Clara M. S. Shannon

  • Anne Holliday Webb
Clara M. S. Shannon, C.S.D., by Eileen Ayrton.

A LITTLE DAUGHTER was born to Mr. and Mrs. William Shannon in England in 1858, and they named her Clara M. Sainsbury Shannon. She had twin sisters, Blanche and Constance, and a brother. Clara was 28 years of age when she first learned of Christian Science and was healed through reading the textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. She was living in Montreal at the time having come there with her family in 1873, soon after finishing her formal studies at The Grange, Buxton, Derbyshire. In Montreal, she began the cultivation of her beautiful soprano voice, became a soloist at St. George’s Church, and sang in many public oratorios.

In her study of the Christian Science textbook, however, she found a satisfaction never before experienced by her, and in 1887 she and her sister Blanche were healed of severe illnesses. Clara wrote Mrs. Eddy asking how she could learn more about this Science. Mrs. Eddy invited her and her sister Blanche to attend her next Primary Class to be given in 1888. Following that she was welcomed into the May 1889 Normal Class, the last taught by Mrs. Eddy before dissolving the Massachusetts Metaphysical College. Miss Shannon received a C.S.D. degree and Mrs. Eddy urged her to begin teaching. She held her first class in June 1889, in Montreal. In spite of the fact that many people were healed by her solos after her study with Mrs. Eddy, her practice made such demands on her time that she gave up professional singing to devote herself entirely to the practice and teaching of Christian Science. At that time teachers often held classes in several centers and Miss Shannon taught in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as well as Montreal.

Clara Shannon was Principal of the Montreal Institute of Christian Science. The Christian Science Journal directory for September 1891.

As a member of the Christian Scientists Association, made up of Mrs. Eddy’s students, Miss Shannon attended many monthly meetings in Boston, and came through association with these early students to understand more clearly Mrs. Eddy’s great work, and to love her deeply. Many were the gifts in these years wrought by Miss Shannon’s deft fingers for her Leader, and in turn Mrs. Eddy’s continued encouragement of this unselfish and loving student added immeasurably to her progress. She served the Montreal Church as pastor, established the Montreal Institute of Christian Science, and carried on a large practice.

In 1894 Mrs. Eddy invited her to join the household at Pleasant View and for about seven years between September 1894 and March 1903, Clara was a devoted worker at Pleasant View for Mrs. Eddy and the Cause of Christian Science. At one time she spent an entire year with only occasional five-minute walks along the driveway for recreation. But these were golden days for her as she recorded in her diary. She called her memoirs based on her diary, “Golden Memories,” which may be read at Longyear. No day was long enough for the workers of this household to keep their watch in prayer, to demonstrate perfection in every task assigned and, in Miss Shannon’s case, also to look after many personal needs of Mrs. Eddy. She accompanied Mrs. Eddy to The Mother Church on both of her visits, the first on April 1, 1895; the second, on May 26, of the same year. She was also with her at Tremont Temple when she addressed the Annual Meeting on June 6, 1899.

This Science and Health was a gift from Mary Baker Eddy, who inscribed the flyleaf to Clara Shannon “with love” in June 1894.

After her mother’s passing at Montreal in 1903, Miss Shannon felt the necessity of looking after her affairs in England and of seeing her students in Halifax and Montreal again. When she left Pleasant View she said of Mrs. Eddy, “Dear Mother has taught me much in this short time, which will help me forever and help me to help others.”1 In London she began at once to practice, continuing this work until 1907, when she again came to Concord for a visit. Mrs. Eddy, who hoped Clara would remain at Pleasant View, told her if she must return to England, she should begin teaching there. Reluctantly, Clara did return to England and took up her work there as a teacher. After Mrs. Eddy’s passing, Clara wrote her sister Blanche that she was preparing, at Mrs. Eddy’s request, to go to Chestnut Hill in 1910, when she received word of her Leader’s passing.2 Mrs. Eddy had missed her, and spoke of her as “strong and courageous, and faithful.”3

A portrait of Miss Shannon, painted by Eileen Ayrton of Ireland, has been presented to the Longyear Historical Society by Mr. Edward A. Long, a friend of the Society for many years. The portrait, charming in color and mood, is much appreciated by her students in England who generously assisted Miss Ayrton with photographs and personal information while she was painting it.

The gray satin sample (bottom) was purchased by Clara Shannon and made up into a dress at her direction as a gift to Mrs. Eddy, who wore it to The Mother Church on May 26, 1895.


  1. In The Service of Mary Baker Eddy. Prepared especially for Longyear Foundation by the Executive Committee of Miss Shannon’s pupils.
  2. Ibid. p. 47.
  3. Ibid. Kinter letter to Miss Shannon.

This article was originally published in the Longyear Museum Quarterly News, Winter 1969-70.

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