The Ewing Women: “A revolution in our daily living”

  • Kelly Byquist

At some point around 1884, soon after her husband, William Gillespie Ewing, was healed through Christian Science of a malady which physicians had pronounced incurable,1 Ruth Babcock Ewing visited with a Christian Science practitioner.

“Why don’t you study Christian Science and learn how to take care of your own family?” the practitioner asked Mrs. Ewing.

The question took Ruth aback. Was it possible for anyone to take up the study of this Science, she wondered? The practitioner thoughtfully responded: “It is for every man, woman and child; it is simple Christianity.”2

Ruth duly took it upon herself to become “an investigator of its merits,” as she recalls, learning not only how to care for her family in the process, but also finding personal relief from a longstanding and grievous illness.3

Mrs. Ruth B. Ewing. Photograph, P-0445, Longyear Museum collection.

Ruth and William’s two daughters, Mary and Ruth, would also become followers of Christian Science.4 Many years later, Mary recalled how studying the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, had impacted the household: “It began at once to give us a new and true basis of thought; to educate us out of our petty, limited, and selfish sense of life; to free us from fear of sickness and accident, poverty and misfortune; it emptied our well-filled medicine chest of all its drugs and tonics and plasters; it began to make us happier and healthier and more active and useful; it healed our sicknesses; in fine, it worked a revolution in our daily living, and the truth that we were learning spread from us to others and began to work the same miracle in other lives.”

Speaking on behalf of her mother and her younger sister, Mary went on to note, “During all the years that have elapsed since then, Christian Science has been our only physician, and the Christian Science textbook has been our daily guide and counsellor.”5

A 229th edition (1902) of Science and Health, once belonging to William and Ruth, is now in Longyear’s collection. Their signatures can be seen in the front. 2018.050.001, Longyear Museum collection.

Her sister Ruth also recognized the marked change after Christian Science was introduced to the family. Speaking of her parents, she wrote, “Both were saved for forty of the happiest, most useful, and healthful years of their lives, in which they dedicated themselves unreservedly to the furtherance of Christian Science and its ministry to mankind.” And speaking of herself and her sister, she added, “We ourselves have been for years the beneficiaries of this healing truth.”6

“One of my best teachers”

Ruth and William Ewing both proved active in the Christian Science Movement: he as lawyer and judge turned Christian Science lecturer, she as a Christian Science practitioner and teacher based in Chicago and later Highland Park, Illinois.7 Mrs. Ewing would eventually receive instruction from Mrs. Eddy in three separate classes at the Massachusetts Metaphysical College in Boston,8 and she was one of 12 students chosen to read an address at the Congress of Religions in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.9 In 1895, at Mrs. Eddy’s request, Ruth was ordained pastor of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Chicago.10 When the Bible and the Christian Science textbook replaced personal preaching in Christian Science churches, she became Second Reader, serving alongside First Reader Edward A. Kimball.11

“Mrs. Ewing is one of my best teachers. . . .” Mrs. Eddy later wrote to judge Joseph R. Clarkson, who, like Ruth’s husband, left a successful political and legal career for Christian Science.12 In 1923, after Ruth’s passing, her students remembered their teacher’s “sweet humility,” “willingness to wait upon God for direction and guidance,” and “unshakable confidence in the omnipotence of God, good.”13

The next generation

Among Mrs. Ewing’s students were her own two daughters, and it’s easy to imagine the joy it must have brought her and William to see Mary and Ruth following in their parents’ footsteps.14

William and Ruth Ewing. Photograph, P-0442, Longyear Museum collection.

Mary’s early education in Chicago was augmented by private tutoring, and by serving as a secretary to her father when he was United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.15 She took up the healing practice of Christian Science in 1907, and in addition to becoming a Christian Science practitioner and teacher like her mother before her, she also served as Second Reader of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Chicago. Mary’s numerous contributions to the activities of The Mother Church left an indelible mark.  She was a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship from 1918 to 1926, served as a Trustee of The Christian Science Pleasant View Home and The Christian Science Benevolent Association, and was a member of the Christian Science Bible Lesson Committee for eleven years. She also served as Clerk of The Mother Church from 1942 to 1946, as President from 1933 to 1934, and she taught the 1946 Normal class of the Board of Education.16

Like her father, Mary traveled widely to deliver lectures.

“A Christian Science lecture is a marvelous thing,” she once wrote, “it is . . . some expression of the Word of God, the power of divine Mind made manifest. It voices the good news to men which Jesus proved to be true, and which in our own time, through divine revelation, is presented to the world as demonstrable knowledge of Life, and is therefore made available and practicable in the daily experience of every thinking individual.”17

Mary Ewing. Photograph, P-0437, Longyear Museum collection.

Mary’s sister, Ruth, would also dedicate herself to the activities of Christian Science. She joined The Mother Church in 1905, was a member of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Chicago, and was listed in The Christian Science Journal as a practitioner from June 1926 to 1940 in the Chicago and Highland Park, Illinois area.18

Combined, all three Ewing women would dedicate exactly 90 years to the Christian Science healing practice.19 Their work significantly impacted the movement’s activities in Chicago and Boston, as well as throughout the United States and beyond through Mary’s lecture work.

The practitioner’s promise to Mrs. Ewing back in 1884, that Christian Science is for “every man, woman and child,” was certainly proved in the fruitful work of this close-knit and dedicated family.


