How did Mary Baker Eddy feel about animals?

April 15, 2015

From early childhood Mary Baker Eddy loved animals and always showed that love to the ones around her, eliciting their noticeable, affectionate responses.

Eddy once informed a member of her household, Irving Tomlinson, that as a girl, she nursed baby lambs and chicks, and sang hymns to them at night. Her father, upon finding a weak farm animal, would say, “Here is another invalid for Mary.” Tomlinson noted, “Then Mary would tenderly take her mild-eyed charge and nurse the fleecy little patient to health and strength.” Recalling the time, Eddy said, “I would take the little chicks, that seemed sickly or perhaps dying, into the bosom of my dress and hold them until I heard a fluttering sound and found the chicken active and strong and eager to run away, when I would put it down and away it would run.”1

As a child, Eddy found that she could give mental commands to the Baker family dog, Ben, and he would obey. Adam Dickey recounts:

An incident illustrating Mary Baker’s unusual mental development as a child is shown in the following. The family had a dog in the house named “Ben,” and when they were assembled in the sitting room the dog was made to understand that he must always lie under the table. Sometimes he would disregard this injunction and would come out and sit before the fire with the family. Eddy said she found out that by mentally addressing the dog he would obey her without her speaking a word aloud. When she saw that Ben was in for trouble, because of his presence in the room, she would mentally say, “Ben, go under the table and lie down,” and immediately the dog would rise and walk under the table and lie down. This, she said, occurred many, many times, and was one of the incidents of her childhood which she always kept to herself.2

Eddy was especially fond of birds, and in the reminiscence of Eugenia Fosbery, a student of Laura Sargent (an early student of Eddy’s as well as a worker in her household), there is mention of her having pet canaries named May and Benny. It is recounted that Benny responded strikingly to Eddy’s presence and love, bursting into song.3

In later life, she was very affectionate toward her horses and was often able to calm them when they were frightened. There were always horses at Eddy’s homes in Concord, New Hampshire, and at 400 Beacon Street, Newton, Massachusetts (Chestnut Hill). The horses pulled the carriages in which she regularly took rides, or the sleighs that she occasionally enjoyed in the wintertime. She selected these horses carefully and was very fond of them.

There was a fountain on the lawn at Pleasant View that was stocked with goldfish, and Eddy enjoyed feeding the fish. There were also, at times, other animals such as cats and dogs that were in residence at Pleasant View, and she was aware of them.

Eddy did not feel that Christian healing should be limited to sick men, women, or children. In May 1906, a Christian Scientist in the Philippines wrote to her about treating animals and received the following reply: “Your favor is at hand. You have my permission to heal the animals as well as mankind. When I was in practice I healed them and found them responsive to Truth in every instance. God gave man ‘dominion over the beasts’ and we have no authority for supposing that He ever recalled that gift or took away from man his rightful spiritual heritage. Please inform me as to your success” 4

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  1. Yvonne Caché von Fettweis and Robert Townsend Warneck, Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer, Amplified Edition (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 2009), 31.
  2. Adam Dickey, Memoirs of Mary Baker Eddy (Brookline, MA: Lillian Dickey, 1927), 136-37.
  3. Rem. Eugenia Fosbery.
  4. Mary Baker Eddy to Sylvia Kennedy, 16 May 1906, L14627.