene, and medicine, based on the observation that Jesus did not use these methods for healing:

It is plain that God does not employ drugs or hygiene, nor provide them for human use; else Jesus would have recommended and employed them in his healing. ... The tender word and Christian encouragement of an invalid, pitiful patience with his fears and the removal of them, are better than hecatombs of gushing theories, stereotyped borrowed speeches, and the doling of arguments, which are but so many parodies on legitimate Christian Science, aflame with divine Love.[51]


Eddy separated from her second husband Daniel Patterson, after which she boarded for four years with several families in Lynn, Amesbury, and elsewhere. Frank Podmore wrote:

But she was never able to stay long in one family. She quarrelled successively with all her hostesses, and her departure from the house was heralded on two or three occasions by a violent scene. Her friends during these years were generally Spiritualists; she seems to have professed herself a Spiritualist, and to have taken part in séances. She was occasionally entranced, and had received "spirit communications" from her deceased brother Albert. Her first advertisement as a healer appeared in 1868, in the Spiritualist paper, The Banner of Light. During these years she carried about with her a copy of one of Quimby's manuscripts giving an abstract of his philosophy. This manuscript she permitted some of her pupils to copy.[52]

Eddy clearly distinguished Christian Science from Spiritualism in a chapter in Science and Health entitled Christian Science versus Spiritualism.[1] According to Robert Peel, Eddy gave a public talk opposing Spiritualism in Warren, Maine in the spring of 1864.[53] Hiram Crafts, a student of hers, stated in an affidavit: "At that date I was a Spiritualist, but her teachings changed my views on that subject and I gave up spiritualism."[54]

After she became well known, reports surfaced that Eddy was a medium in Boston at one time.[55] At the time when she was said to be a medium there, she lived some distance away.[56] She was also bedridden during that time.[55] Peel has been challenged by other researchers who write that Eddy acted as a trance channeler and worked in and around Boston as a Spiritualist medium giving public séances for money.[57]

According to Gill, Eddy knew spiritualists and took part in some of their activities, but was never a convinced believer.[58] For example, she visited her friend Sarah Crosby in 1864, who believed in Spiritualism. Eddy attempted to show Crosby the folly of it by pretending to channel Eddy's brother Albert and writing letters which she attributed to him.[59]

Between 1866 and 1870, Eddy boarded at the home of Brene Paine Clark who was interested in Spiritualism.[60] Seances were often conducted there, but Eddy and Clark engaged in vigorous, good-natured arguments about them.[61] Eddy's arguments against Spiritualism convinced at least one other who was there at the time—Hiram Crafts—that "her science was far superior to spirit teachings."[62] Clark's son George tried to convince Eddy to take up Spiritualism, but he said that she abhorred the idea.[63] According to Cather and Milmine, Mrs. Richard Hazeltine attended seances at Clark's home,[64] and she said that Eddy had acted as a trance medium, claiming to channel the spirits of the Apostles.[65] Eddy was also known for channeling messages from the dead brother of her friend Sarah Crosby. According to Martin Gardner, Eddy's mediumship converted Crosby to Spiritualism.[66]

Mary Gould, a Spiritualist from Lynn, claimed that one of the spirits that Eddy channeled was Abraham Lincoln. According to eyewitness reports cited by Cather and Milmine, Eddy was still attending séances as late as 1872.[67] In these later séances, Eddy would attempt to convert her audience into accepting Christian Science.[68] Eddy showed extensive familiarity with Spiritualist practice but denounced it in her Christian Science writings.[69] Historian Ann Braude wrote that there were similarities between Spiritualism and Christian Science, but the main difference was that Eddy came to believe, after she founded Christian Science, that spirit manifestations had never really had bodies to begin with, because matter is unreal and that all that really exists is spirit, before and after death.[70]

Divorce, publishing her work[edit]

Eddy divorced Daniel Patterson for adultery in 1873. She published her work in 1875 in a book entitled Science and Health (years later retitled Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures) which she called the textbook of Christian Science, after several years of offering her healing method. The first publication run was 1,000 copies, which she self-published. During these years, she taught what she considered the science of "primitive Christianity" to at least 800 people.[71] Many of her students became healers themselves. The last 100 pages of Science and Health (chapter entitled "Fruitage") contains testimonies of people who claimed to have been healed by reading her book. She made numerous revisions to her book from the time of its first publication until shortly before her death.[72]

