Eddy, Mary Baker (1821–1910)
Founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, the organizational
center of the Christian Science movement. She was born
on July 16, 1821, in Bow, New Hampshire. She grew up a member
of the Congregational Church. She married George W.
Glover in 1843, but he died suddenly the next year, though not
before one child was born. In 1853 she married Daniel Patters.
For a while the health problems that had plagued her off and
on for many years receded, but they eventually returned. While
her husband was away during the Civil War she visited a water
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Eddy, Mary Baker
473
cure sanitorium. She then heard about mental healer Phineas
Parkhurst Quimby and eventually went to visit him in Maine.
Learning and applying Quimby’s ideas about the mind as
the key to health, Eddy found some real relief from her health
problems, but she also discovered that soon after leaving his
presence her symptoms returned. Then in 1866 she slipped
and fell on the ice and for three days was largely immobile.
During this period she read the Bible, and the truth about healing,
that ‘‘God is all,’’ the only reality, came to her. As a result,
she was healed immediately.
She spent a period developing her new insight and working
with individuals. In 1870 she put her ideas in a booklet, The Science
of Man, which she used while writing her textbook, Science
and Health, which appeared in 1875. By 1876 she had trained
enough students as practitioners to warrant organizing the
Christian Science Association as a fellowship and professional
organization. Three years later she founded the Church of
Christ, Scientist, and in 1881 she organized the Massachusetts
Metaphysical College in Boston. Her work blossomed, and The
Journal of Christian Science was begun in 1883.
The 1880s were a time of expansion, but also of controversy.
Eddy was especially upset with students who taught personal
variations on her system or separated from her organization
and continued to function as practitioners of either Christian
Scientists or under other names. One of her most promising
students, Emma Curtis Hopkins, left in 1884 and eventually
became the founder of what has become known as New
Thought. In 1889 Eddy dissolved most of the structures she
had founded and in 1892 reorganized her followers under a
new church structure headed by herself. The organization was
anchored by the First Church of Christ Scientist, the mother
church in Boston, of which Eddy was pastor. The mother
church chartered local congregations whose leaders had to be
members in good standing with the mother church.
In the 1890s a major controversy erupted involving a lawsuit
charging that Eddy had simply plagiarized the work of Phineas
Quimby. The suit was settled in her favor, but unfortunately
Quimby’s mostly unpublished papers were not available in
court, and Annetta and Julius Dresser, both former Quimby
students, and their son Horatio Dresser perpetuated the idea
that Eddy would have lost had the material been available.
Eddy’s church had spread to every section of United States
and Canada by the time of her death on December 3, 1910. She
left behind a church manual, published in 1908, to guide the
administration of the organization, which is now headed by a
self-perpetuating board of directors.
Sources:
Beasley, Norman. The Cross and the Crown. Boston: Little,
Brown, 1952.
Eddy, Mary Baker. Church Manual of the First Church of Christ,
Scientist, in Boston, Mass. Boston: Trustees Under the Will of
Mary Baker Eddy, 1908.
———. Poetical Works. Boston: Trustees Under the Will of
Mary Baker Eddy, 1936.
———. Prose Works. Boston: Trustees Under the Will of
Mary Baker Eddy, 1925.
———. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Boston:
Trustees Under the Will of Mary Baker Eddy, 1906.
Peel, Robert. Mary Baker Eddy. 3 vols. New York: Holt Rinehart
and Winston, 1971.