  1. William suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis.
  2. “The Lectures,” Christian Science Sentinel 21 (July 26, 1919): 933. Ellen Brown Linscott was the practitioner and teacher from Chicago whom Ruth conversed with, and who would later teach Ruth the rudiments of Christian Science in October 1885. Ruth B. Ewing to Mary Baker Eddy, August 23, 1886, 273b.41.001, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library, Boston, Massachusetts (hereafter referenced as MBEL).
  3. Ibid. Ruth’s investigation of Christian Science probably sprung from her natural desire to help care for the sick. More than fifteen years after her recovery, Ruth wrote her husband, “I used to say in my old days of invalidism that if I only had the strength and opportunity I would study medicine and devote all my energies to caring for the sick. I have found strength and ability to fulfill that high calling in Christian Science. . . .” Ruth B. Ewing to William G. Ewing, April 18, 1899, Ewing, Judge William G.—correspondence—1899-1908, MBEL.
  4. Sadly, Ruth and William Ewing lost their first child, Edith, in infancy. “The Passing on of Mrs. Ruth B. Ewing,” The Highland Park Press, March 1, 1923. Mary Ewing was born in August 1867, followed by Ruth in September 1871. 1900 U.S. Federal Census.
  5. “A Lecture on Christian Science Entitled Christian Science: A Study in Causation,” by Miss Mary G. Ewing, C.S.B., Longyear Museum collection.
  6. “The Lectures,” Christian Science Sentinel 26 (May 17, 1924): 752-753.
  7. Ruth was listed in The Christian Science Journal as a practitioner and teacher from January 1889 to May 1923.
  8. Ruth studied with Mary Baker Eddy in the August 1886 Primary class, the October 1887 Normal class, and the October 1888 Obstetrics class.
  9. Click here to learn more about the role of Christian Science at the Congress of Religions in the Chicago World’s Fair. Described by one listener as “a perfect agreement with the Scriptures” (“Notes from the Field,” The Christian Science Journal 11 (January 1894): 463), Ruth’s talk, entitled “Spirit and Matter,” can be found in The Christian Science Journal 11 (November 1893): 358-362.
  10. When First Church of Christ, Scientist, Chicago was dedicated in the fall of 1897, Mrs. Eddy prepared an address to be read at the Dedicatory Service, hoping that it would “fill the heads and hearts” of the Chicagoan hearers. Mary Baker Eddy to Edward A. Kimball/Ruth B. Ewing, October 31, 1897, L07464, MBEL. Mrs. Eddy’s address can be found on pages 177-183 of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany. Referencing a quote from Michelangelo, Mrs. Eddy wrote Edward Kimball and Ruth Ewing after the dedicatory services to tell them that they “were perfect and perfection is no trifle.” Mary Baker Eddy to Edward A. Kimball/Ruth B. Ewing, November 17, 1897, L13681, MBEL.
  11. Ruth served as Second Reader from 1895 to 1902. When Mrs. Ewing left the readership, the members of First Church, Chicago, wrote a lovely tribute to her: “Mrs. Ruth B. Ewing; modestly, quietly, with firmness for the truth, with unselfish love for the church and cause, with tender regard for all, and with abiding sure faith, she has filled the position of Reader completely, as indeed she has all other positions to which the requirements of Christian Science have called her, and has won in the passing years the respect, confidence and love of all.” Ewing, Ruth B.—correspondence—1895-1904, MBEL.
  12. Mary Baker Eddy to Joseph R. Clarkson, September 24, 1898, Longyear Museum collection.
  13. “A broad charity, a truly Christian magnanimity, coupled with a tender persuasiveness,” they summarized, “characterized her dealings with humanity.” “Ruth G. Ewing,” adopted by the Association of Students in Christian Science, Mrs. Ruth B. Ewing, C.S.D., Teacher, at the Annual Meeting in Chicago, October 13, 1923, Longyear Museum collection.
  14. Mary attended the first Primary class that her mother taught, in February 1895. Ruth Ewing’s Record Book, January-March 1895, MBEL.
  15. “Notices,” Christian Science Sentinel 44 (May 16, 1942): 857.
  16. “Item of Interest,” Christian Science Sentinel 49 (January 11, 1947): 67-68.
  17. Mary continues, “The purpose of a Christian Science lecture is the education of men through the dissemination of the knowledge of God and of His creation. This inevitably results in leavening the whole mass of human ignorance and fear and so in the healing of sickness and sorrow and sin. The Christian Science lecture is one of ‘the weapons of our warfare’ put into our hands through the inspired wisdom and courage of the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy; for it was she who, under the guidance of divine Principle, instituted and organized this department of activity in The Mother Church.” “Open Letter from the Board of Lectureship,” Christian Science Sentinel 26 (June 28, 1924): 863.
  18. Miss Ruth Ewing was also very active in philanthropic and humanitarian work. “The Passing on of Mrs. Ruth B. Ewing,” The Highland Park Press, March 1, 1923.
  19. Mrs. Ruth Ewing was listed in The Christian Science Journal as a practitioner and teacher from January 1889 through May 1923; Mary G. Ewing was listed as a practitioner and teacher from May 1907 through December 1949; and Miss Ruth Ewing was listed as a practitioner from June 1926 to 1940.