Throughout Mary Baker Eddy’s life, the education and well-being of children were subjects close to her heart. While in her teens Eddy had taught Sunday School to the children of the Congregational church where she was a member. When impoverished after the sudden death of her first husband, George Glover, she briefly operated a small kindergarten funded by her sister Abigail Tilton and her husband Alexander Tilton.1

In 1881, as the fledgling Christian Science movement began to grow, Eddy founded the precursor to the Christian Science Sunday School.2 Her article “What We Can Do For The Children,” published in 1895, remains one of the main sources of guidance for Christian Science Sunday School superintendents and teachers.3

The first By-Laws relating to Sunday School were added to the Church Manual in 1904. (The By-Laws “Teaching in Sunday School” (later Article XX, Section 1, “The Sunday School”) and “Subject for Lessons” were both added in 1904 in the 41st and 45th editions respectively.) And throughout that same year, a section of the weekly Christian Science Sentinel called “Among The Churches” was full of stories about Sunday School children donating money to the Building Fund of The Mother Church Extension. So it seems Eddy was both interested in the spiritual education of these young Christian Scientists and touched by their generosity. This perhaps prompted her to send cards as a Christmas gift to the children of The Mother Church’s Sunday School.

Front of card sent to the Sunday School children at Christmas 1904 (SF - Christmas Cards)

Front of card sent to the Sunday School children at Christmas 1904 (SF – Christmas Cards)

Eddy had four different cards printed, each one containing a different selection from her published works: “The Lord’s Prayer and its Spiritual Interpretation”; “Spiritual Interpretation of the 23 Psalm”; “Mother’s New Year Gift to the Little Children”; and a selection from the poem “Come Thou.”4

The card pictured above contains Eddy’s “Spiritual Interpretation of the 23 Psalm.” It has a scalloped edge and measures 4 x 5-¼ inches. The front is embellished with four jonquils, three of which—two in bloom and the other not—are bound within a heart made of forget-me-nots.

Title page of card (SF - Christmas Cards)

Title page of card (SF – Christmas Cards)

Correspondence suggests that Eddy began selecting the content and layout of these cards late in October 1904, writing this to Joseph Armstrong, her publisher: “I have the cards and indicated how to finish them with leaves pasted in for the printed matter. Have this business attended to immediately. The dear children need some thing of this sort.”5

But the sample cards that Armstrong obtained were not to Eddy’s satisfaction. And her secretary, George H. Kinter, wrote to one of Eddy’s students, Pamelia Leonard, asking her to send examples of “the pretty cards you [Leonard] received last year.”6 Leonard duly obliged. Unfortunately the cards she sent had been printed overseas, and it was too late to order them from that printer. So Kinter forwarded them to Armstrong as an indication of the styles Eddy had in mind.7

With time and patience running short, Eddy wrote to Armstrong to hurry him up and keep the process moving: “I am disgusted with this delay. Send at once three different specimens of handsomely embellished cards.”8 Her letter seemed to have the desired effect. By mid-December she had received the cards and wrote to Armstrong in appreciation of his hard work: “I thank you for finishing my cards so prettily and send my favorite one to you.”9

Interior of card (SF - Christmas Cards)

Interior of card (SF – Christmas Cards)

All was well. The children received their cards on Christmas Day 1904, a Sunday.10 The design of the card is not one we would traditionally associate with Christmas and, interestingly enough, Eddy only referred to them in her correspondence as “cards,” rather than as “Christmas cards.”

We were unable to locate any record of why Eddy chose that specific design. However, the floral treatment, and in particular the inclusion of forget-me-nots, suggests that she wanted the children to have a year-round reminder of her love and teaching—a blossom in the desert of winter.

 

 

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  1. Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 2003), 53-54.
  2. Rem. Clara Choate, “Mrs. Eddy’s Original Sunday School of the First Church of Christ Scientists,” 1-2.
  3. Mary Baker Eddy, The Christian Science Journal, October 1895, http://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/zpb5w2lzcw?s=t.
  4. “Gifts from our Leader,” Christian Science Sentinel, December 31, 1904, http://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/a7z5ia13tm?s=t.
  5. Mary Baker Eddy to Joseph Armstrong, 1 November 1904, L02979.
  6. George H. Kinter to Pamelia Leonard, 16 November 1904, L06882.
  7. Kinter to Armstrong, 25 November 1904, L06887.
  8. Eddy to Armstrong, 29 November 1904, L02982.
  9. Eddy to Armstrong, 16 December 1904, L02983.
  10. “Gifts from our Leader,” Christian Science Sentinel, December 31, 1904, http://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/a7z5ia13tm?s=t.