10 Things You Probably Never Knew About MBE

By an Anonymous contributor, submitted via email.


Having just read The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science by Willa Cather and Georgine Milmine, I’ve learned so many peculiar facts and quirks about MBE I am grateful to this site’s administrators for this platform to share. The book is fascinating for anyone who ever wondered about MBE’s personal side, the context in which the ‘church’ began, and the evolution of her beliefs into a doctrine.  This brief post is only a few highlights about the woman.

1) Mary Baker Eddy’s sister had a large cradle built for her, when she was an adult in her twenties. Neighborhood boys were paid to rock Mrs. Eddy in the cradle.  She also had a swing installed. After her second marriage the cradle was moved to her new home, many townspeople recall the great migration of the cradle in a wagon.

2) MBE was a clairvoyant in her earlier days, taking on the role of a “medium” who heard spirits. She scrawled messages from the dead that spoke to her, ghosts appeared next to her bedside at night. Seances were hosted at MBE’s father’s house, and there are many first hand records of MBE’s central involvement to these events.

3) MBE did not demonstrate interest to care for her own son.   

MBE demonstrated no interest in her son as a baby or child, and limited interest when he became an adult with his own family.  MBE’s father said “Mary acts like an old Ewe that won’t own it’s lamb. She won’t have the boy near her.” Baby George was passed off between Grandma Glover, MBE’s sister, and neighbors and hired help. Eventually, George went off with a hired help when they moved westward; to his credit he did remain in contact with his mother.

4) It is reported that MBE dyed her hair and wore glasses.  Apparently the dye job was quite low quality and didn’t suit her other features and colouring. When she moved out of Boston to retire, she let her roots grow out and became naturally grey. The images that we see of her are the only licensed images she allowed out.

When MBE did live lectures in Boston to the general public she grew annoyed when people in the audience would ask her why she hadn’t healed herself of poor eye sight.  She stopped live lectures to the public.

5) Santa Claus was abolished by MBE by proclamation in 1904. Christian Scientists must not permit their children to believe in Santa. I would assume many ex-Christian Scientists are grateful their parents ignored this one.

6) Miss Mary Baker was married three times. 

  1. Her first husband, George Washington Glover, was a family neighbor who she married at 22 years old in December 1843. The couple traveled to Charleston, SC, where Glover was a stonemason, but he died in June the following year, while pregnant Mary gave birth in September. 
  2. Her second husband Dr. Daniel Patterson was a dentist and surgeon. MBE’s own father advised the Doctor not to go ahead with marrying her. He lived out his days in Maine alone, no record of divorce is mentioned.
  3. Her third husband Asa Gilbert Eddy was a student of Christian Science in Lynn, Massachusetts, they married in 1877 and he died in 1882.  

7) MBE was obsessed about malicious mesmerism. 

I missed this in Sunday School entirely, but MBE ardently believed the mental ill will of other people was harming her – notably Dr. Kennedy, a young man who practiced an early version of Christian Science with MBE in Lynn, MA.   When she had her first professional ‘break up’ of many from Richard Kennedy, she wrote riveting prose about this ‘mental assassin’ who tore apart her success with his ‘darker crimes’. As the years wore on, it wasn’t just Kennedy on the list – MBE believed she “bore in her own person the ills from which she released others” and  “she believed she herself suffered from the torturing belief she had taken away from others.”

8) Touching to heal.

Early versions of Christian Science prayer incorporated touching the patient’s head, to use a bowl of water, and to rub the patient’s head. “You lay your hands where the belief is to rub it forever out” wrote MBE in Scientific Treatise on Mortality.

9) MBE taught classes, but she never acted as a practitioner. From the very beginning she collected tuition money and taught, but never acted as a healing agent herself – only focusing on explaining the ‘Science’.  In later years as the church grew larger, this helped her stay out of additional legal trouble.

