Biography of Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Science Founder

Mary Baker Eddy
Mary Baker Eddy (Photo by Library of Congress).

Library of Congress / Getty Images

Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910) overcame the obstacles of her time to found Christian Science, a religion that is practiced throughout the world today. In an era when women were treated as second class citizens, Mary Baker Eddy broke through social and financial barriers, never retreating from her convictions and her faith in the Bible.

Mary Baker Eddy

  • Also Known As: Mary Ambrose Morse Baker; Mary Baker Glover; Mary Baker Patterson.
  • Known For: Founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science) and American author who established the Massachusetts Metaphysical College to train Christian Science practitioners.
  • Born: July 16, 1821, Bow, New Hampshire
  • Died: December 3, 1910, Chestnut Hill, Newton, Massachusetts
  • Parents: Mark and Abigail Baker
  • Spouses: George Washington Glover (1843); Daniel Patterson (1853); Asa Gilbert Eddy (1877).
  • Published Works: Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875); Christian Healing (1886); People’s Idea of God (1886); Unity of Good (1891); Rudimental Divine Science (1891); Christian Science Monitor (1908).
  • Notable Quote: “Happiness is spiritual, born of truth and love. It is unselfish; therefore, it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.”

Mary Baker Eddy’s Influences

Mary Baker Eddy was born in 1821, the youngest of six children. Her parents, Mark and Abigail Baker, farmed in Bow, New Hampshire. Throughout her childhood, Mary often missed school because of illness. As an adolescent, she refuted the Calvinist doctrine of predestination taught in their Congregational home, seeking guidance from the Bible.

She married George Washington Glover, a building contractor, in December 1843. He died seven months later. That fall, Mary gave birth to their son, George, and moved back to her parents’ home. Her mother, Abigail Baker, died in 1849. Still suffering from frequent illness and without her mother’s help, Mary gave young George up for adoption by the family’s former nurse and the nurse’s husband.

Mary Baker Glover married an itinerant dentist named Daniel Patterson in 1853. She divorced him in 1873 on grounds of desertion, after he had walked out on her many years earlier.

Mary Baker Eddy
Mary Baker Eddy (Photo by Library of Congress). Library of Congress / Getty Images

All the while, she had no relief from illness. In 1862, she turned to Phineas Quimby, a famous healer in Portland, Maine. Initially, she got better, under Quimby’s hypnotherapy and acupressure treatments. Suffering a relapse, she went back. She believed Phineas Quimby had found the key to Jesus’ healing methods, but after talking with the man for hours, she decided that Quimby’s success lay chiefly in his charismatic personality.

Then in the winter of 1866, Mary Patterson fell on an icy sidewalk and severely injured her spine. Bedridden, she turned to her Bible, and while reading an account of Jesus healing a paralytic, she said she experienced miraculous healing. She later claimed that was when she discovered Christian Science.

Discovering Christian Science

Over the next nine years, Mary Patterson immersed herself in the Bible. She also taught, healed, and wrote during that time. In 1875 she published her definitive text, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

Two years later, during the course of her teaching ministry, she married one of her students, Asa Gilbert Eddy.

Mary Baker Eddy’s repeated attempts to get established churches to accept her concepts of healing met only with rejection. Finally, in 1879, frustrated and disappointed, she formed her own church in Boston, Massachusetts: the Church of Christ, Scientist.

To formalize instruction, Mary Baker Eddy founded Massachusetts Metaphysical College in 1881. The next year, her husband Asa died. By 1889, she closed the college to embark on a major revision of Science and Health. An elaborate building housing the Mother Church of Christ, Scientist, was dedicated in Boston in 1894.

Christian Science, First Church of Christ, Boston, MA
First Church of Christ, Scientist, Christian Science founded by Mary Baker Eddy, Boston's Back Bay, completed in 1894, Boston, Massachusetts. Joseph Sohm / Getty Images

Religious Legacy

Above all, Mary Baker Eddy was a prolific writer. In addition to Science and Health, she also published a 100-page Church Manual, which is used to this day as a guide in establishing and operating Christian Science churches. She wrote countless tracts, essays, and pamphlets, which are released through the Christian Science Publishing Company.

The most famous of her publications, The Christian Science Monitor, first came out when Eddy was 87 years old. Since that time, the newspaper has collected seven Pulitzer Prizes.

At age 89, Mary Baker Eddy died on December 3, 1910, and was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Today, the religion she founded has more than 1,700 churches and branches in 80 countries.

Sources

  • marybakereddylibrary.org
  • Who’s Who in Christian History (p. 221). 
  • The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Vol. 4, p. 73).