Q: Didn’t Mrs. Eddy insist on teaching obstetrics at her Metaphysical College? Do you know how it came about, and when, why, and how long the classes lasted? —A reader in Massachusetts, US
A: As Mary Baker Eddy and her early students practiced Christian Science, they found that it could be consistently applied to bring about safe childbirths. She spoke of this as early as the first edition of Science and Health (1875, p. 280), and in the third edition, published in 1881, she wrote: “The obstetrics of metaphysics is its highest branch and one with which teacher and student should be familiar” (Vol. 1, p. 241). That same year Eddy established the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, and in 1882 she and her husband, Asa Gilbert Eddy, took a short course in the anatomical and medical aspects of obstetrics with Rufus King Noyes, M.D. Noyes issued certificates stating that the Eddys possessed “the requisite knowledge of accouchement,” and Eddy referred to herself in promotional material for the College as “Professor of Obstetrics, Metaphysics, and Christian Science.” But it was not until June 1887 that she taught a week-long class devoted exclusively to the medical and metaphysical aspects of obstetrics, followed by a second class in December. In a third class (1888), the medical aspects were taught by Ebenezer Foster Eddy (a physician who had become a Christian Scientist), with Mary Baker Eddy teaching the metaphysical aspects.
It’s clear that during those years Eddy thought it was important for Christian Science practitioners taking childbirth cases to be knowledgeable about obstetrics from both a medical and a spiritual point of view. She believed that such knowledge could enable a practitioner to assist with the mechanics of delivery, recognize any abnormal conditions needing correction, and avoid legal difficulties. When her student, Jennie Churchhill, wrote her in 1887 wondering why she would teach the anatomy and physiology of childbirth, Eddy replied: “Of two evils (the Bible says) ‘choose the least.’ This I have been obliged to do, I cannot do otherwise at this period. And of these evils, to have a M.D. take your case, or to qualify yourself to take it safely in the eyes of the law, the latter is the least” (The Mary Baker Eddy Library, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, L12709).