Of the many students and workers associated with Mary Baker Eddy in the early years of the Christian Science movement, some are less well known today than others. One such person is Miss Mary E. Eaton. As was true of many of the faithful workers who surrounded Mrs. Eddy, Mary Eaton was dedicated, unselfish and tireless in her efforts to advance the Cause of Christian Science and to help her Leader. She attended Mrs. Eddy’s last class, served briefly in her household, and taught and practiced Christian Science for many years.
Mary Eaton grew up across the harbor from Boston, in Chelsea, Massachusetts. She finished her schooling and was working in the library in Chelsea when relatives introduced her to Christian Science, which she at once accepted. She had Primary class instruction from Mrs. Flavia S. Knapp, C.S.D., and went into the public practice of Christian Science. Soon she had to resign her position at the library because of the increasing success of her practice.
Miss Eaton’s father, Henry Eaton, was an invalid at the time of his daughter’s introduction to Christian Science. Partially paralyzed in a train accident in March 1885, he was bent over “like a half opened jack-knife” and had been pronounced incurable by medical specialists. In 1895 Miss Eaton began to treat her father in Christian Science. By the next year he was greatly improved and was able to begin attending services at The Mother Church. In June 1897 he was completely healed. Two months later, while visiting in Manchester, New Hampshire, he was run over by a carriage and was again treated by Miss Eaton, receiving healing in one day.1
On July 4, 1897 Mrs. Eddy invited the attendees at the Communion service at The Mother Church to a reception at her home in Concord, New Hampshire the next day. Mary Eaton and her parents were among the crowd of over 2000 visitors to Pleasant View that day at the combined religious and holiday gathering.
Mary Eaton was listed as a practitioner in The Christian Science Journal for over 40 years, starting with the November 1897 issue. A year later she was a member of the “Class of Seventy,” the last class taught by Mrs. Eddy. Later when writing of the experience, Miss Eaton said that she learned the importance of “childlikeness” in that class. She was struck by Mrs. Eddy’s humility, and commented on how Mrs. Eddy appeared to listen for God’s voice before speaking. She wrote of her teacher, “She was very witty, and when she said something that would bring tears to our eyes, she would immediately tell us something to make us laugh.” Miss Eaton received the designation C.S.B. at the end of the class. In 1907, as a guest of Mrs. Eddy, she had Normal class instruction from Judge Septimus Hanna and soon thereafter began to teach classes in Christian Science in Boston.
Miss Eaton became very devoted to Mrs. Eddy and in 1902 served for a short time in her household. While Miss Eaton was living at Pleasant View, Mrs. Eddy gave her a beautiful pin — a dove set in pearls, which she is shown wearing in Longyear’s portrait of her. Miss Eaton was also on call for several years in Boston, to attend to Mrs. Eddy’s personal shopping.
Mrs. Eddy greatly appreciated Miss Eaton’s loving service and efforts on her behalf, as is evidenced by the following message to her which was printed in the Christian Science Sentinel shortly after Mrs. Eddy moved to Chestnut Hill in 1908: “You will accept my thanks for your multiplied favors, flowers, and friendship unceasing. Lovingly yours, M. B. G. Eddy.”2
Mary Eaton taught and practiced Christian Science in Boston until June 1918, when some friends invited her to Toronto, Ontario. She stayed for several years, teaching and healing there, and serving in one of the Canadian hospitals during World War I. In November 1918 she wrote Mrs. Longyear, “Nineteen homes have been offered me, and my practice has increased so much that I have taken an office down town … The first week I was here I visited seven hospitals and met one thousand soldiers, many with amputated limbs. I am in my office all day and many evenings, have taken ten trolley cars in visiting different parts of this great city where patients have been in great need, arriving home frequently at eleven at night.”
By 1923 she had returned to teaching in Boston. Later, in 1930, Miss Eaton went to Seattle and taught there for several years. In 1935 she moved to The Christian Science Pleasant View Home in Concord, New Hampshire.
Mary Eaton was one of the many dedicated workers who helped advance the Cause of Christian Science in its early days. Her portrait in the Mary Baker Eddy Museum collection is recognition of her pioneer efforts.