2010 is the 30th anniversary of the National Women’s History Project in the United States and the overarching theme for this year’s celebration is “Writing Women Back into History”. As the National Women’s History Project website puts it “It often seems that the history of women is written in invisible ink. Even when recognized in their own times, women are frequently left out of the history books.”
The website refers to “women’s achievements, from ecology to art, and from sports to politics”, but this applies to women in religion too. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science and author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures is a case in point. She was not only recognised in her own time, but was a woman of global fame. Not that she sought fame for herself, but her healing ideas were so original, and helped so many people – and her church grew so quickly – that many a headline was devoted to news of her life.
Unfortunately, only some of the headlines were entirely accurate in those heady days of yellow journalism, leaving a legacy of distorted claims and perspectives which still leave a shadow over her legacy to this day. While Mary Baker Eddy hasn’t been completely written out of history, her place in history has been terribly distorted over the decades since her passing exactly 100 years ago, and her value to humanity then and now has been obscured. In her case, men have often been given undue credit for accomplishments that were uniquely hers. However, it has not only been men, but women too, who have failed to give due diligence to the recording and reporting of Mary Baker Eddy’s history. In her own day the soon-to-be-famous author Willa Cather was chiefly responsible for a “muck-raking” biography attributed to Georgine Milmine, based largely on biased sources. In the UK press today, Mary Baker Eddy is seldom the focus of a major article, and yet mentions made of her in the media are more consistently inaccurate than accurate. Sometimes this is through ill will, but more often it would seem to be through a shallowness of research and/or an unwillingness to seek source information. (We are happy to help, if you want to contact us – just give us a call!)
None of this might have meant too much to Mary Baker Eddy just for her own sake, since she was unbowed in her desire to faithfully walk the spiritual path that she felt was being called to journey along. However, she realised that character assassination of her – whether intended or unintentional – would have the effect of obscuring from public view the ideas she was yearning to have freely available to all through her writings and through her church. Her motive for sharing the ideas that had become so clear to her through her own study of the Bible (particularly the words and works of Jesus) – of an impartial, all-loving God, of the true spiritual nature of man, and of the healing impact the understanding of these spiritual facts can have – was benign and resoundingly practical. Everything she worked for was to the end that others in need could also be healed by the spiritual power by which she had been restored to health. Obscuring from view the author of the book that included the very answers that others were hoping and praying for would mean extending needless suffering where it could be curtailed.
Mary Baker Eddy will eventually be widely recognised as one of humanity’s most outstanding benefactors who proved, and has penned, the most precious and powerful understanding of the life and work of Jesus. The realisation of her legacy has barely begun, and humanity will increasingly demand that this deeply Christian woman and original spiritual thinker be written squarely and fairly back into history with the recognition she deserves…not only as a just memorial for her past deeds, but as a celebration of the ongoing benefits being experienced by so many through the timeless value of the healing ideas she discerned, proved practical, and shared.