National History Day: Communication in History; the Key to Understanding

Welcome to the Mary Baker Eddy Library! We’re excited to welcome National History Day participants to research in our collections and take advantage of our online resources. As you might expect, our on-site research room is currently closed, but our research staff is still hard at work responding to questions and supporting individual research projects. If you have any questions, please reach out to us at [email protected].

ABOUT US

The Mary Baker Eddy Library collections contain a variety of resources that pertain to the life, career, and legacy of Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910). Her story, and the story of the Christian Science religious movement that she founded, coincided with the emergence of mass media and the expansion of educational opportunity in the United States. Eddy was innovative in how she communicated about her church and the spiritual vision it represented. This included publishing a religious journal, establishing a college, and even founding a secular newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, to cover the news in a way that was both real and humane.

Many thousands of documents tell these stories, such as letters, reminiscences of people who knew Eddy and worked with her, the full 140-year archive of her publishing society (including the Monitor), and hundreds of images related to these activities.

Since the Library’s opening in 2002, many people, from historians to staff members, have used its collections to write books and articles, create audio and visual content, and develop exhibits.

Here are a few samples from the Library on this year’s NHD theme, “Communication in history, the key to understanding.”

"The Christian Science Monitor" newspaper—keys to human rights
Nelson Mandela in Boston

Nelson Mandela and Richard Cattani (Editor of The Christian Science Monitor), 24 June 1990. Peter Main. © The Christian Science Monitor. Church Archives, Box 543656 Folder 521097.


The Monitor has always been profoundly dedicated to a crusading, reformative approach to human affairs.

—Erwin Canham, Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, 1945-1964


In 1908, Mary Baker Eddy founded a newspaper with the stated object “to injure no man but to bless all mankind.” Since then The Christian Science Monitor has gone on to win many esteemed awards for journalism, including seven Pulitzers. According to the Monitor, it “is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens”. The full archive of the Monitor is available through ProQuest. If your school does not have a subscription, contact us about accessing it through our research service. All of the Pulitzer prize-winning series are available, including David Rohde’s Nov 16 1995 investigative report on the gross human rights violations in Bosnia, including the massacre at Srebrenica. You’ll also find Howard James’s series “Children in Trouble: A National Scandal,” which alerted US citizens to the plight of children who found themselves in conditions of delinquency and crime1, as well as Katherine Fanning’s series “Children in Darkness,” which explored child slavery and exploitation around the world. If you’re interested in the editorial process of a new publication, we also have in our collections the proof copy of the Monitor’s first issue.2

We’ve also showcased certain aspects of the Monitor through web articles and events. For instance the articles on Cora Rigby, bureau chief for the Monitor and founder of the Women’s National Press Club, and Katherine Fanning, the first woman to run a national newspaper, show how women from the Monitor were able to pave the way for other women in the field of American journalism. The video In Word and Deed: Public Service and the Press provides a panel discussion about how the Monitor and its readers have worked together to bring about positive social change. And Mandela visits the Monitor shows how an important historical figure, Nelson Mandela, valued the newspaper’s coverage of events in South Africa and the world. He also indirectly explained how the paper was fulfilling its mission “to injure no man, but to bless all mankind.”

Mary Baker Eddy and The Massachusetts Metaphysical College

Photograph at the Point of Pines picnic, July 16, 1885

In 1885 Eddy’s students from the Massachusetts Metaphysical College gather for a picnic at Point of Pines in Revere, MA


The history of the Mass. Metaphysical College is yet unwritten. This school is the first of its kind in America or Europe of which we have a history and unlike other colleges its course of instruction uplifts the standard of ethics while its practice includes the divine rule and demonstrates the scientific Principle of Christian healing.

— Circular for the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, 1882 (est.)


Through primary and secondary resources available at the Library, you can discover the world of Eddy’s Massachusetts Metaphysical College, which she founded in early 1881. Her curriculum included courses that provided keys to a new understanding of “Pathology, Ontology, Therapeutics, Moral Science, and Metaphysics as adapted to the treatment of disease.”3 See pamphlets Eddy used to both raise awareness about her college and communicate her intention for establishing it. Look at accounts of students at the College4 and its curriculum,5 as well as letters from prospective and active students attending courses.6 Read an article about how the stationery of correspondents exemplified how her ideas attracted people from varied backgrounds and professions.7 You can also learn about Eddy’s use of form letters to answer an increasing volume of correspondence8 as a result of the College, and the importance of calling cards and business cards during that time in history.9

Mary Baker Eddy—Communicating a new religious idea

 

The first issue of the Journal of Christian Science in 1883

Cover of first issue of the Journal of Christian Science, April 1883.


Our Journal is designed to bring health and happiness to all households wherein it is permitted to enter, and to confer increased power to be good and to do good.

— Mary Baker Eddy


In 1883 Eddy launched the Journal of Christian Science, later renamed The Christian Science Journal. While her major work, Science and Health, provided a full explanation of her teachings, she also needed a more dynamic platform from which she could engage with the public. Additionally, books were still very expensive items in late nineteenth-century America, and a magazine provided a much more affordable way to share her ideas.

For example, letter 661B.71.042 presents a question to Eddy about her teachings. She answers this question in the February 1884 Journal, showing how she used it for answering such inquiries for a wider audience. Another letter, 713A.86.064, demonstrates how advertisements in the Journal helped sell Science and Health and provided an important means of spreading her ideas to areas far from her Boston publishing base. A third letter, 688A.78.040, is from the editor of another periodical and celebrates how such an ably edited and beautiful publication is devoted to both healing the sick and reforming sinners.

NOTE: The Christian Science Publishing Society (in operation to this day) offers access to the complete archive of The Christian Science Journal and other periodicals Eddy established. It is fully searchable with previews of articles. While full access is by subscription, access to individual articles can be arranged for research-related requests.

For more information and assistance, please be in touch with us at [email protected]

Please contact us at [email protected] with any inquiries. We have much more in our collections that tell important stories on the subject “breaking barriers in history.”

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  1. “Children in Trouble: A National Scandal” late-1960’s series of articles by Monitor reporter Howard James
  2. Sept 15, 1908. Drawer 02-14, Library Special Collections.
  3. “Curriculum of Massachusetts Metaphysical College, Boston, also Constitution and By-Laws of C.S.A,” (Boston: Massachusetts Metaphysical College, 1886), The Mary Baker Eddy Library Collection.
  4. Reminiscence: Julia Bartlett, p.25.
  5. “Curriculum of Massachusetts Metaphysical College, Boston.”
  6. 549.58.001/L07822 Correspondence between Mary Baker Eddy and a potential student.
  7. See “Learning from Letterhead,” The Mary Baker Eddy Library/
  8. See “From the Papers: Printed form letters,” The Mary Baker Eddy Library.
  9. See “The Massachusetts Metaphysical College, Boston,” The Mary Baker Eddy Library.