10) MBE tried to start a fire in a house where she was a live-in guest. The affidavit from the family’s son, Horace Wentowrth, describes the scene when the family returned from a local holiday and broke into MBE’s guest room (she had locked the door and left). “We found every breadth of matting slashed up through the middle, apparently with some sharp instrument. We also found the feather bed all cut out pieces.  We opened the door of a closet. On the floor was a pile of newspapers almost entirely consumed. On top of these papers was a shovelful of dead coals.” Other family members affidavit confirm the same events. This, along with many other events, were not mentioned in her authorized autobiography, which entirely skips over her mid 20’s to mid 40’s.

And a final extra fact!

The infamous ‘fall on the ice’ narrative doesn’t correlate with the doctor’s affidavit. Injuries and recovery from the infamous fall on the ice were reflected in an affidavit by the doctor who served MBE, Dr. Alvin M. Cushing. He kept a journal of all his patients incidents including MBE.  She complained of headache, was given morphine, which the Doctor reports she was very happy to take and even “gave me much credit for my ability.” MBE says she was destined for death according to medical sources. Well, Dr. Cushing wrote “I did not at any time declare, or believe, that there was no hope for Mrs. Paterson’s recovery, or that she was in a critical condition, and did not at any time say, or believe, that she had but three or any other limited number of days to live.” 

The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science

The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science, by Willa Cather.The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science, Willa Cather

 


This book is a compilation of a series of articles that appeared in McClure’s magazine between January, 1907 through June, 1908 with Georgine Milmine listed as the sole author. It is now known that author Willa Cather had extensive involvement in the writing and editing of these articles.

– Jeremy


The authors traveled New England interviewing people who had actually known Mary Baker Eddy from childhood through her adult life and the growth of her movement. McClure’s [magazine], where the articles originally appeared, was one of the foremost journals of investigative journalism of its day, and the series was damaging to the aura of Eddy and the respectable image of Christian Science that The Mother Church had tried to cultivate. I remember from my class at Principia College on the History of the CS Movement that the book was ‘nothing more than baseless yellow journalism.’ But after reading it, it’s clearly credible journalism that must be taken seriously.

– Bruce


Mary Baker Eddy was her own worst enemy, as much of the damning material from this book is in her own words. Highly recommended.

– Anonymous


I had been relieved of my Christian Science beliefs for about seven years when I read this book. I knew by then that the system simply didn’t work, and that many who tried to follow it had suffered greatly, but I had not been aware of the truly misanthropic nature of its founder. Of course the work was condemned as lies by followers of Mary Baker Eddy. Denial of facts is at the heart of Christian Science.

– Marion

Mary Baker Eddy (Gill)

MBE Gill

Mary Baker Eddy, Gillian Gill.


The criticism of this book is that it pulls punches, and, some readers find it dry. Personally, however, I found this biography to be riveting and of an extremely high quality. Its gentler approach allowed me to form my own suspicions instead of reacting against criticism of Mary Baker Eddy that I wasn’t ready for. It matched my comfort level at the time because it is approved by The Mother Church, but it still led me down the rabbit hole, and my ensuing curiosity led me to the ex-CS community as well, which has been invaluable.

– Elizabeth


Gillian Gill is unaffiliated with Christian Science, but strives to make Mary Baker Eddy’s voice heard. It is an extremely informative and detailed biography and it is interesting to read about the problems the author encountered with The Mother Church leadership in accessing historical documents.

– Katharine

 

Mrs. Eddy: The Biography of a Virginal Mind

Mrs. Eddy / DakinMrs. Eddy: The Biography of a Virginal Mind, Edwin Franden Dakin

 


I just finished reading the Dakin book, which I highly recommend. I learned that one of the big things in the early Christian Science movement was the ability to ‘demonstrate supply.’ The New York church had a special borrowing room so that people who had not yet ‘demonstrated supply’ could borrow things and appear to have done so. I came away with the impression Mary Baker Eddy didn’t want to hurt anyone, she just wanted to be Someone Important.


Dakin’s biography of Mary Baker Eddy is based on contemporaneous sources, and is absolutely jaw-dropping! Does a great job of showing how Christian Science was a money making operation for Eddy, and how dishonest and manipulative she was. I now understand why The Mother Church launched a campaign of intimidation against publishers and booksellers to suppress it.