In 1877, she married Asa Gilbert Eddy; in 1882, they moved to Boston, and he died that year.[73]

Accusations of plagiarism[edit]


Phineas Quimby by 1859 had connected his healing practices with the Christ of the New Testament. He also called his method of healing the "science of health" and the "science of Christ," and had used the term "Christian Science" to describe his work.[74] According to the historian of science James C. Whorton, "In Quimby's mind, Christ and science were synonymous; his method of healing he thus called the Science of Christ and even, toward the close of his life, "Christian Science."[75]

Several writers, including Willa Cather and Georgine Milmine in McClure's, and Martin Gardner, have written that Eddy took many of her ideas from Quimby without giving him any kind of credit. Todd Jay Leonard summarized the controversy:

Many critics of Eddy maintained that she basically stole all of her ideas from her longtime teacher, Phineas P. Quimby. It was he who had worked to develop the healing system that she adopted to be used as the base-doctrine in Christian Science. If she did not take all of his ideas, she, at the very least, based her system of healing on his basic treatises about mental healing.[76]

Eddy found that while at first hypnotism seemed to benefit the patient, it later created more problems than the original sickness. Ultimately she rejected any form of hypnotism or mesmerism, stating: "The hypnotizer employs one error to destroy another. If he heals sickness through a belief, and a belief originally caused the sickness, it is a case of the greater error overcoming the lesser. This greater error thereafter occupies the ground, leaving the case worse than before it was grasped by the stronger error."[77]


In the 24th edition of Science and Health, up to the 33rd edition, Eddy admitted the harmony between Vedanta philosophy and Christian Science. She also quoted certain passages from an English translation of the Bhagavad Gita, but they were later removed. According to Gill, in the 1891 revision Eddy removed from her book all the references to Eastern religions which her editor, Reverend James Henry Wiggin, had introduced.[78] On this issue Swami Abhedananda wrote:

Mrs. Eddy quoted certain passages from the English edition of the Bhagavad-Gita, but unfortunately, for some reason, those passages of the Gita were omitted in the 34th edition of the book, Science and Health ... if we closely study Mrs. Eddy’s book, we find that Mrs. Eddy has incorporated in her book most of the salient features of Vedanta philosophy, but she denied the debt flatly.[79]

Other writers, such as Jyotirmayananda Saraswati, have said that Eddy may have been influenced by ancient Hindu philosophy.[80] The historian Damodar Singhal wrote:

The Christian Science movement in America was possibly influenced by India. The founder of this movement, Mary Baker Eddy, in common with the Vedantins, believed that matter and suffering were unreal, and that a full realization of this fact was essential for relief from ills and pains ... The Christian Science doctrine has naturally been given a Christian framework, but the echoes of Vedanta in its literature are often striking.[81]

Wendell Thomas in Hinduism Invades America (1930) suggested that Eddy may have discovered Hinduism through the teachings of the New England Transcendentalists such as Bronson Alcott.[82]Stephen Gottschalk, in his The Emergence of Christian Science in American Religious Life (1973), wrote:

The association of Christian Science with Eastern religion would seem to have had some basis in Mrs Eddy's own writings. For in some early editions of Science and Health she had quoted from and commented favorably upon a few Hindu and Buddhist texts... None of these references, however, was to remain a part of Science and Health as it finally stood... Increasingly from the mid-1880s on, Mrs Eddy made a sharp distinction between Christian Science and Eastern religions.[83]

In regards to the influence of Eastern religions on her discovery of Christian Science, Eddy states in The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany: "Think not that Christian Science tends towards Buddhism or any other 'ism'. Per contra, Christian Science destroys such tendency."[84]

Building a church[edit]

