Walking into the National Women’s Hall of Fame five years ago with my nine-year-old daughter, none of the significance of the moment was lost on me. I felt the power of generations of women—and men—who fought for the many rights women enjoy today. Voting, for instance, or the ability to own a home.
We sought out the primary portrait we were there to see, that of the Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. And I took in the plainness and simplicity of the place, paradoxically commemorating some of history’s most important figures and many of my childhood heroines who continue to inspire me today. I hoped my daughter would also grow to love and be inspired by these women.
Despite the almost drab decor, I nonetheless savored the beauty in every portrait and the power of the story behind it—until my daughter began pulling my sweater to hurry up and find the one we’d come to see.
Mary Baker Eddy founded a religion at a time when women had few legal rights. Her life experience showed her the power of understanding God and of prayer that awakens us to our eternal connection with the Divine. In this conscious oneness with God, she experienced both physical and mental healing.
As a young woman, Eddy dealt with chronic illness, had her only child taken from her, was publicly ridiculed for her work, and for a time was poverty-stricken and frequently in need of a place to live. Yet, her life turned around in a way that made her a generous benefactor of her century and one of its most productive citizens. Her discovery of Christian Science has blessed and healed countless individuals.
Eddy envisioned equality for the sexes years before this was widely embraced. One of her ideas was how worshiping one God can bring this equality to all. She wrote in her textbook: “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; . . . equalizes the sexes; . . .” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 340).
An infinite Father-Mother God that “equalizes the sexes” is a divine power whose nature is both masculine and feminine, unchanging, eternal good, and pure Love itself. A recent article published on today.com describes how Mary Baker Eddy, who founded The Church of Christ, Scientist, gave “men and women equal responsibilities within the congregation, unprecedented for the time, and by worshipping a ‘Father-Mother’ God” (Erica Chayes Wida, “How my Christian Science roots help me face pandemic anxiety,” December 22, 2020).
Today, ample evidence exists on how much work is still needed to fully realize equality for all, from gaining equal pay for equal work to stopping gender-based violence and inequities in the home, the workplace, and government. Realizing equal rights in society can start with valuing all the aspects of the infinite nature of God, Spirit, in ourselves. Understanding God as divine Life and Love, and ourselves as God’s loved children, we see ourselves and others as the full expression of divine qualities. Here, we find the strength to insist on justice, equality, and freedom. As well, we find the grace and humility to receive help from others or touch the heart of another. Power and strength combine with grace and compassion. We feel the coincidence in ourselves of softness and determination, intelligence and kindness, caring and courage.
As we feel the empowering presence of our Father-Mother God, we stand up for the value of everyone’s true spiritual manhood and womanhood, entirely separate from any mortal, limited, and vulnerable viewpoints. Every stance for this divine vision of equality and unity shifts the mental tapestry of thought and enables step-by-step progress for humanity by highlighting and eliminating oppression and subjugation, wherever they are found. Every unselfed prayer helps the world, and ourselves, find the courage, perseverance, and willingness to yield to divine Love’s direction.
Mary Baker Eddy’s example continues to inspire today. She based her church on divine Principle, Love, and democratic ideals, including equality of the sexes. Today it reaches around the world to teach Jesus’ method of healing.
Pulpit and Press, a shorter work of Eddy’s, contains newspaper clippings related to the beginning stages of Christian Science and the building of the Boston church in 1894. One of the clippings is an article from a Boston magazine that described a new view of woman. In the article, entitled “One Point of View—The New Woman,” it states, “Her hand is tender—but steel tempered with holy resolve . . .” (Pulpit and Press, p. 82). The author references women in the Bible—Esther and Miriam—who offer relevant visions of leadership. The article concludes with a vision for society as a whole: “Then shall wrong be robbed of her bitterness and ingratitude of her sting, revenge shall clasp hands with pity, and love shall dwell in the tents of hate; while side by side, equal partners in all that is worth living for, shall stand the new man with the new woman” (p. 84).
This vision reflects the masculine and feminine nature of one infinite God and the spiritual equality of “the ‘male and female’ of God’s creating” (Science and Health, p. 249). It answers the call for a more just and equitable society in which all people can find freedom and opportunity and discover new possibilities for progress.
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