View Image
Reproduced from the archive of The Mary Baker Eddy Library

Overview of 1881

In 1881, Mary Baker Eddy was living in Lynn, Massachusetts, with her husband Asa Gilbert Eddy, and working to build the Christian Science movement from her home at 8 Broad Street, which also served as the meeting place for the nascent Church of Christ (Scientist) and Christian Scientist Association. The Christian Science movement was still quite small, but Eddy was putting into place the building blocks to allow it to grow, by revising Science and Health, starting the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, teaching classes and patiently counseling students and potential students. The correspondence from this time sheds light on the early Christian Science movement. The year ended with an unexpected challenge from a group of disaffected students, which then led to a fresh start for Eddy in 1882.

The Massachusetts Metaphysical College was chartered in January 1881. Work had been underway the year before to prepare for the College, which would “teach Pathology, Therapeutics, Obstetrics. Ontology. Moral Science and the adaptation of Metaphysics to the treatment of disease” (L08647Click link to view L08647 document in new window). Eddy served as its President and taught all but six of the classes there for the next eight years. The cost of class was $300, the equivalent of $7,978.48 in 2020. Eddy did offer some discounts, such as for students with financial hardships or family members studying together, but even with discounts the cost of tuition presented a challenge to many would-be students and was a frequent subject in letters Eddy received. However, the possibility of learning how to heal held great value for these inquirers. One asked, “If I should study and be able to do any thing would I be able to do for myself & family in case of sickness without help?” (490.55.006Click link to view 490.55.006 document in new window) Another wrote, “I value the books beyond price and study them every spare moment. I am waiting patiently to come and be taught by you. I feel sure I shall do so sometime. I have the expectation of some property by way of a relative and then shall have funds of my own.” (487.55.003Click link to view 487.55.003 document in new window)

Eddy was also working on a new edition of Science and Health. In January 1881, while she was endeavoring to launch the Metaphysical College, she wrote of the need to work on this new edition as well. She wrote to one student: “When I mailed your letter yesterday my husband had gone to see my Printer on business When he returned I found things had taken such a turn that I must devote one month besides my Sunday services calls etc. to composition and proof reading. That will put off my class a month longer I am more than sorry ever to change after I appoint a class but you all want my next edition and I must get it done when the Printer can do it ….” (L09002Click link to view L09002 document in new window) The Papers from this time also include correspondence with Eddy’s publisher, John Wilson and Son, as they worked out the details of the new edition. The third edition was published in August 1881, in two volumes, and the Cross and Crown seal appeared on the cover for the first time. A new chapter,”Demonology,” appeared for the first time in this new edition and represented Eddy’s efforts to prayerfully combat “mental malpractice,” the controlling of others through mental means in order to cause harm. This chapter addressed the topic in a lengthy and personal way. In future editions, Eddy made changes to how she covered this topic, based on her own changing understanding of it, but the 1881 chapter represented the significant concern and challenge she felt in that moment. Our glossary term on this topic covers the evolution of this chapter in greater detail.

Alongside the important developments of the Metaphysical College and the new edition of Science and Health, much of 1881 was taken with the regular work of building a movement. Eddy tried to help her students, and would-be students, stay on the path she felt would be most successful. She counseled one to not teach Christian Science to others before fully understanding it but instead to take class instruction with her and to encourage anyone else to do so too (V03474Click link to view V03474 document in new window, V03364Click link to view V03364 document in new window). To another individual, who had first taken class with a student of Edward J. Arens, she wrote of the added challenges that would present in properly learning Christian Science (L04071Click link to view L04071 document in new window). She also received letters of thanks for Science and Health, which included accounts of healing. One letter called Science and Health “priceless … for Truth cannot be reckoned by dollars and cents.” (593A.61.022Click link to view 593A.61.022 document in new window). The same letter also includes a healing of the author’s daughter when she was sick with typhoid fever. Eddy taught classes in the spring and fall of 1881, which some of these correspondents ended up attending.