Eddy devoted the rest of her life to the establishment of the church, writing its bylaws, The Manual of The Mother Church, and revising Science and Health. By the 1870s she was telling her students, "Some day I will have a church of my own."[85] In 1879 she and her students established the Church of Christ, Scientist, "to commemorate the word and works of our Master [Jesus], which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing."[86] In 1892 at Eddy's direction, the church reorganized as The First Church of Christ, Scientist, "designed to be built on the Rock, Christ...."[87] In 1881, she founded the Massachusetts Metaphysical College,[88] where she taught approximately 800 students between the years 1882 and 1889, when she closed it.[89] Eddy charged her students $300 each for tuition. This was a large sum for the period and generated considerable controversy.[90]

Her students spread across the country practicing healing, and instructing others. Eddy authorized these students to list themselves as Christian Science Practitioners in the church's periodical, The Christian Science Journal. She also founded the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine with articles about how to heal and testimonies of healing.

In 1888, a reading room selling Bibles, her writings and other publications opened in Boston.[91] This model would soon be replicated, and branch churches worldwide maintain more than 1,200 Christian Science Reading Rooms today.[92]

In 1894 an edifice for The First Church of Christ, Scientist was completed in Boston (The Mother Church). In the early years Eddy served as pastor. In 1895 she ordained the Bible and Science and Health as the pastor.[93]

Eddy founded The Christian Science Publishing Society in 1898, which became the publishing home for numerous publications launched by her and her followers.[94] In 1908, at the age of 87, she founded The Christian Science Monitor, a daily newspaper.[95] She also founded the Christian Science Journal in 1883,[96] a monthly magazine aimed at the church's members and, in 1898,[97] the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly religious periodical written for a more general audience, and the Herald of Christian Science, a religious magazine with editions in many languages.[98]

Malicious animal magnetism[edit]

The converse of mental healing was the use of mental powers to destroy people's health – what Eddy termed "malicious animal magnetism." She was concerned that a new practitioner could inadvertently harm a patient through unenlightened use of their mental powers, and that less scrupulous individuals could use such powers as a weapon.[99]

In 1872 Eddy had an argument with her student Richard Kennedy and he was expelled from Christian Science. Later she came to believe that he was using mental powers to destroy her so she ordered her students to "mobilize all their mental energy to combat him".[100] Eddy also ordered her students to stand outside her bedroom door to protect her from any mental attacks directed at her. In 1882 Eddy publicly claimed that her last husband, Asa Gilbert Eddy, had died of "mental assassination".[101] Daniel Spofford was another Christian Scientist expelled by Eddy after she accused him of practicing malicious animal magnetism.[102] According to Eugene V. Gallagher:

Eddy believed that former students actually had the power to commit “mental assassination". After a breakup with one of her early protégés, Daniel H. Spofford, she thought he was using mental malpractice to undermine her Christian Science practice. In a celebrated case (1878) that earned her much negative publicity, she took part in a lawsuit against Spofford, claiming that he deliberately practiced malicious mesmerism on one of her unhealed patients, Lucretia Brown. Irreverently dubbed "The Second Salem Witch Trial", the suit was eventually thrown out of court.[103]

The belief in malicious animal magnetism "remains a part of the doctrine of Christian Science."[104] In an article entitled "Malicious Animal Magnetism" published in the Christian Science Journal, February 1889, Eddy wrote that mental assassination was one of the greatest crimes and that anyone practicing it should be put to death by a human executioner.[105] Several persons committed suicide because of the fear of malicious animal magnetism.[106] Mary Tomlinson, a student of Mary Baker Eddy, committed suicide by throwing herself out of a window.[107] Another Christian Scientist Marion Stephens committed suicide by gassing herself in a bathroom.[108]

In her later years Eddy apparently became paranoid, believing that 50,000 people were trying to kill her by projecting their evil thoughts.[109] Eddy wrote that if she died it would be due to malicious animal magnetism rather than from natural causes.[110]

Use of medicine[edit]

A diary kept by Calvin Frye, Eddy's personal secretary, suggested that Eddy had a lifelong dependence on morphine.[111] Miranda Rice, a friend and close student of Eddy, told a newspaper in 1906: "I know that Mrs. Eddy was addicted to morphine in the seventies. She begged me to get some for her. She sent her husband Mr. Eddy for some, and when he failed to get it went herself and got it. She locked herself into her room and for two days excluded every one. She was a slave to morphine."[112] Gillian Gill writes that the prescription of morphine was normal medical practice at the time.[113]

