Starting in December 1887, Sargent began to travel frequently between her home in Oconto, Wisconsin and Boston at Eddy’s request. In 1890, Sargent joined Eddy’s staff as her personal companion, and she served in that capacity for the next twenty years, returning to Oconto from time to time.
Sargent was indispensable to Eddy. “She is the best, the kindest and dearest girl in all the world to me,” Eddy wrote in 1891.1 Other members of the household remembered her as a warm, loving presence; Adelaide Still, Eddy’s maid, wrote “Of her love, gratitude, and self-sacrifice for our Leader, I cannot say enough. She would stay with Mrs. Eddy night and day when necessary, and never spared herself if she could help her in any way. No one could have been more faithful in the performance of her duties, or have fulfilled them more lovingly.” 2
William Rathvon, one of Eddy’s secretaries, described Laura Sargent’s importance in the household even more precisely: “The world may some day know of the debt it owes this woman, but it never can repay her.” 3
While Mary Baker Eddy was compiling Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, she often sent Laura Sargent back and forth between her home in Concord and the publisher’s office in Boston with manuscripts and proofs. Eddy rarely sent important papers through the mail, preferring to entrust them to one of her workers. In one of the letters that she sent Sargent during that time, Eddy wrote, “Your heart is too big for your head that is all mother complains of. I used to be just that but my mother scolded me over it and so does yours all in love a deep true interest in her child. And this my ‘pigeon’ knows for she is a bright bearer of messages.” 4
Soon after Miscellaneous Writings was published and Sargent’s courier work was finished, Eddy gave her this small ivory trinket in thanks, shaped like a white “carrier pigeon,” in a playful reference to Sargent’s nickname. Adelaide Still later wrote about the event in her reminiscence, naming the small pigeon a “pin,” but on close examination of the artifact today there appears to be no place for a pin attachment, and the pigeon—though tiny, only about one inch by two inches—is much too three-dimensional to be a pin.
The pigeon is just one of the objects in our collections that illustrates the deep connections between Mary Baker Eddy and those who served in her household. Its intricately carved details and thoughtful symbolism show how much Eddy valued Sargent, who treasured it for the rest of her life.