Gestefeld, Ursula Newell (1845–1921)
Ursula Newell Gestefeld, an independent Christian Science
teacher and one of the founders of New Thought, was born
April 22, 1845, in Augusta, Maine. As a child she was quite sickly
and her family had doubts that she would live to adulthood.
She did survive, however, and eventually married newspaperman
Thomas Gestefeld. They had four children and settled in
Chicago.
Early in 1884 Gestefield obtained a copy of Science and
Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Christian Science textbook
written by Mary Baker Eddy. Attracted to what she read, she
joined the class Eddy taught in Chicago in the spring of that
year. Soon after the class she became a practitioner and a popular
teacher in her own right. She wrote for the Christian Science
Journal and in the late 1880s wrote three books, Mental Medicine
(1887), Ursula Gestefeld’s Statement of Christian Science
(1888), and Science of the Christ (1889). These books brought her
into conflict with Eddy, who accused Gestefeld of distorting her
teachings. Gestefeld was dismissed from Eddy’s church and responded
with an attack on Eddy in Jesuitism in Christian Science
(1888).
Gestefeld developed her own variation on Christian Science,
which she termed the Science of Being. For several years she
functioned as an independent teacher and writer. Besides a
number of books, in 1896 she began the magazine Exodus
(1896–1904). She also founded informal Science of Being
groups, one of which was in England. In 1897 she founded the
Exodus Club, which grew in 1904 into the Church of New
Thought, one of the first metaphysical churches to use that
name. As the pastor of the church, she was recognized as one
of the leading figures of the emerging New Thought Movement,
which had developed out of the independent Christian
Scientists of the previous decade. In 1901 she wrote the most
important statement of her mature position, The Builder and the
Plan. She addressed the first meeting of the International New
Thought League in 1899 in Boston. That organization was a
precursor to the International New Thought Alliance, founded
in 1914.
She continued to lead her church until her death on October
22, 1921, in Chicago, but it dissolved soon after her passing.
She was cremated, and her ashes were buried in Chicago.
Sources
Gestefeld, Ursula N. The Builder and the Plan. Chicago Exodus
Publishing, 1901.
———. Jesuitism in Christian Science. Chicago The Author,
1888.
———. The Science of the Christ. Chicago The Author, 1889.
———. A Statement of Christian Science. Chicago The Author,
1888.