Biographers who have described Eddy as a morphine addict include Ernest Sutherland Bates and Edwin Franden Dakin.[114]

Eddy recommended to her son that, rather than go against the law of the state, he should have her grandchildren vaccinated. She also paid for a mastectomy for her sister-in-law.[115] Eddy was quoted in the New York Herald on 1 May 1901: "Where vaccination is compulsory, let your children be vaccinated, and see that your mind is in such a state that by your prayers vaccination will do the children no harm. So long as Christian Scientists obey the laws, I do not suppose their mental reservations will be thought to matter much."[116]

Eddy used glasses for several years for very fine print, but later dispensed with them almost entirely.[117] She found she could read fine print with ease.[118] In 1907 Arthur Brisbane interviewed Eddy. At one point he picked up a periodical, selected at random a paragraph, and asked Eddy to read it. According to Brisbane, at the age of eighty six, she read the ordinary magazine type without glasses.[119] Towards the end of her life she was frequently attended by physicians.[120]

Psychological evaluation[edit]

In 1907, in the course of a legal case, four psychiatrists interviewed Eddy, then 86 years old, to determine whether she could manage her own affairs, and concluded that she was able to.[121] Physician Allan McLane Hamilton told The New York Times that the attacks on Eddy were the result of "a spirit of religious persecution that has at last quite overreached itself," and that "there seems to be a manifest injustice in taxing so excellent and capable an old lady as Mrs. Eddy with any form of insanity."[122]

A 1907 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that Eddy exhibited hysterical and psychotic behaviour.[123] Psychiatrist Karl Menninger in his book The Human Mind (1927) cited Eddy's paranoid delusions about malicious animal magnetism as an example of a "schizoid personality".[124]

Psychologists Leon Joseph Saul and Silas L. Warner, in their book The Psychotic Personality (1982), came to the conclusion that Eddy had diagnostic characteristics of Psychotic Personality Disorder (PPD).[125] In 1983, psychologists Theodore Barber and Sheryl C. Wilson suggested that Eddy displayed traits of a fantasy prone personality.[126]

Psychiatrist George Eman Vaillant wrote that Eddy was hypochrondriacal.[127] Psychopharmacologist Ronald K. Siegel has written that Eddy's lifelong secret morphine habit contributed to her development of "progressive paranoia".[128]


Eddy died of pneumonia on the evening of December 3, 1910 at her home at 400 Beacon Street, in the Chestnut Hill section of Newton, Massachusetts. Her death was announced the next morning, when a city medical examiner was called in.[129] She was buried on December 8, 1910 at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her memorial was designed by New York architect Egerton Swartwout (1870-1943). Hundreds of tributes appeared in newspapers around the world, including The Boston Globe, which wrote, "She did a wonderful—an extraordinary work in the world and there is no doubt that she was a powerful influence for good."[130]


Currently, there are almost 1,700 Christian Science churches in 76 countries.[131]

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.

In 1921, on the 100th anniversary of Eddy's birth, a 100-ton (in rough) and 60–70 tons (hewn), pyramid with a 121 square foot footprint was dedicated on the site of her birthplace in Bow, New Hampshire.[132] A gift from James F. Lord, it was dynamited in 1962 by order of the church's board of directors. Also demolished was Eddy's former home in Pleasant View, as the board feared that it was becoming a place of pilgrimage.[133]


Several of Eddy's homes are owned and maintained as historic sites by the Longyear Museum and may be visited (the list below is arranged by date of her occupancy):[134]

  • 1855–1860 – Hall's Brook Road, North Groton, New Hampshire
  • 1860–1862 – Stinson Lake Road, Rumney, New Hampshire
  • 1865–1866 – 23 Paradise Road, Swampscott, Massachusetts[135]
  • 1868,1870 – 277 Main Street, Amesbury, Massachusetts
  • 1868–1870 – 133 Central Street, Stoughton, Massachusetts
  • 1875–1882 – 8 Broad Street, Lynn, Massachusetts
  • 1889–1892 – 62 North State Street, Concord, New Hampshire
  • 1908–1910 – 400 Beacon Street, Dupee Estate-Mary Baker Eddy Home, Chestnut Hill, Newton, Massachusetts.


