Mary Baker Eddy overcame years of ill health and great personal struggle to make an indelible mark on society, religion and journalism.
Her life has been described as a continual struggle for health amid tumultuous relationships. Ill health in childhood spent in New Hampshire meant a limited home education, and the death of her first husband left her penniless and pregnant. With family help and a deep religious faith, she recovered over a period of years, but her son was raised throughout his life by others. She remarried ten years after her widowhood, an unsuccessful union that further aggravated her fragile health.
She then met Dr. Phineas Quimby, a healer, who helped her regain her full strength. It was with Quimby’s tutelage that Eddy began to believe that the cause and cure of disease was mental. Later, after Quimby’s death, she fell on the ice, causing great injury. After several days, Eddy pronounced herself healed, after reading from the Bible. This led to years of reflection, study and false starts, but in 1875 she opened a “Christian Scientists’ Home” in Lynn, Massachusetts, and soon began holding public services. She then helped found the Christian Science Publishing Society and published the first edition of Science and Health, a 456-page book of her beliefs.
In 1877 she married for the third time, and in 1879, the First Church of Christ, Scientist was formally chartered. In 1881 she also obtained a charter for the Massachusetts Metaphysical College as a degree-granting institution — and all of this moved to Boston in 1881. Eddy proved effective at teaching hundreds of students, most of them women, to go out across the nation as Christian Science practitioners, organizing societies and recruiting still more practitioners as they went.
In 1883 Eddy founded the monthly Christian Science Journal and later the Christian Science Sentinel. Her seminal work, Science and Health, continued to grow and be reprinted. In 1908, just two years before her death at 89, Eddy started a newspaper dedicated to public service, The Christian Science Monitor, because she felt that the “yellow journalism” of the American press was unfairly prejudicial against her faith. In her work No and Yes, printed in 1909, Eddy wrote, “True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection.”