“Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science” in the Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America
Setta, Susan. “Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science.” Pages 1259–60 in vol. 3 of Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. Edited by Rosemary Skinner Keller and Rosemary Radford Ruether. 3 vols. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 2006.
The significance of this brief article in the Encyclopedia of Women and Religion is that its author, a recognized feminist scholar of 19th-century American religion, identifies some of the cultural attitudes of Mary Baker Eddy’s day and Eddy’s distinct response to them. Rather than attributing her poor health (in common with other women of Eddy’s era) to her head being too large for her body, as her father claimed, or that she was thinking too much, Eddy argued that ‘Man’ (both male and female) is God’s spiritual reflection. Therefore, society, not God, produced the idea of gender. Her gender was not the cause of illness, and the solution was to be found in knowing God better. “Christian Science offered 19th-century women a new view of themselves and gave them responsibility for their own health” (1259b). Setta exaggerates Eddy’s claim that “women had no physical body” (1259b), but her etiological explanation of mental causes is close to Eddy’s teaching.