    Source: WorldCat[136]

    See also[edit]

    • Dupee Estate-Mary Baker Eddy Home in the Chestnut Hill village of Newton, Massachusetts
    • Massachusetts Metaphysical College with a complete list of students of Eddy
    • Septimus J. Hanna, student of Eddy and vice-president of the Massachusetts Metaphysical College
    • William R. Rathvon, student of Eddy, early Christian Scientist and lone person to leave an audio recording of his hearing Lincoln's Gettysburg Address at the age of nine.
    • Bliss Knapp, a child when the church was in its formative years. Later, he was a teacher and also lectured for 21 years. His father was one of the first Directors of The Mother Church. Knapp's Book, The Destiny of the Mother Church, which was rejected by the Church but privately published, was quite controversial, and Knapp's opinions of Eddy remain controversial to this day in the Christian Science Church.
    • Augusta Emma Stetson, pastor and later First Reader of First Church of Christ, Scientist (New York, New York), excommunicated by the Mother Church in 1909.
    • Christian Science Herald
    • Christian Science Journal
    • Christian Science Monitor
    • Christian Science Pleasant View Home
    • Christian Science practitioner
    • Christian Science Sentinel
    • Christian Science Reading Room


    1. ^"Pulitzer Prizes -". Retrieved 2018-02-18. 
    2. ^75 Books by Women Whose Words Have Changed the World
    3. ^National Women's Hall of Fame: Mary Baker Eddy
    4. ^The Mary Baker Eddy Library
    5. ^Ernest Sutherland Bates and John V. Dittemore, Mary Baker Eddy: The Truth and the Tradition, A. A. Knopf, 1932, 3.
    6. ^Mary Baker Eddy, Retrospection and Introspection, Christian Science Publishing Society, 1891, 13.
    7. ^Willa Cather and Georgine Milmine, "Mary Baker G. Eddy: The Story of Her Life and the History of Christian Science", McClure's, January 1907, 232.
    8. ^Mary Baker Eddy, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, Christian Science Publishing Society, 1913, 308; Mary Baker Eddy, "Reply to McClure's Magazine", Christian Science Endtime Center, undated.
    9. ^ abEddy, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, 309.
    10. ^Bates and Dittemore 1932, 4–5.
    11. ^Cather and Milmine, McClure's, January 1907, 232.
    12. ^Cather and Milmine, McClure's, January 1907, 229.
    13. ^Cather and Milmine, McClure's, January 1907, 230, 234.
    14. ^Bates and Dittemore 1932, 7.
    15. ^Caroline Fraser, God's Perfect Child, Metropolitan Books, 1999, 35.
    16. ^Cather and Milmine, McClure's, January 1907, 236; Bates and Dittemore 1932, 7.
    17. ^Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966, p. 45.
    18. ^Gillian Gill, Mary Baker Eddy, Da Capo Press, 1998, 39–47.
    19. ^Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health, 1st edition, Christian Science Publishing Company, 1875, 189–190.
    20. ^(Retrospection and Instrospection, Copyright 1901, by Mary Baker G. Eddy, Copyright renewed 1929)
    21. ^Cather and Milmine, McClure's, January 1907, 235.
    22. ^Eddy, Retrospection and Introspection, 10.
    23. ^Bates and Dittemore 1932, 16–17, 25.
    24. ^Eddy, Retrospection and Introspection, 14–15; Cather and Milmine, McClure's, January 1907, 237.
    25. ^Eddy, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, 311: "My reply to the statement that the clerk's book shows that I joined the Tilton Congregational Church at the age of seventeen is that my religious experience seemed to culminate at twelve years of age. Hence a mistake may have occurred as to the exact date of my first church membership."
    26. ^Eddy Retrospection and Introspection, 14
    27. ^Stephen Gottschalk, Rolling Away the Stone, Indiana University Press, 2006, 62–64.
    Elizabeth Patterson Duncan Baker, Mark Baker's second wife
    Eddy's son George Washington Glover II
    Mary Baker G. Eddy in later years.
    Calvin Frye, Eddy's personal secretary
    Spring Byington

    Byington in the Little Women trailer (1933)

