Eddy, Mary Baker

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Eddy, Mary Baker,

1821–1910, founder of the Christian ScienceChristian Science,
religion founded upon principles of divine healing and laws expressed in the acts and sayings of Jesus, as discovered and set forth by Mary Baker Eddy and practiced by the Church of Christ, Scientist.
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 movement, b. Bow, N.H. As physical frailty prevented her regular school attendance, she spent the early part of her education learning at home from her brother Albert Baker. She later attended Holmes Academy at Plymouth and Sanbornton Academy. At a young age she published poetry and prose in periodicals. Widowed six months after her marriage to George W. Glover and responsible for their child (also named George W. Glover), she spent nine years among relatives, teaching at times and often in ill health. Married in 1853 to Daniel Patterson, a dentist, she lived in the country for some time, and later moved to Lynn, Mass. Having heard of the success in mental healing of Phineas Parkhurst QuimbyQuimby, Phineas Parkhurst,
1802–66, American mental healer, b. Lebanon, N.H. He became interested in mesmerism and gave exhibitions of that art in New England and New Brunswick. He then turned to mental healing and gained a large and important following.
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, she went in 1862 to Portland, Maine. She received benefit from his treatment and became his pupil, but began to harbor doubts about Quimby's concept of mind as spiritual matter and his hostility to religion. In 1866 she separated from her husband; she later (1873) obtained a divorce. The year 1866 marks the actual beginning of Christian Science as she apprehended it. In the ensuing years, she refined the doctrine and plans for her new church. In 1875, she published the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health (later Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures). She remarried for the last time in 1877, to Asa Gilbert Eddy, an active Christian Scientist. She founded the Journal of Christian Science in 1883, and edited the periodical for some time. As leader of the Christian Science movement, Mary Baker Eddy herself planned the Church Manual for the conduct of the Church of Christ, Scientist, and directed every detail in its upbuilding. She lived in Boston for seven years, from 1882, then near Concord, N.H., until 1908, when she made her home in Chestnut Hill, near Boston. As pastor emeritus of the Mother Church in Boston and head of the whole church with all its branches, she exercised a strong influence, even in the retirement of her later years. In 1908, she founded the Christian Science Monitor, a daily newspaper. Her writings include Retrospection and Introspection (1891), Miscellaneous Writings (1896), and Messages to the Mother Church (1900, 1901, 1902).


See biographies by S. Wilbur (1929 ed.), R. Peel (3 vol., 1966–77), and J. Silberger (1980).

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Eddy, Mary Baker

(1821–1910) founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist; born in Bow, N.H. Rather sickly and emotionally unstable as a child, she showed an early interest in poetry and religion. In 1843 she married George Washington Glover but he died within seven months; the son she bore was raised by foster parents. During the next decade she taught school occasionally but she was mostly preoccupied with the basic concerns of her life: medical problems, her own writings, and spiritual issues. In 1853 she married Dr. Daniel Patterson, a dentist, but her medical and psychological condition left her virtually an invalid. In 1862 she went to Portland, Maine, to seek relief from Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802–1866), a self-taught "healer" who had come up with his own "science of health": with its emphasis on the mental approach to curing all ailments, and with its strong Christian element, he effectively anticipated many of her later tenets. After Quimby died in 1866, she gradually took upon herself to advance and adapt his ideas, and for ten years she moved about New England, writing down and promoting her own version of "Christian science." In 1875 she took three crucial steps: she acquired a house in Lynn, Mass., where she began to teach her ideas to a circle of followers; she held her first public service in a local hall; and she published the first edition of her Science and Health. She had divorced Patterson in 1873 and in 1877 she married Asa Gilbert Eddy, a sewing-machine salesman who would become a valued assistant as her movement spread. In 1879 the Church of Christ, Scientist was formally chartered in Massachusetts, and from then on her movement and her own role expanded greatly and she became ever more famous and wealthy. She continually revised and republished her Science and Health, adding in 1883 the Key to the Scriptures, her interpretation of the Bible; in 1889 she set up the "Mother Church" in Boston to control the burgeoning movement; in 1908 she founded a newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor. She seldom appeared in Boston or public in the final 19 years of her life but she exercised rigid control over her organization; she was constantly engaged in controversy and legal suits, from fighting off the charge that she had stolen all her ideas from Quimby (she had in fact modified them significantly) to resisting efforts by various others to take over her church. She was probably psychosomatic, certainly charismatic, but the church she founded remains a witness to her central tenet of the power of mind over matter.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.