Lynn Rebellion of 1881

The “Lynn Rebellion of 1881” refers to 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.

The Lynn Rebellion began on October 21, 1881, when eight students of Mary Baker Eddy’s signed a letterEditorial Note: This letter is found in the Subject File of The Mary Baker Eddy Library, in folder: “Church of 1879 - Resolutions and Agreements, 1879-1890” in which they resigned their memberships in both the Christian Scientist Association and the Church of Christ (Scientist). The students were Susanna L. Durant, Margaret J. Dunshee, Dorcas B. Rawson, Elizabeth G. Stuart, Jane L. Straw, Anna B. Newman, James C. Howard, and Miranda R. Rice. They accused Eddy of engaging in “ebullitions of temper, love of money, and the appearance of hypocrisy,” and stated that this led to their resigning.

Their letter was read at a meeting of her studentsEditorial Note: See Minutes of Meetings of the Christian Scientist Association and minutes of meetings of the Church of Christ (Scientist), EOR10 and EOR13., held on October 26. None of the students who signed the letter was present at the meeting. Until that time, they had given no indication of their frustration with Eddy, and some had been known for their strong supportEditorial Note: In a letter to James Ackland dated December 1, 1881 (L16172), Asa Gilbert Eddy tells Ackland about the rebellion and says: “a few days before, the last we had seen of the aforenamed students they had been treating Mrs Eddy with the utmost affection.” of her and their dedication to Christian Science. The letter apparently came as a shock to the members who remained faithful, as well as to Eddy herself.

Eddy withdrew from the meeting and the remaining members passed a resolution accusing the eight of breaking “our covenant” in that they did not first go to Eddy to discuss their concerns with her leadership, and so they were “ liable to expulsionEditorial Note: See Adelaide A. Draper, Hanover P. Smith, and Mary Baker Eddy, “Copy from the Church Records,” October 26, 1881, L09677..“

After the meeting ended, Eddy, her husband, and two students, including Abbie K. Whiting, spent the night talking about what had happened. As morning came, Eddy, who had been in quiet thought, experienced what those who witnessed it described as a kind of “transfiguration.” Her face became luminous and she spoke many scriptural versesEditorial Note: For accounts of this, see Asa Gilbert Eddy, Abbie K. Whiting, and Mary Baker Eddy, “Extracts from Mrs. Eddy’s Vision in October 1881,” A10209D; Asa Gilbert Eddy, Abbie K. Whiting, and Mary Baker Eddy, “Extracts from Mrs. Eddy’s Vision in October 1881,” A10209E. See also the reminiscence of Julia S. Bartlett in We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Volume 1, pages 53-55., which could be seen as indicating a divine mission for herself.

On October 31, the Christian Scientist Association met and instead of accepting the resignations of the eight members, voted to expel Howard, Rawson, Rice, and StuartEditorial Note: See “Chronological Epitome of the Records of Proceedings of the Christian Scientist Association of the Massachusetts Metaphysical College,” entry of October 31, 1881, EOR10. See also “Epitome of the Records of the Church of Christ (Scientist),” entry of October 31, 1881, EOR13.. The names of the other four were tabled. At the same meeting, two more members resigned, followed by others over the next several weeks. The members who remained loyal rejected the accusations against Eddy and interpreted the incident as the result of opposition to Christian Science by the carnal mind and mental manipulation of the signersEditorial Note: In a letter from James Ackland to Mary Baker Eddy, dated January 1, 1882 (143.23.006), Ackland quotes a letter he’d received from Arthur T. Buswell. Buswell, commenting on the Lynn Rebellion, wrote that it “goes to show the unknown power of thought.” by antagonistic former Christian Scientists. On November 9, the members ordained Eddy as the Pastor of the Church of Christ (Scientist)Editorial Note: See “Epitome of the Records of the Church of Christ (Scientist),” entries for November 9, 1881, EOR13., and they passed a resolution in which they affirmed their “admiration and reverence” for her “Christ-like example of meekness and charity,” as well as their support of her leadershipEditorial Note: See “Chronological Epitome of the Records of Proceedings of the Christian Scientist Association of the Massachusetts Metaphysical College,” entry of November 9, 1881, EOR10..

For her part, Eddy expressed her dismay over this situation in letters and came to feel that it may have arisen, in part, over her support of her student, Clara ChoateEditorial Note: See e.g. Mary Baker Eddy to Clara E. Choate, November 8, 1881, L02492.. Choate had for some time been controversial, and had managed to alienate a number of the other students.

In the end, the “Lynn Rebellion” seems to have been a catalyst in precipitating Mary Baker Eddy leaving Lynn and moving to Boston in 1882, where students at her Massachusetts Metaphysical College helped spread her teachings throughout the United States.