Women of History: Maria Louise Baum
Maria Louise Baum (1867-1941) is probably best known for writing the words to seven Christian Science hymns. She was also the principal author of the Hymnal Notes included in the Concordance to the Christian Science Hymnal. A first cousin of journalist and Wonderful Wizard of Oz author Lyman Frank Baum (1856-1919), she was herself an early journalist for The Christian Science Monitor, as well as an ardent advocate for Mary Baker Eddy’s teachings and legacy.
One day, before she was a serious student of Christian Science, Baum was in great emotional and physical anguish. She found sudden healing after she “‘wrestled in prayer.’” Recalling this event from the late 1890s, she wrote, “I realized the presence of God a thousand times more clearly than I had ever felt a human presence.” As time went on, she began relating that transformative experience to the teachings of Christian Science.1
Baum became a member of The Mother Church in 1900 and went on to make some notable contributions to the Christian Science movement over four decades. Her reminiscences, as well as articles and poems published in the Christian Science magazines, emphasize a profound appreciation for what she understood as Mary Baker Eddy’s revelation of Christian Science and the role of her church in establishing a better world.
Baum worked for The Christian Science Monitor in its earliest days. Less than three months after the newspaper began, she was appointed Editor of its Home Forum page in February 1909. She worked diligently under Managing Editor Alexander Dodds to shape the Home Forum according to Eddy’s vision for that feature as “a simple home page, with something to interest everybody.”2 After Frederick Dixon became the Monitor’s editor in 1914, she parted with the paper, perhaps over his rejection of additional articles in a series on Mary Baker Eddy that she had been writing.3
“After I left the Monitor, these ideas, indicating our Leader’s place in history, her mighty influence on the world’s thought, and the American idea as a pathmaker for pure Christianity, continued to come to me,” she wrote. Her 1917 poem “From Cross to Crown”—“written on the completion of [Eddy’s] Memorial at Mt. Auburn [Cemetery]”—expresses some of those ideas.4 5 Another poem, “Stronghold,” celebrated the construction of the Christian Science Publishing House. It appeared in 1932, just prior to the laying of the building’s cornerstone: “So publishing and praising, tell the news/Of man’s exhaustless power.”6
Baum’s early training was in the field of music.7 Census records indicate that she taught music throughout her life, including between 1900 and 1905 at what would become Wheelock College in Boston. Through her accomplishments as a musician, Baum made significant contributions to Christian Science hymnody. In 1914 she published “Mrs. Eddy’s Hymns” in The Christian Science Journal, explaining Eddy’s use of language and imagery in the context of her lifework.8 This was later adapted and published in the Concordance to Christian Science Hymnal and Hymnal Notes. Baum was the writer of most of the “Notes.” She was well acquainted with the Hymnal, having been appointed in 1928 to serve on the committee that was making a 1932 revision.
That edition contains seven selections with words by Maria Louise Baum—“Here, O God, Thy healing presence” (109); “High to heaven let song be soaring” (112); “If the Lord build not the house” (141); “In Thee, my God and Saviour” (153); “Like as a mother, God comforteth His children” (174); “Put on the whole armor of pure consecration” (292); and “Rouse ye, soldiers of the cross” (296). Over the years, many people have found inspiration in these hymns. They are Baum’s most well-known contributions to the Christian Science Church.
- Maria Louise Baum, “Love’s Omnipresence,” Christian Science Sentinel, October 6, 1906, https://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/d6bf58wjo2?s=t.
- M. Louise Baum, “Mrs. Eddy and The Monitor,” 15 May 1931, Reminiscence, M. Louise Baum, 1.
- Ibid., 3.
- M. Louise Baum, “From Cross to Crown,” Christian Science Sentinel, March 24, 1917, https://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/d6bg2bmmzm?s=t.
- M. Louise Baum, “Mrs. Eddy and The Monitor,” 15 May 1931, Reminiscence, M. Louise Baum, 2A.
- Maria Louise Baum, “Stronghold,” Christian Science Sentinel, September 3, 1932, https://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/2d1ya86m8re?s=t.
- M. Louise Baum, US Passport application, 29 July 1904, Subject File, M. Louise Baum.
- “Mrs. Eddy’s Hymns,” The Christian Science Journal, February 1914, https://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/1bioaa3k3sc?s=t.