“Mary Baker Eddy and the Nineteenth-Century ‘Public’ Woman: A Feminist Reappraisal”
McDonald, Jean. “Mary Baker Eddy and the Nineteenth-Century ‘Public’ Woman: A Feminist Reappraisal.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 2, no. 1 (1986): 89–112.
McDonald begins by laying out how other scholars have explained, based on their particular field of expertise, why Mary Baker Eddy and her Christian Science movement were so successful in 19th-century America. She notes that most of these feminist, social, or psychological explanations attribute the success of Christian Science not to “its theological worth, but for its personal utility” (89). She also observes that these explanations ironically resemble the “traditional reductionism” (90) assigned to public women by 19th-century men—ironic because this means “a decade of feminist scholarship on Eddy has helped to reinforce patriarchy rather than eliminate it” (92). McDonald spends the rest of her piece examining the social, intellectual, and religious stereotypes of women in the 19th century and how those views “altered perceptions of Eddy” (95). For example, McDonald documents the low social prestige and career insecurity of physicians and clergymen at the time. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that they might find alarming Eddy’s invasion of their professional space through her public leadership and her textbook offering “a higher and more practical Christianity” (Science and Health, 224) and a “safer and more potent” (Science and Health, x) healing science. McDonald goes on to make many detailed word-for-word comparisons between these 19th-century “antifeminist” (95) perceptions of women and the rhetoric portraying Eddy.
Print ISSN: 8755-4178
Annotations related by category:
- Availability: Online - Academic Credentials or Fee
- Controversy: Theological Controversies
- Official Christian Science Publication: No
- People: Darwin, Charles
- People: Eddy, Mary Baker
- Publication Date: 1981-2000
- Resource Types: Article
- Subjects: Feminist Perspectives
- Subjects: Healing and Health
- Subjects: Medicine
- Subjects: Social and Cultural Studies