Grave of the Week: Mary Baker Eddy

This post is part of the Graves of the Week series. To see every entry, click here.

Grave of Mary Baker Eddy.  Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA. Taken January 19, 2015

Today marks the 194th birthday of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science Church, and possessor of one of the most beautiful graves in the world.

Cambridge Massachusetts’ Mount Auburn Cemetery is considered to be one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the country, if not the world, and is often credited with being the first ‘garden cemetery’ – a burial ground that is not simply a place to store the dead but instead a place to honor them with serenity, beauty and life. It is telling, then, that of all of the beautiful spots in this beautiful place, Mary Baker Eddy’s grave is almost always the first one you see.  The cemetery uses it regularly as promotional material, while visitors often head straight for it, to enjoy its Classical style and idyllic setting.

Eddy’s popularity and influence seems somewhat bizarre today. Her early life was marked by suffering – frequent illness, difficult family relations, the deaths of her brother, mother, husband, and then a fiance.  Her son vanished from her life, going to live with relatives. A fall in her home left her bedridden, and she fell in with a hypnotist who believed in the body’s ability to heal itself.

From these ideas (and, as many suggest, plagiarized from them), Eddy began to write about a new religious belief: the idea that with the proper prayer and devotion, God could and would heal ailments.  She preached penitence and an avoidance of medicine and doctors in favor of prayer. This belief, coming as it did in a period of religious revival known as the Third Great Awakening, caught on in certain circles within Boston society, enough for Eddy and her disciples to build a tremendous building in downtown Boston known as the Mother Church.  The Mother Church remains one of Christian Science’s most lasting legacies, along with the Christian Science Monitor, a now independent newspaper.

Christian Science still exists as a religious denomination, though its numbers are dropping.  As modern medicine has advanced through the 20th and into the 21st century, Christian Science appears increasingly antiquated and even dangerous. However, it’s important to remember that when Eddy founded it, medicine was not too far removed from simple superstition.

Regardless of the Church’s legacy, Eddy herself will always be remembered by anyone who wanders the beautiful grounds of Mount Auburn and comes across her grave.

Sources:
Mary Baker Eddy Library

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