– Bruce


Dakin’s biography is well-sourced, and refreshingly insightful especially into Mary Baker Eddy’s early life, experiences, and mental-health issues, many of which, as I look at it all in its totality, largely frame her so-called ‘discovery’ of Christian Science, and how and why it developed as it did. Historical figures in the movement who previously were portrayed as villains in the ‘authorized’ history I used to read as a Christian Scientist, are presented here in a different, more balanced light. Eddy was a capricious woman who quickly wore out friendships and welcomes throughout her life, and those who no longer suited her were summarily vilified, as was anyone who dared to stand up to her.

– Jeremy


Reviews from other ex-Christian Scientists on the internet

The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science

The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science, by Martin Gardner.

The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science, Martin Gardner

 


In this light-hearted book, you will learn things that you never knew about the history of the Christian Science church (such as the memorial pyramid that used to mark MBE’s birthplace). Gardner summarizes the various plagiarism charges and devotes a chapter each to Dickey and Twain, etc. At the end, Gardner explains how CS fits into the context of other New Thought movements.

– Beth


This book is worth picking up if for no other reason than to read the jaw-dropping chapter detailing the memoirs of Adam Dickey, who served as Mary Baker Eddy’s private secretary from 1908 until her death in 1910.

– Linda P.


Reviews from other ex-Christian Scientists on the internet

God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church

book cover/God's Perfect Child God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church, Caroline Fraser

 


This is the gold standard critique of Christian Science – scholarly, exhaustive, and courageous. Roughly the first half of the book is an unfiltered history Eddy’s life, the early days of the Christian Science movement, and the establishment of the Mother Church. The second half covers the social history of Christian Science in the 20th century, conflicts within the movement, the Board of Directors’ campaigns against dissidents, the censorship and suppression of critical books, the disastrous business decisions made by church executives during the 1980s and 1990s, and the demise of the Monitor, etc., including an unflinching account of the child cases of the 1970s and 1980s and the defensive attitude of the Mother Church. Fraser puts Christian Science in the context of American cultural mythology. This is a must-read!

– Bruce


I left the church officially after reading God’s Perfect Child.

-Marica


God’s Perfect Child is a lot to digest. I read it three years after I departed the church, and I’m glad I waited. I wasn’t ready for it until I’d been out for a bit, and any sympathy I had for Christian Science was largely gone.

The book answered many questions I always had, like why dentists and optometrists are okay but doctors are not. It clarified some of Mary Baker Eddy’s peculiarities. The history of Christian Science was also enlightening.

Every page is thoroughly researched and annotated, and is pretty much unassailable. That’s why The Mother Church hates this book so much. They have a hard time refuting it.

– Jeremy


God’s Perfect Child was mind-blowing for me, even though I’d been out of Christian Science for five years when I read it. God’s Perfect Child made me realize what a house of cards the whole church is. I’ve read the book several more times cover to cover, and my copy is marked up, highlighted and Post-it noted.

– Liz Heywood


Christian Science tended to be so vague and anecdotal that even in retrospect, I never got a clear objective sense of the thing. God’s Perfect Child provides an unblinking appraisal that for the first time gave me some real clarity about my own childhood experiences. It gave me so much more of the history and context that are crucial to understanding how Christian Science developed. It’s objective, thoroughly researched and cited, and places Christian Science in a sane and clear context.

This book is a bracing wakeup call for anyone who’s ever had any connection to Christian Science. It is strong stuff that elicits deep responses, and the sense of outrage that it evokes needs to translate into positive action or acknowledgment in support of yourself, and not just a vague sense of hopeless anger.

– Hughes


Caroline Fraser is spot on with everything as far as I can see. I had a front row seat for much of the stuff that went on in the 1980s and 1990s, and her research is impeccable. Reading what she writes about Mary Baker Eddy is an education. That woman was a con artist on par with L. Ron Hubbard, David Koresh, and Jim Jones. Our dear families were duped by a master. For someone with knowledge of the Christian Science community, this book is a real page turner.

– Marcia


It wasn’t until I read Caroline Fraser’s book God’s Perfect Child, that I realized how deeply programmed I truly was. I highly recommend it.

– Katie J.