March 2, 2010
In observance of March as National Women's History Month, we are sharing brief sketches of two early workers in the Christian Science movement - Emma Easton Newman and Emma C. Shipman. Both students of Mary Baker Eddy, these women would become devoted to the Cause of Christian Science in their youth, and spend the rest of their lives supporting and pioneering the movement with their teaching and healing practices. These articles first appeared in the Longyear Historical Review, vol. 38, no. 2.
By Susan E. Schopp
On a winter morning in 1889, seventeen-year-old Emma Easton walked up the steps of the Massachusetts Metaphysical College in Boston, Massachusetts. She and her parents were there to attend a Primary class in Christian Science taught by Mary Baker Eddy.
Emma's family first heard of Christian Science the previous year from an aunt who had been healed through its teachings. When Emma's parents applied to Mrs. Eddy to join the Primary class that began on February 25, 1889, they asked her whether Emma could join the class as well. Mrs. Eddy assented, and much to all three Eastons' surprise, at the end of the class Mrs. Eddy awarded Emma the designation of C.S.B.
This Primary class was the "March Primary Class," which Mrs. Eddy writes about in her book Miscellaneous Writings (pages 279-282). The class, which had nearly seventy members, was the largest Mrs. Eddy had taught and it was also her last Primary class. Its members included Edward and Caroline Bates; Mary Alice Dayton (who wrote the words of hymn 51 in the Christian Science Hymnal, beginning "Eternal Mind the Potter is"); the Farlow brothers and sisters Alfred, Emma, Sarah, and William; Edward and Kate Kimball; and Augusta Stetson.
Two years after this class, Emma became listed in The Christian Science Journal as a practitioner. Her father, meanwhile, a former Congregationalist minister, was called to the pulpit of The Mother Church in Boston, where he served for a year, from 1893 to his passing in 1894.
In November 1898, Emma Easton was one of the students whom Mrs. Eddy invited to be in her last class. This Normal class included such workers as George Wendell Adams, William P. McKenzie, Judge Septimus J. and Camilla Hanna, Edward and Kate Kimball, Emma Shipman, and Daisette Stocking (later Mrs. William McKenzie).
In 1904 Emma Easton married Rolf Newman and in 1910 they moved to California. There Mary Baker Glover Billings, Mrs. Eddy's own granddaughter, became one of Mrs. Newman's students.
Mrs. Newman was related to Reverend Enoch Corser, one of the Congregationalist ministers of Mrs. Eddy's childhood.
Emma C. Shipman's early life involved a series of tragedies, for by the time she was thirteen, she had seen her paternal grandfather, her maternal grandmother, her mother, and her two older sisters pass away. In 1884, her aunt Emily Shipman Wells, of Lisbon, New Hampshire, heard of Christian Science. She was a semi-invalid, but was able to go to Boston for Christian Science treatment from Julia Bartlett. Healed in two weeks, she began a life of renewed activity.
In 1885, Emma's father suffered a badly crushed finger in a machinery accident. Aunt Emily was visiting, and as the local doctor was out of town, she offered to treat him. The finger was healed overnight, and fourteen-year-old Emma obtained a copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy. During this first reading, she herself was healed of asthma, and her lifelong interest in, and gratitude for, Christian Science began.
Meanwhile, three other of Emma's aunts had also become Christian Scientists: Mrs. Howland, Mrs. Moore, and Mrs. Dillingham. The latter was a member of a Primary class in Christian Science taught by Mrs. Eddy in September 1888.
After she finished high school, Emma studied for a year at the State Normal School in Johnson, Vermont, and became qualified to teach. She then went on to Boston University, which she chose for college because she would be able to attend Christian Science services in Boston. She was subsequently hired by the Town of Brookline, Massachusetts - the same town in which Mrs. Longyear and her family later settled - to teach school.
In June 1893, Emma accompanied her aunt Sylvia Howland to see Pleasant View, Mrs. Eddy's home on the outskirts of Concord, New Hampshire. Mrs. Eddy had moved to Pleasant View just one year earlier, and Emma's aunts had made a gift of willow trees to decorate the pond on the property. Arriving about nine o'clock in the evening - the gate being open, as was customary then - they strolled around the grounds and went down to the pond to view the willow trees. The house was dark, except for a light in Mrs. Eddy's study. To Emma this seemed to illustrate Mrs. Eddy's labor to illumine the darkness of materiality.
A few years later, Emma Shipman helped to establish First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Fabyans, New Hampshire, a popular summer resort in the 1890s. Mrs. Eddy, hearing about her work for this church and learning that she was the niece of her student Mrs. Dillingham, invited her to join the last class she taught, in November 1898. Subsequently she urged Miss Shipman to go into the public practice of Christian Science. This she did the following year, finding a teacher to replace her in Brookline and resigning her teaching job.
Miss Shipman received additional instruction from Mrs. Eddy when she spent a week at Pleasant View in 1905. Active in healing and teaching Christian Science until her passing in 1958, she taught the 1952 Normal class in the Christian Science Board of Education. Emma Shipman was also one of the founding trustees of the Longyear Foundation.
In the following letter from the Longyear Museum collection, Emma Shipman writes to Mrs. Longyear about her portrait painted by Chase Emerson.
February 20, 1919
My dear Mrs. Longyear -
Thank you for your sweet note which has just reached me. I must apologize for not replying to your note of apology before. It came when I was too busy for anything with some influenza cases and then shortly afterwards I learned you were away for the winter. You were very dear to me that afternoon and no apology is needed.
I will certainly write the history for you but the great need of C.S. help has kept me busy night and day. I am rejoicing this moment over the healing of a burst ear drum in a few treatments and the restoration of hearing. This came about while helping some one with other troubles but the ear drum hadn't been mentioned.
When you return will you look at a portrait Mr. Chase Emerson is doing of me? If you like it, Mr. Emerson will part with it, if not, I will sit for Mrs. Kaula.
Mr. Emerson is an old friend and offered to try a portrait of me as I was so pleased with the one he has just done of his wife.
Shall I send the history to you in Pasadena?
Yours most sincerely,
Emma C. Shipman