Women of History: Louise Wheatley Cook Hovnanian

February 22, 2018

Louise Wheatley Cook Hovnanian, C.S.B, 1941. Box 534080, Folder 336117. Unknown photographer. Courtesy of The Mary Baker Eddy Library.

A prolific writer on Christian Science, Louise Knight Wheatley Cook Hovnanian (1869–1966) made an enduring contribution to the religion’s literature. Her lyrical, accessible style, along with her ability to relate the Bible to a reader’s experiences, has appealed for over a century. While some of her work may seem dated today, the best has a clarity and directness that many readers find classic, even timeless.

Louise Knight grew up an Episcopalian in Minneapolis and New York. She was educated first in public schools and then in a private girls’ school. A short biography in the Christian Science Sentinel noted this: “From her very early years, [she] expressed the desire to write. Soon after graduation her first book was published by a New York firm. Upon taking up the study of Christian Science she gave up all thought of a literary career, and began writing exclusively for the Christian Science periodicals.”1

It was in 1906, after her first marriage, that Louise Knight Wheatley came into contact with Christian Science in Kansas City, Missouri. She was drawn to its ethics, as well as to its emphasis on healing. Her first published piece about Christian Science appeared the following year in the Christian Science Sentinel, titled “To Beginners; From One of Them.” It contains the simple directness that characterized so many of her contributions. Even Mary Baker Eddy (whom Wheatley never met) responded to her talent and earnestness as a writer, marking a copy of the September 25, 1909, Sentinel, which contained “Taking the First Step,” Wheatley’s lead article. “Keep this no. on my table,” Eddy wrote, adding “See page 1st.”2

Wheatley completed Primary class instruction in 1913, “and upon returning to Kansas City went immediately into the practice of Christian Science.”3 That same year the editors of The Mother Church’s magazines contracted her to write nine articles annually for three years. She became a teacher of Christian Science in 1916.

Widowed twice, she remarried for the final time to Garabed Hovnanian, an architect who became a Christian Science practitioner. She was an active member of Third Church of Christ, Scientist, in the Westport neighborhood of Kansas City.

She contributed to the Christian Science periodicals for over fifty years, even while at the same time serving on the Church’s Board of Lectureship from 1935 to 1944. It’s interesting to note that the articles and poems that have appealed to readers for decades come from all periods in her career. Some include “Teach Me to Love” (1908); “The Problem of the Hickory Tree” (1911); “The Smell of Fire” (1920); “The Passing of the Sea Gull” (1927); “The Truth About Adversity” (1941); and “The Sun Never Sets” (1954).

Louise Knight Wheatley Cook Hovnanian lived to the age of 97. She wrote this in one of her last published articles:

Let no one say that he is through, that the best years of his life are behind him. What a travesty on Truth! On the contrary, we have a right to know that each year will bring increased wisdom and inspiration. Let no one look forward to dull, purposeless, empty, uninteresting, useless years, in which he expects to experience loneliness, weariness, and inactivity. Such thoughts make a gloomy face, and gloom has no abiding place in the mental home of a Christian Scientist. Let us know that since Love fills all space, we have only happy years before us—active, fruitful years—filled with joyous opportunities to bring help and comfort to those who may especially need to be reminded of their Father’s tender care and loving-kindness. There is always something to be done for someone else if we look for it. A Christian Scientist is never “through.” 4

Listen to "Women of History from the Mary Baker Eddy Library Archives," a Seekers and Scholars podcast episode featuring Library staffers Steve Graham and Dorothy Rivera.

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  1. “New Members of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship,” Christian Science Sentinel, June 22, 1935, 852.
  2. Archivist’s note, n.d., Church Archives, Box 534080, Folder 336117.
  3. Louise Wheatley Cook Hovnanian, 3 August 1951, Church Archives, Box 534080, Folder 336117.
  4. “The Sun Never Sets,” Christian Science Sentinel, December 11, 1954, 2162–2163.