Those who went through class with Eddy were seeing the value of her teachings and applying them in a number of ways. Although in many cases we don’t have Eddy’s side of this correspondence, the letters she received offer a window into the work of early Christian Scientists. One of Eddy’s students, Susanna Durant, wrote about how she wanted to use Christian Science in her work as a teacher in the Boston schools, to show how children could be properly taught without corporal punishment. (269.41.003Click link to view 269.41.003 document in new window) Another of Eddy’s students, Lucinda Reeves, who moved to Washington, D.C. shortly after taking class with Eddy, was finding success in her healing work in the African American community. (139.23.004Click link to view 139.23.004 document in new window

Eddy corresponded with family members during this time as well. In response to a letter from Eddy (not extant), a cousin in New Hampshire, David Russell Ambrose, sent back a newsy letter about his new wife and his desire to be a faithful and attentive husband (250.40.004Click link to view 250.40.004 document in new window). Eddy’s son, George, wrote about the challenges of his ongoing mining endeavors in the Dakota Territory, even though he remained committed to the potential of the West and hoped Eddy would visit (197.32.008Click link to view 197.32.008 document in new window). Eddy, on the other hand, wished George would give up his speculative mining operations and return to the East to take up farming on Asa Eddy’s family farm (L02082Click link to view L02082 document in new window).

Eddy also kept up a warm correspondence with Alice Sibley, a young student of hers. Sibley wrote to Eddy of her high school graduation, enclosing a copy of the program and also mentioning that the annual school festival needed to be cut short due to the “national calamity” of President Garfield being shot. (142.23.003Click link to view 142.23.003 document in new window). These types of details, appearing in some letters, remind us of significant events that were also happening at this time. For the most part, however, Eddy and Sibley’s correspondence concerned the details of a friendship, such as birthday gifts, visits and holiday greetings.

As mentioned earlier, running through this year was Eddy’s ongoing concern about mental malpractice, in particular the actions of past students who had left the Christian Science movement and seemed intent on bringing harm to it. In June 1881, Eddy asked students to sign an endorsement of her, clearly stating that they had studied with her and that she was not a mental malpractitioner (L09059Click link to view L09059 document in new window). Eddy seems to have felt that this endorsement would be a way to protect herself and her students (L12624Click link to view L12624 document in new window).

Eddy’s husband, Asa Eddy, continued to provide a strong support in all aspects of her work. Additional support came in the fall of 1881. Calvin Frye took class with Eddy and proved to be a steadfast and supportive student. The following year, he would become Eddy’s longtime personal secretary. Before that happened, however, Eddy and her students faced a significant test, later referred to as the “Lynn Rebellion.”  The Lynn Rebellion was a series of events in late October and early November, 1881, involving the unexpected resignation of some longtime students from the Christian Scientist Association and the Church of Christ (Scientist) due to concerns over Mary Baker Eddy’s leadership. These resignations were presented by letter at a meeting of the Christian Scientist Association on October 26, 1881 (L09677Click link to view L09677 document in new window), and came as a surprise to Eddy. Frye and another student, Abbie Whiting, stayed on hand after the meeting, and for several days afterwards, to support the Eddys. They were joined by Julia Bartlett, another of Eddy’s dedicated students.

In the following days and weeks, some additional students chose to leave, while others stayed on and deepened their support of Eddy. On November 9, 1881, Eddy’s remaining students ordained her as Pastor of the Church of Christ, Scientist (Church of Christ, Scientist, record book, 9 November 1881, EOR13, 111). The next week, the Christian Scientist Association adopted a set of resolutions expressing gratitude for her leadership (Church of Christ, Scientist, record book, 16 November 1881, EOR10, 118-122). Students who lived at a greater distance, like James Ackland, wrote with their support (146.23.016Click link to view 146.23.016 document in new window). Eddy responded with gratitude: “I feel it a privilege to turn to strength and integrity of Character in this hour of ‘the power of darkness[.]’ And such we have ever found yours to be.” (L02024Click link to view L02024 document in new window) Eddy’s student, Lucinda Reeves, who had written of her healing success in Washington, D.C., sent her support and encouraged the Eddys to come visit (139.23.004Click link to view 139.23.004 document in new window, 139.23.005Click link to view 139.23.005 document in new window)

As the year came to a close, the Eddys made plans to travel to Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia in the new year, and also to leave Lynn for Boston, Massachusetts. Despite the challenging end to 1881, it seems to have provided the catalyst needed for a fresh start to the Christian Science movement in Boston, which then opened the way for Christian Science to be introduced to a much wider audience.

View Image

Back Text

Shown for development purposes only