- Historic Sites
Mary Baker Eddy
Unschooled and uncompromising, she founded her own faith
December 1980 | Volume 32, Issue 1
The third version is that composed by Mrs. Eddy many years later. By then, this event had become the moment of revelation of Christian Science, and in it her fall on the ice and her recovery were likened almost to death and resurrection, cast in the language of the gospels and complete with attending witnesses and doubters.
From our perspective, this fall on the ice can be seen as Mrs. Patterson’s acknowledgment that she had lost Quimby’s strong arm to support her and that she was floundering. Her marriage, weakened further by her wholehearted attachment to Quimby, now fell apart completely. Friendless and alone, she spent the next four years wandering from one strange household to another, often living on the charity of others and offering to pay her way by teaching the method of cure she had learned from Quimby. She seemed to be groping toward an arrangement in which she could teach healing to a partner who then would engage in the practice of it.
Her most treasured possession was a manuscript she had copied down from the rambling reflections which Quimby dictated to receptive patients. She labored over this document, writing long into the night, elaborating the idea which she had got in part from Quimby—but with her own special emphasis—that the true mission of Christ was to heal the sick and that the scriptures contained the key to this religious message. She hoped to write a concordance to the scriptures, verse by verse, illustrating this thesis.
After many unsuccessful attempts at finding someone to work with she found at last a young man, a twenty-one-year-old box-factory worker named Richard Kennedy, with whom she set up formal partnership and moved back to Lynn in May, 1870. She was to elaborate the theory and he was to do the healing and to refer to her those of his patients who might be interested in learning the method. She was forty-nine years old.
They were an immediate success. By the fall of 1870 she had assembled her first class. She required at first that a pupil pay one hundred dollars in advance for a course of twelve lectures and either 10 per cent of subsequent earnings from practice or, if the student failed to practice, a sum of one thousand dollars to make up for what would have been earned by doing so. She very shortly raised her fee to three hundred dollars, a large amount that in later years she felt obliged to justify by attributing it to divine guidance.
As a regular feature of those early teaching sessions, the group of students would gather in the apartment shared by Kennedy and Mrs. Patterson, or, as she called herself once again, Mrs. Glover. Kennedy would manipulate the head and solar plexus of each student, purportedly to put her or him into the best frame of mind to receive Mrs. Glover’s teachings. This rubbing, a vestigial practice of mesmerism, had also been used by Quimby, who found that simple explanation and exhortation were more effective when accompanied by the laying on of hands. Perhaps in Kennedy’s hands the practice was more arousing, but for whatever reason, those early students found it undesirable, inconsistent with the message their teacher was trying to inculcate, namely that there was no sensation in matter and that whatever feeling there was came from belief.
Mrs. Glover tried to convince Kennedy to give up the touching part of his practice. He was reluctant, feeling as Quimby had that it was a powerful vehicle into the patient’s sensibilities, a powerful support to his therapeutic efforts, and that without it his practice—his livelihood—would suffer. The difference between them was irreconcilable, and in April of 1872 Mrs. Glover and Richard Kennedy broke up their partnership and divided their assets. Her share was six thousand dollars, a substantial sum for those days. Another factor in their separation was that Kennedy was courting a woman of his own age; Mrs. Glover resented any personal interests that might distract her students from attention to her teachings.