    BornSpring Dell Byington
    (1886-10-17)October 17, 1886
    Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
    DiedSeptember 7, 1971(1971-09-07) (aged 84)
    Los Angeles, California, U.S.
    Cause of deathCancer
    Years active1904–1968
    Spouse(s)Roy Carey Chandler (m. 1909–1920)
    ChildrenPhyllis Chandler (b. 1916)
    Lois Chandler (b. 1917)

    Spring Dell Byington (October 17, 1886 – September 7, 1971) was an American actress.[1] Her career included a seven-year run on radio and television as the star of December Bride. She was a former MGM contract player who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1960s. Byington received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Penelope Sycamore in You Can't Take It with You (1938).

    Early life[edit]

    Byington was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the daughter of Edwin Lee Byington, an educator and superintendent of schools in Colorado, and his wife Helene Maud (Cleghorn) Byington. She had a younger sister, Helene Kimball Byington. Her father died in 1891, and her mother sent her younger daughter to live with her grandparents in Port Hope, Ontario, while Spring remained with relatives in Denver. Helene Byington moved to Boston and enrolled in the Boston University School of Medicine, where she graduated in 1896. She then returned to Denver and opened a practice with her classmate, Dr. Mary Ford.

    Byington performed occasionally in amateur shows as a student, graduating from North High School in 1904. She soon became a professional actress with the Elitch Garden Stock Company.[2] When their mother died in 1907, Byington and Helene were legally adopted by their aunt Margaret Eddy. Byington stated in a 1949 interview that she briefly tried newspaper reporting. However, since she was already of legal age, she decided to start her acting career in New York City, saying that she enjoyed it, and, "I can't do anything else very well."[3]



    In 1908, Byington joined a repertory company that was touring Buenos Aires, Argentina. Between 1908 and 1916, the company performed American plays, translated into Spanish and Portuguese in Argentina and Brazil.

    Upon returning to New York, Byington divided her time between working in Manhattan and staying with her daughters. Her daughters were living with friends J. Allen and Lois Babcock, in Leonardsville Village, New York, who were taking care of them while Byington worked in the city. She began touring in 1919 with a production of Birds in Paradise, which brought the Hawaiian culture to the mainland, and, in 1921, began work with the Stuart Walker Company, for which she played roles in Mr. Pim Passes By, The Ruined Lady, and Rollo's Wild Oats, among others. This connection landed her a role in her first Broadway performance in 1924, George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly'sBeggar on Horseback which ran for six months. She renewed the role in March and April 1925, and continued on Broadway with an additional 18 productions in the ten years from 1925 to 1935. These included roles in Kaufman and Moss Hart'sOnce in a Lifetime, Rachel Crothers's When Ladies Meet, and Dawn Powell'sJig Saw.

    Films, radio and television[edit]

    In her last years on Broadway, Byington began work in films. The first was a short film titled Papa's Slay Ride (1930), where she played the role of Mama, and the second role, and better known, was in Little Women (1933) as Marmee, with Katharine Hepburn as her daughter Jo. For MGM, she played Midshipman Roger Byam's (Franchot Tone) mother in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935). She became a household name during The Jones Family series of films, and continued as a character actress in Hollywood for several years.[2] Byington was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for You Can't Take it with You (1938), which was won by Fay Bainter for Jezebel (in which Byington also had a role as antebellum society matron, Mrs. Kendrick).[citation needed]

    During World War II, Byington worked in radio, and decided to continue working in this medium, as her film career began to decline after the war. In 1952, she joined CBS Radio to become the lead role of the widowed Lily Ruskin, in the sitcomDecember Bride. In 1954, the television company Desilu Productions produced a pilot of the show for a sitcom, also starring Byington. The pilot was successful, and the new hit sitcom aired in its first two seasons immediately following I Love Lucy. December Bride broadcast 111 episodes through 1959.

    Byington guest-starred as herself in the CBS sitcom Dennis the Menace, starring Jay North, in the episode titled Dennis' Birthday (1961), with character actor Vaughn Taylor also appearing in this segment.[4]

    From 1961 to 1963, Byington was cast as the wise, matronly housekeeper, Daisy Cooper, in the NBCWestern series Laramie, starring John Smith and Robert Fuller. On Laramie, Daisy serves as a surrogate grandmother to orphaned Mike Williams, played by the child actor Dennis Holmes.

