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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”