Was Eddy the “person” who followed the Graham system?
(Updated September 29, 2020)
We are sometimes asked if Mary Baker Eddy was referring to herself in the following statement on page 221 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “I knew a person who when quite a child adopted the Graham system to cure dyspepsia.”1
In the first edition of Science and Health, published in 1875, Eddy made it clear that this was a reference to herself, using the “editorial we”:
…we will add a leaf of experience here, showing how personal sense, or belief of any sort, shuts out harmony and science. When quite a child we adopted the Graham system for dyspepsia, ate only bread and vegetables, and drank water, following this diet for years; we became more dyspeptic, however, and, of course, thought we must diet more rigidly; so we partook of but one meal in twenty-four hours, and this consisted of a thin slice of bread, about three inches square, without water; our physician not allowing us with this ample meal, to wet our parched lips for many hours thereafter ….2
In the third edition of Science and Health, published in 1881, she revised this passage: “…We knew of an individual who adopted ….”3 Here she used feminine pronouns.
In the 1909 edition (the numbering of editions was discontinued after the 418th edition in 1906), Eddy changed the wording, using masculine rather than feminine pronouns. This is the wording found in the current edition of Science and Health.
We do not have any conclusive information as to why Eddy made these changes. But this account from Adam Dickey’s Memoirs gives some insight into the 1909 edits:
One morning after [Mary Baker Eddy] had called the class [of household staff members] into her room, she opened Science and Health at random to page 221 and began to read at [the first] line. In a moment she paused, looked up at the class smilingly, and said, “Perhaps you will be interested to know that I am the woman who adopted that system.” This was quite a surprise to us all. But she very quickly passed the incident by and made no further remarks in explanation of it. I learned afterward that in her first edition of Science and Health, referring to this same illustration, she used the editorial “we,” thereby indicating that she herself was the person referred to. In subsequent editions, however, she spoke of “knowing a woman who when quite a child,” and so forth. A short while after the above [class] took place, she called me into her room and proceeded to change the text of Science and Health so that instead of “I knew a woman who when quite a child,” and so on, it read, “I knew a person who when quite a child,” and so forth. All through this page, 221, and the following page, she changed the pronoun so that in each instance it referred to the person. Then with a very knowing smile, she handed me these changes and asked me to send them to her publisher and have them executed in Science and Health. I saw clearly at once why she made the change; it was because she thought in telling five or six persons that she was the individual referred to, she had to a greater or less extent liberated this information in human thought and that it might become knowledge that it was she herself who was referred to. This did not suit her, and she at once made the changes on these two pages so as to turn the thought of mortal mind away from herself.4
- Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), 221.
- Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health (Boston: W.F. Brown & Company, 1875), 189–190.
- See Eddy, Science and Health, Vol. I (Lynn, Massachusetts: Dr. Asa G. Eddy, 1881), 100–102.
- See Adam Dickey, “Memoirs of Mary Baker Eddy,” in We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Volume II (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 2013), 436–437.