In honor of Women’s History Month, we thought we would tell you about a recent donation to The Mary Baker Eddy Library’s collections—a copy of Science and Health once owned by woman suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony. This copy is a 25th edition, published in 1887, and was a gift to Anthony from Laura Lathrop, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher who was a student of Mary Baker Eddy. Lathrop taught Anthony in a Primary class on Christian Science the same year the edition was published and she inscribed the book to her:
To My dear Miss Anthony
From her loving friend
Following the inscription, Anthony recorded the occasion of the gift:
March 1, 1887 – given at the close of lectures
in Mr. Spofford’s parlor – Riggs House –
Washington, D.C. –
Copy of Science and Health inscribed to Susan B. Anthony from Laura Lathrop and from Susan B. Anthony to Emily Gross.
Laura Lathrop taught the class on Christian Science in Washington, D.C., in the hotel operated by suffrage advocate Jane H. Snow Spofford and her husband Charles Wheeler Spofford. The Riggs House was often the meeting place for the leaders of the National Council of Women and the National Woman Suffrage Association.
Anthony’s opinion of Christian Science seems to have been mixed, or at least she once lumped Christian Science in with other “theories” that she felt were too abstract for her taste and not what she deemed practical enough to help in the suffrage movement. In 1897 she wrote to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “The truth is, I can no more see through Theosophy than I can through Christian Science, Spiritualism, Calvinism or any other of the theories, so I shall have to go on knocking away to remove the obstructions in the road of us mortals while in these bodies and on this planet; and leave Madam Besant [Annie Besant, a prominent theosophist] and you and all who have entered into the higher spheres, to revel in things unknown to me….”1
But then in 1899, Anthony cited Mary Baker Eddy’s success in her response to Senator John J. Ingalls’s statements claiming women’s inferiority as justification for not giving them the right to vote. In an article reprinted in the Christian Science Sentinel, she pondered, “What of Mrs. Eddy? No man ever obtained so large a following in so short a time. Her churches are among the largest and most elegant in Boston, Chicago, and other cities.”2
Perhaps even more telling than this statement is the fact that Anthony saved her copy of Science and Health for many years and then passed it on “with dearest love” to her companion Emily Gross. Such a gesture suggests that she did hold Christian Science and its founder with more regard than the letter to Stanton would indicate. Anthony wrote her inscription under the one from Laura Lathrop:
To – Emily Gross –
With dearest love of
Susan B. Anthony
Sept. 30, 1900 –
The Mary Baker Eddy Library has another book in its collections that relates to Susan B. Anthony. In 1903, Anthony sent Mary Baker Eddy a copy of Volume IV of The History of Woman Suffrage, which she had edited with Ida Husted Harper. In her cover letter, Anthony told Eddy, “I find your name on our Suffrage books way back in the olden time and I believe you must be still interested in the subject… I remember of hearing you speak in the Chicago Music Hall a good many years ago; that is the only time I remember of seeing you.”3 (Anthony heard Mary Baker Eddy speak in Chicago in 1888, the year following her class with Lathrop at Riggs House). Eddy’s reply to this letter is not extant, but we know that in January of 1887 women’s rights advocate Harriet H. Robinson had written to Eddy offering her Volumes II and III of Anthony’s History of Woman Suffrage and noted that Eddy already had Volume I.4 Eddy’s response, recorded by her secretary Calvin Frye, reads, “Gave Miss Anthony $5.00 for bequest to Soc as I understood I’ve never recd any vol of this kind & do not think best to sub. have no time to read it & can give help in some other way.”5
Anthony inscribed the book to Eddy:
Mrs Mary D.E. [sic] Glover Eddy
Concord — New Hampshire
Do not these records of
the gains of the last twenty
years fill your heart with hope
and faith that in the near future
there will be perfect equality of rights
established throughout these United States?
Yours for justice to women
Susan B. Anthony
17 Madison Street
June 18, 1902
The frontispiece plate is signed: “Affectionately Yours Susan B. Anthony.”6
Volume IV of The History of Woman Suffrage given by Susan B. Anthony to Mary Baker Eddy.
This copy of the fourth volume of The History of Woman Suffrage that Anthony sent was still in Eddy’s personal library in her Chestnut Hill, MA, home at the time of her passing. Now Susan B. Anthony’s copy of Science and Health joins it in the Library’s collections.
Anthony’s copy of the Christian Science textbook was a great find. Who knows what other connections will come to light between Mary Baker Eddy and other leading figures of her day?
- Ida Husted Harper, Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony (Indianapolis: The Bowen-Merrill Company, 1898), 918.
- Susan B. Anthony, “The Work of Mrs. Eddy,” Christian Science Sentinel, December 14, 1899, http://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/a7xxv5h7cu?s=t.
- Susan B. Anthony to Mary Baker Eddy, 19 June 1903, IC519.
- Harriet H. Robinson to Mary Baker Eddy, 14 January 1887, IC519.