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A hairdresser's story—then and now

From the October 2001 issue of The Christian Science Journal

In her book Martha Matilda Harper and the American Dream, author tells of the extraordinary spiritual journey of a seven-year-old Canadian girl sent from home by her father in 1864 to be a servant in the home of another family. Martha went on to found what would turn out to be the first American franchise business. The Harper Method salons—of which there were over 450 around the world by 1925—featured a system of skin and hair care that Martha frequently said was based on her understanding of the spiritual truths she had learned about freedom and beauty through her study of Science and Health.

She had been introduced to that book in 1888 by Helen Pine Smith, a Christian Science practitioner in Rochester, New York, at a time when she was working as a servant in a household and simultaneously trying to mass-produce a recipe for hair tonic that she had brought with her from Canada.

Apparently, the young Martha had collapsed from exhaustion, and Mrs. Smith, who had just completed a course of instruction with Mary Baker Eddy, was called in to pray for her. "Smith and Martha likely prayed together to better understand God, the Divine Mind, and to yield to God's healing power," writes Plitt of this close relationship, which would continue for many years. She goes on to add: "As they talked, Smith may have reminded Martha that each person was a reflection of God. Martha, therefore, was important." Martha Matilda Harper and the American Dream (Syracuse University Press, 2000), p. 35 .

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