By John D. Clague, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Oregon, and Susan Middleton
We’ve been thinking about how different society is today than it was in the not too distant past. Sometimes I forget it hasn’t always been this way. Two years ago it was a big deal that the United States elected an African-American president. Now, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Politics aside, it seems sort of normal. We have yet to elect a woman as president. I am certain, however, that day will come too.
A little over thirty years ago we put astronauts on the moon. And yet, the chances of electing a president then who was anything but a white male were absolutely zero. So 130 years ago, a woman as a world leader? What are the chances? No way!
Well then, what if there were more handicaps involved than just gender? What about a woman with no formal education? Or Perhaps someone whose husband died or deserted her, leaving her destitute?
What if this unfortunate woman were fatally injured from a fall on the ice? Now she dies a nobody. A few friends and relatives hold a simple service at her graveside and she’s soon forgotten.
But that isn’t how this particular story ends.
When this woman–not a hypothetical figure but Mary Baker Eddy, as it turns out–fell on the ice in 1866, her attending physician expected her to die. But she didn’t. Requesting her Bible, she read one of Jesus’ healings and had a sudden, strong flash of insight. Like the man in the Bible story she’d been reading, she was healed instantly.
How did it happen?
That’s exactly what Eddy pondered. Rather than writing off this healing as a miracle–a winning ticket in some sort of cosmic lottery–she spent the next three years carefully studying her Bible, especially Jesus’ words and works, in an effort to understand how her healing had occurred–what the process was. She’d endured years of poor health, and she knew her suffering wasn’t unique. If she could discover how she’d been healed, perhaps she could heal others, and relieve the kind of suffering she knew all too well. In time, with study and deep prayer, insights began to come to her. And she began to heal: small injuries, chronic conditions, even cases the MDs of her day had given up as hopeless. As in the case of her own experience following her fall on the ice, much of this healing was instantaneous.
Nobody was beating a path to her door, though. She was a woman, after all, hardly someone to be taken seriously, and beyond that her discovery–scientific, provable Christianity that healed as Jesus did–stood conventional logic on its head. She even had to self-publish, the book she wrote explaining her discovery which she then went out and sold door-to-door. Gradually, though, she gained students, and taught them to heal. Word of their successes spread, bringing more inquiries. When the mainstream churches of her day rejected her discovery, she started her own church.
While success and a growing place in the national spotlight were gratifying, they also brought out the naysayers, as inevitably happens. But rather than retire comfortably from the the public scene to bask in the warm glow of those who appreciated her, Eddy persevered with her mission, impelled by her conviction of the immense benefit her discovery could offer the world. At the age of 77 she started a publishing house to publish the church’s periodicals. At 87, weary of the yellow journalism of the time, she founded a daily newspaper that would come to be considered one of the most reliable news sources in the world and win seven Pulitzer prizes.
Even today, the thought of anyone–man or woman–achieving so much, especially in a career that began after the age of fifty, is truly remarkable. How much more impressive to realize this was, in fact, done by a woman during the nineteenth century, when the idea of woman having careers seemed as laughable to most as women gaining the right to vote.