Early letters and long careers
Reading the correspondence written to Mary Baker Eddy letter by letter—as our Mary Baker Eddy Papers team does—often reveals meaning in what otherwise seems like unremarkable text. Through a letter that appears mundane on the surface, we sometimes glimpse the start of a long career in Christian Science. Continuing our trend of highlighting first letters, here are two more early communications from people you may not have heard of, who made significant contributions to the Christian Science movement.
Emma A. Thompson
In a simple letter to Eddy on April 6, 1886, this early Christian Scientist relayed her disappointment in missing Eddy’s most recent Primary class and expressed her desire to attend the next. “I was very glad to get your note,” she wrote, “but very sorry to learn that your class had begun as I was very anxious to enter it[.]”1 Thompson was indeed able to join another class that same year, the start of what became a long connection as she went on to help establish Christian Science in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Thompson had first met Eddy when both were patients of Phineas P. Quimby, but she was later healed by studying Eddy’s book Science and Health.2 Soon she began healing others as a Christian Science practitioner. Later she and her daughter, Abigail Dyer Thompson, attended Eddy’s last class, held in Concord, New Hampshire, in 1898. Many of Emma Thompson’s letters to Eddy, charting the growth of Christian Science churches in Minneapolis, as well as newspaper reports, were published in the Christian Science Sentinel. In 1901 she wrote:
We cannot close without grateful mention of the growth of Second Church [Minneapolis], which has always been to us a special gift from you. Our present church building has long been insufficient for our congregation, and we have therefore secured the Lyceum Theatre for our Sunday services after to-day, until such time as we shall have completed a church edifice of our own.”3
When the cornerstone of Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Minneapolis, was later laid, it was Emma Thompson who placed the mortar.4
Lizzie T. Harmony
Lizzie T. Harmony wrote to Eddy’s secretary Calvin A. Frye on April 13, 1886, requesting a copy of Science and Health. This was also a modest communication. But the contribution this New York State native ultimately made to the Christian Science cause was significant. Like many others writing at this time, she wanted the newly-revised 16th edition of the book, which had just been published that February. She asked, “Will you please send to my address by U. States express one volume of newly revised ‘Science & Health’.”5 Harmony went on to become a Christian Science practitioner. She established Christian Science church services in her city of Lockport, New York, and also in Albany, New York. In 1888 she completed Eddy’s Normal class. She also joined the staff at Eddy’s Pleasant View home in Concord, New Hampshire, working in 1902 and 1903 alongside Clara Shannon, one of Eddy’s closest aides, and subbing for Shannon in her absence.6
Both Thompson and Harmony laid the foundations for Christian Science in their respective locales, which endure to this day. Their dedication to healing people, starting churches, and sharing Science and Health enabled Eddy’s teaching to spread across the United States, and ultimately abroad. Their first connections were modest—a book request, a desire to learn more—but their impact was immense.
- Emma A. Thompson to Mary Baker Eddy, 6 April 1886, IC344.47.020, https://mbepapers.org/?load=344.47.020
- We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Volume I (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1979), 144.
- “Letter to Mrs. Eddy,” The Christian Science Journal, 18 October 1900.
- “Corner-Stone Laid at Minneapolis, Minn.,” The Christian Science Journal, October 31, 1901.
- Lizzie T. Harmony to Calvin A. Frye, 13 April 1886, IC945.92.025, https://mbepapers.org/?load=945.92.025
- Lizzie T. Harmony, 18 February 1931, Reminiscence, LCS009-13.29#2.