Is there a recording of Eddy’s voice?
We are sometimes asked what Mary Baker Eddy’s voice sounded like, and if there are any recordings of her speaking.
To our knowledge, no recordings were ever made. This appears to have been a conscious decision on her part. In August 1910, Sarah Pike Conger wrote a letter to Irving C. Tomlinson, asking if Eddy would consider making a voice recording. He mentioned the letter in his reminiscence, quoting Conger:
… I had made a willing loving study of her writings and loved them, but when I heard her voice utter the words there was a life in them beyond the written word — and they have vibrated in sweet-echoing tones through these years, helping me to ‘remember’ and to detect the Christ-hand ever pointing the way heavenward. My heart’s inmost loving gratitude for that hour’s hearing can not be told and my treasured thought is this — that more might hear that voice, in its earnestness, its intonation, its tenderness, its thrill of superior understanding. This desire has come to me through the living word uttered to me by dear Mrs. Eddy herself. There are instruments perfected to a great extent which are very true to the human voice. Would it not be wise if our dear Leader could speak into these instruments in her sweet, tender, positive tones passages from the Bible and selections from some of her wonderful writings? ….1
Tomlinson noted that he presented Conger’s request to Eddy, asking if she would be willing to have her voice on a phonograph record—and that she declined.
Another member of her staff, John G. Salchow, noted in his reminiscence a third-hand account of Eddy’s refusal to record her voice: “Mr. Joseph Mann once told me that Mr. Alfred Farlow had asked Mrs. Eddy to have her voice recorded and that she had said she did not care to as it would be of no interest to the world.”2
There are, however, numerous descriptions of Eddy’s voice, according to the reminiscences of people who met her. For example, Mary Stewart described her voice as “colorful, firm, refined” and said, “She talked with her lips, her eyes, her hands, and from her heart.”3 According to Calvin C. Hill, Eddy spoke with “a voice resonant with spiritual power and beauty, and with articulation so distinct that not a syllable was lost.”4
Both of those remarks depict Eddy speaking in public. Indeed, multiple reminiscences imply that she would adapt the quality of her voice in these cases to support her message. In addition to noting her clear enunciation, one account states that her voice “without effort, had the most unusual carrying power.”5 As a whole, students’ descriptions of her voice indicated it varied based on what she was saying at the time.
According to Tomlinson, Eddy also appreciated music and “sang soprano in a little home quartet.”6 He went on to remark, “I well remember the sweet quality of her voice.”7
- Irving Tomlinson, Reminiscence (1932), 676.
- John Salchow, Reminiscence (1932), 53.
- Mary Stewart, “An Interview with Mary Baker Eddy and Other Memories,” in We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Vol. I (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 2011), 318.
- Calvin C. Hill, “Some Precious Memories of Mary Baker Eddy,” in We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Vol. I, 326.
- Annie Louise Robertson, “The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science,” in We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Vol. I, 277.
- Tomlinson, Twelve Years With Mary Baker Eddy, Amplified Edition (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1994), 216.
- Tomlinson, Twelve Years, 217.