Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Mary Baker Eddy

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Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). The Dinner Party (Heritage Floor; detail), 1974–79. Porcelain with rainbow and gold luster, 48 x 48 x 48 ft. (14.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 m). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. Photograph by Jook Leung Photography

Mary Baker Eddy
b. 1821, Bow, New Hampshire; d. 1910, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

A devout New England Congregationalist, Mary Baker Eddy was predisposed to seek consolation for life's tribulations in religious scripture. Her life, indeed, was filled with misfortune—a variety of serious illnesses from childhood onward, a dreadful twenty-year marriage, a legally enforced separation from her only son arranged by her husband and father. But Mary Baker Eddy was not satisfied with the comfort offered by orthodox religion. In 1866, during a period of invalidism, a profound spiritual experience started her on the path to formation of her doctrine, Christian Science. Nine years later, she published the definitive statement of that doctrine in Science and Health. In 1877, she at last found a supportive marital partner, Asa Gilbert Eddy. To "reinstate primitive Christianity, and to restore its lost element of healing" (Gottschalk, Rolling Away the Stone, 185), she founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, in 1879, in Lynn, Massachusetts. By 1882, the church had moved to Boston, at that time the intellectual center of the United States, and began to attract increasing numbers of disaffected Protestants. Eddy persisted in the face of vitriolic attacks on her mental incompetence and was careful to distinguish her own biblically based practice from spiritualist trends such as Blavatsky's Theosophy. She taught hundreds of students at the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, which she established in 1881. Two years before her death, she founded the Christian Science Monitor, which has since become an internationally respected newspaper.

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Primary Sources

Gottschalk, Stephen. Rolling Away the Stone: Mary Baker Eddy's Challenge to Materialism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.

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