    After Laramie, Byington guest-starred as Mrs. Jolly on Dennis Weaver's NBC sitcom, Kentucky Jones, and as wealthy J. Pauline Spaghetti in an episode of Batman in 1966. Her penultimate role before her death from cancer was in 1967, as Larry Hagman's mother on NBC's I Dream of Jeannie. Her final role was in 1968 as Mother General on ABC'sThe Flying Nun, starring Sally Field.

    Personal life[edit]

    Byington spoke some Spanish, which she learned during the time spent with her husband in Buenos Aires; and she studied Brazilian Portuguese in her golden years. In July 1958, she confided to reporter Hazel Johnson that she had acquired a "small coffee plantation" in Brazil the month before and was learning Portuguese. "Miss Byington explained that she first listens to a 'conditioning record' before she goes to sleep. An hour later, her Portuguese lessons automatically begin feeding into her pillow by means of a small speaker."[2]

    Byington was fascinated by metaphysics and science fiction novels, including George Orwell's 1984. She surprised her co-stars in December Bride with her knowledge of the Earth's satellites and the constellations in the night sky,[2] and read The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.[5]

    In August 1955, Byington began taking flying lessons in Glendale, California, but the studio made her stop because of insurance problems.[2]

    In January 1957, she testified in the trial of the Sica brothers as a character witness in behalf of DaLonne Cooper, who was a friend and the script supervisor for December Bride.[6]

    Marriage and engagement[edit]

    In 1909, Spring Byington married Roy Chandler, the manager of the theater troupe with which she worked in Buenos Aires. They remained there until 1916, when Spring returned to New York to give birth to her first daughter, Phyllis Helene. Her second daughter, Lois Irene, was born in 1917. The couple divorced about 1920. Between then and the mid-1930s, she devoted her time to developing her career.[7]

    In the late 1930s, Byington was once again engaged to be married, this time to an Argentine industrialist. Following an engagement of a few years and several months before they were to be married, he died unexpectedly. Following this, she chose to devote her life to her career and family.

    A number of Hollywood historians have claimed that Byington was a lesbian.[8][9][10][11] Actress Marjorie Main's biographer Michelle Vogel has noted that Main and Byington were reported widely as having had a long-term relationship.[12] When asked about Byington's sexual orientation, Main acknowledged: "It's true, she didn't have much use for men."[8]


    On September 7, 1971, Byington died of cancer at her home in the Hollywood Hills.[7][13] At her request, her body was donated to medical research.[14]

    For her contributions to the film and television industries, Byington has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: a motion pictures star at 6507 Hollywood Boulevard, and a television star at 6231 Hollywood Boulevard.[15][7]

    Broadway credits[edit]

    • Beggar on Horseback (1924, 1925 revival) – Mrs. Cady
    • Weak Sisters (1925)
    • Puppy Love (1926)
    • The Great Adventure (1926–1927)
    • Skin Deep (1927)
    • The Merchant of Venice (1928)
    • To-Night at 12 (1928–1929)
    • Be Your Age (1929)
    • Jonesy (1929)
    • Ladies Don't Lie (1929)
    • I Want My Wife (1930)
    • Once in a Lifetime (1930) – Helen Hobart
    • Ladies of Creation (1931)
    • We Are No Longer Children (1932)
    • When Ladies Meet (1932–1933)
    • The First Apple (1933–1934)
    • No Questions Asked (1934)
    • Jig Saw (1934)
    • Piper Paid (1934–1935)

    Partial filmography[edit]

    Selected filmography[edit]

    "Jones Family" films[edit]


