Women of History: Caroline B. Getty

May 19, 2016

Caroline B. Getty (seated in chair), 1934. P00777. Unknown photographer.

Caroline B. Getty (1864–1955) was the first teacher of Christian Science in France. Her career spanned two world wars and included a 50-year public healing practice. Together with Getty’s reminiscence about the translation of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures into French, her publications in the Christian Science periodicals, along with a brief biography written by her students, provide rich resources for understanding her life and work.

Getty was born to English parents and raised in Calais, France, where her mother was an English teacher. She returned to England and entered the dressmaking and millinery business in Leeds. Writing in the weekly Christian Science Sentinel in 1905, she explained, “I became interested [in Christian Science] through the healing of my brother-in-law, in America.” She also discussed her new religion: “[It] helps me tremendously in my business,—an establishment of about fifty girls goes on harmoniously, work is plentiful even in times of so-called trade depression, there are fewer mistakes made, and all these improved conditions have come about because I daily realize that God is right here, both in my home and in my business.”1

After taking Primary class instruction in Christian Science from Lady Victoria Murray, Getty left her business and began a healing practice in 1908. Because her earlier work had taken her to Paris, in order to keep up with the styles, she was familiar with the city. In 1912 she made the bold move of leaving England and relocating to France, where Christian Science was barely known at the time.

She became a teacher of Christian Science soon after settling in Paris and held her first class in 1915. It had only two students, but both became Christian Science practitioners. She had already been appointed in 1913 to a three-person committee charged with translating Science and Health into French. Her insights into the work included these explanations: “We decided to begin with the chapter Recapitulation’ so as to establish the equivalent in French for the English words used in the teaching. The first difficulty that presented itself was to find an equivalent for the English word ‘Mind’ as such a word did not exist in French…. It was only after months of work and research that the word ‘Entendement’ was decided upon and used exclusively for Mind when capitalized and for mortal mind without a capital. Mr. Alllison V. Stewart [who was supervising the translation for the Christian Science Church] said, ‘The English word “mind” did not mean very much to us until Mrs. Eddy crowned it with a capital and called it God’.”2

Produced during the upheaval of World War I, the French translation of Science and Health was first made available in 1917.

Getty was a founding member of Second Church of Christ, Scientist, in Paris. She served as Christian Science Committee on Publication for France from 1920 to 1930. She displayed wit as well as clarity in her letters to the press, including in a 1929 letter to the newspaper l’Oeuvre.

In 1940, during World War II, Getty was interned with other British subjects in France. At one point she reportedly told the German authorities, “No, you can’t keep me. I have work to do for God, and you will let me go free to do it.” Released after six weeks along with others over 70 years of age, Getty returned to Paris. One of her students wrote of a meeting they had during those difficult years: “During the exodus, my daughter and I were on the roads…. The human suffering I saw appeared to me like the end of the world. I was so upset…. I did not know how to think scientifically. After nineteen days on the journey, we returned to Paris. I immediately went to church…but I was still very unhappy. The next day I went to see Mrs. Getty. She saw the state I was in and said to me, ‘Open Science and Health and read.’ In a moment, all the weight, the nightmare I had lived through disappeared, and I became quite normal, and this without a word from Mrs. Getty. I shall never forget it.”3

Getty’s pupils called her “a profound student of the Bible.”4 Her published articles in the Christian Science magazines confirm this. You can read one of them here. She faced many challenges during her long life with notable poise, authority, and love. By the time of her passing in 1955, post-war France included a small but established field of the Christian Science movement.

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  1. Christian Science Sentinel September 16, 1905, 43
  2. Rem., Caroline Getty, 2-3
  3. Caroline Getty, C.S.B., n.d., 17
  4. Ibid., 24