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 individual is Mary E. Eaton. As was true of many of her peers in the movement, 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 of 1898, served briefly in her household, and taught and practiced Christian Science for many years.
Mary Eaton grew up in Chelsea, Massachusetts, across the harbor from Boston. After finishing her schooling, she was working in the public library in Chelsea when relatives introduced her to Christian Science, which she at once accepted. She had Primary class instruction from 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.
Mary’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,” as he later described it, 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 Manchester, New Hampshire, he was run over by a carriage and was again treated by his daughter, and was healed 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 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. The following year, she was invited to join 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.”
At the conclusion of the class, Mary received the designation C.S.B. 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.
Mary Eaton served for a short time in Mrs. Eddy’s household in 1902. While living at Pleasant View, she received a gift from Mrs. Eddy — a beautiful pin of a dove set in pearls, which she is shown wearing in Longyear’s portrait of her. Mary was also on call for several years in Boston, to attend to Mrs. Eddy’s personal shopping.
Mrs. Eddy greatly appreciated Mary 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 to Mary Beecher 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, she went to Seattle and taught there for several years. In 1935, Mary 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 at Longyear Museum is recognition of her pioneer efforts.