    • December Bride (1954–1959) – Lily Ruskin
    • The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford (December 27, 1956) – Herself
    • What's My Line? (December 27, 1957) (Episode #386, Season 9 EP.9) Mystery Guest. Was one of only a few Mystery Guests that disguised her voice well enough to fool the panel.
    • Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1960) – Alice Wagner, episode "The Man with Two Faces"
    • Dennis the Menace (1961) – Played herself on episode "Dennis' Birthday" aired on 02/19/1961.
    • Laramie (1961–1963) – Daisy Cooper
    • "The Train Don't Stop Till It Gets There", The Greatest Show on Earth (1964)
    • Batman (1966) – J. Pauline Spaghetti, episodes "The Catwoman Goeth" and "The Sandman Cometh"
    • I Dream of Jeannie (1967) – Mother, episode "Meet My Master's Mother"
    • The Flying Nun (1968) – Mother General, episode "To Fly or Not to Fly"



    • 1933 Alexandrias: Best Supporting Actress, Little Women[16]
      • Won by Mary Astor, The World Changes
    • 1938 Oscars: Best Supporting Actress, You Can't Take It with You[17]
      • Won by Fay Bainter, Jezebel
    • 1950 Golden Globes: Best Actress – Comedy or Musical, Louisa[18]
      • Won by Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday
    • 1957 Emmys: Best Actress – Drama or Comedy Series, December Bride[19]
      • Won by Jane Wyatt, Father Knows Best
    • 1958 Emmys: Best Actress – Drama or Comedy Series, December Bride[20]
      • Won by Jane Wyatt, Father Knows Best

    See also[edit]


    1. ^Obituary Variety, September 8, 1971.
    2. ^ abcdeStumpf, Charles. "Spring Byington: Eternal Spring",, June 2000. Archived 5 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
    3. ^Heyn, Howard C. (1949). "Motherly Spring Byington Says She Is Actress Solely Because She Likes It", St. Petersburg Times, July 24, 1949; retrieved July 16, 2013.
    4. ^""Dennis' Birthday", February 19, 1961". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 9, 2013. 
    5. ^"F&SF house advertisement". The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. October 1959. pp. Back cover. 
    6. ^Fred Sica Says He Was Defending Self in Row. (January 31, 1957). Los Angeles Times, p. 4.
    7. ^ abc"Hollywood Star Walk: Spring Byington."Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1971. Retrieved: June 11, 2012.
    8. ^ abTucker, David C. (2007). The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms. Jefferson NC: McFarland. p. 69. ISBN 978-0786429004. 
    9. ^Faderman, Lillian and Stuart Timmons (2006). Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians. New York: Basic Books. p. 48. ISBN 9780465022885. 
    10. ^Wallace, David (2002). Hollywoodland: Rich and Lively History About Hollywood's Grandest Era. NY: St. Martin's. p. 55. ISBN 0312291256. 
    11. ^Madsen, Axel (1995). Forbidden Lovers: Hollywood's Greatest Secret: Female Stars Who Loved Other Women. NY: Birch Lane Press. p. 144. 
    12. ^Vogel, Michelle (2006). Marjorie Main: The Life and Films of Hollywood's "Ma Kettle". Jefferson NC: McFarland. p. 110. ISBN 0786464437. 
    13. ^"Actress Spring Byington Dies". The Age. 1971-09-09. p. 6. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
    14. ^Tucker, David C. (2007). The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. 
    15. ^"Hollywood Walk of Fame - Spring Byington". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved December 28, 2017. 
    16. ^"Past Awards Database: The Envelope, 1933 Alexandria Awards."Los Angeles Times. Retrieved: May 6, 2010.
    17. ^"Past Awards Database: The Envelope, 1938 Academy Awards."Los Angeles Times. Retrieved: May 6, 2010.
    18. ^"Past Awards Database: The Envelope, 1950 Golden Globe Awards."Los Angeles Times. Retrieved: May 6, 2010.
    19. ^"Past Awards Database: The Envelope, 1957 Emmy Awards."Los Angeles Times. Retrieved: May 6, 2010.
    20. ^"Past Awards Database: The Envelope, 1958–1959 Emmy Awards."Los Angeles Times. Retrieved: May 6, 2010.
    • Brooks, Tim and Earle Marsh. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946–Present. New York: Ballantine Books, Ninth edition 2007, First edition 1979. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
    • Tucker, David C. Verna Felton. Duncan, Oklahoma: BearManor Media, 2010. ISBN 978-1-59393-524-5.
    • Tucker, David C. The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. 2007. ISBN 978-0-7864-2900-4.

    External links[edit]

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