the Biography of a Virginal Mind / Forward: pages vii – x

This is the second of a series of posts about Mrs. Eddy. The biography of a virginal mind by Francis Dakin. For all posts on this topic, see the tag the Biography of a Virginal Mind


In the forward, on page vii, Dakin begins by acknowledging that “Popular conceptions of Mrs. Eddy have shown an extraordinary variance.” Yes, one could say that. He continues that the job of the biographer is to weigh the facts and reconcile, recount and omit. This is a fine line to walk. Then Dakin starts in early with references that I need to look up. He notes:

Other observers have portrayed her as a bigger humbug than Barnum and the worst virago since Xantippe.

I made an educated guess about the Barnum reference (1) — I’ve heard of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, but virago since Xantippe? That had to be looked up.

The word virago has almost always had an association with cultural gender transgression. A virago, of whatever excellence, was still identified by her gender. There are recorded instances of viragos (such as Joan of Arc) fighting battles, wearing men’s clothing, or receiving the tonsure.[1] The word virago could also be used disparagingly, to imply that a virago was not excellent or heroic, but was instead violating cultural norms. Thus virago joined pejoratives such as termagant,[2] ‘mannish’, ‘amazonian’ and shrew to demean women who acted aggressively or like men. (2)

I suppose it is fair to say Ms. Eddy violated cultural norms of the day. In the United States women didn’t get to vote until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 (3) and by that time Ms. Eddy had already founded a church — in 1879, and successful newspaper — in 1908 (4).

As to the Xantippe reference, I think Dankin was throwing around his knowledge of ancient Greek, and finding a sufficiently shrewish (and long deceased) woman who would not press charges. (5)

To Dakin, Ms. Eddy is a “woman with an impassioned urge for life and self-expression throbbing in her veins” (p. viii), and this is why she is of significance. Ms. Eddy has a “great inner Will which in every being creates its own fulfillment — compensate how it must — needs no justification” (ix). I look forward to Dakin’s further insights into this.

Writing a biography of Ms. Eddy is no simple task, even by the 1920s, Dakin makes it clear that “great effort has been exerted toward keeping many of the facts regarding Mrs. Eddy from the world” (ix). Dakin notes that all biographers owe a huge debt of gratitude to Georgine Milmine (6), and while he expresses deep regret that her book was withdrawn and the plates were destroyed, all future biographers must acknowledge her contributions.

Dakin closes the Forward by thanking his gratitude to the New York Public Library and the Congressional Library in Washington. This seems fitting, as those are likely some of the only well-known places Milmine’s work may have survived intact.


End notes

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P._T._Barnum
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virago, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthippe
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_suffrage_in_the_United_States
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Christian_Science_Monitor
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthippe
  6. http://wp.me/p2LDbF-13S
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23 thoughts on “the Biography of a Virginal Mind / Forward: pages vii – x

  1. Bill Sweet says:

    Two notes.

    1. Generally speaking, speaking for myself for sure, men may admire some women who are aggressively successful in their occupations. But when it comes to a relationship, men prefer feminine behavior. I personally know of an exception. A friend met a lady who completely took over his life. She dominates him too the extent that he doesn’t have contact with anyone anymore including his parents.

    So this Joan-of-arc description of a woman may give us a female leader, but you might not like her too much beyond that. I don’t know if it’s true, but a practitioner told me that many of the members of Mary Baker Eddy’s household respected her as the Discoverer and Leader of Christian Science, but they didn’t like her human personality.

    Then there is the aggressive Augusta Stetson CSD who was an hermaphrodite.

    2. The Library of Congress did have all the early copies of the Milmine book until about 1992. No longer.

    Unlike most Christian Scientists, I don’t see the Milmne book as bad. It’s quite interesting.

    Here is a mystery passage that went missing from the Milmine book. (Perhaps other passages are missing of which I’m ignorant). For certain though, an experiment of prayer that Mary Baker Eddy demonstrated in front of one of her metaphysical classes was taken out of the Georgine Milmine book.

      • Bill Sweet says:

        I suppose that the elimination of the Queen Bee personality some women have would help for starters.

        I have two friends who travelled to Russia for wives. They are very happy. One was married before. Both men are very happy with their more feminine wives. The wives are happy, too. I know this all sounds very Master-slavish. It is the factual situation though. With exceptions of course, some American men are finding American women too demanding and not interested in domestically feminine things. That may be progress, but a lot men silently resent it.

        It brings up another topic for discussion. I wonder how many Christian Science divorces have occurred over this belief that man and woman are equal? Equality sounds good metaphysically. But in the actual human experience, when there are two bosses in the house, something has to give, like a divorce for example.

  2. lizheywood says:

    Bill Sweet, as a CS I have to assume your definition of a feminine, non-“Queen Bee” and Christian Scientist wife includes the no-intercourse-except-for-procreation. How selfless of you.

    Enjoy.

  3. EG says:

    Bill, what century are you living in? Do you dream of having a wife that’s attached to a chain just long enough to reach from the bedroom to the kitchen so she can be your brood-mare and meal maker? If so, good luck with that. I guess you like a world where men dominate and women just say “yes sir”, don’t have thoughts, don’t have opinions, don’t have dreams. I’m sure you and your friends love women who don’t challenge them intellectually or in any other way because you aren’t strong enough in character to deal with that. It’s sad. I feel pity for you.

  4. Bill Sweet says:

    Friends.

    I have heard of that no intercourse except for procreation business. I know of only one couple who bragged they practice it. I don’t know how you jumped from Queen Bee to no monkey business. I bet though, your reply where practiced, has added to the divorce rate in Christian Science. I presume that the friends who married Russian women wanted more, not less, romantic action.

    Some men enjoy a powerful woman with this exception. Just so the woman isn’t as powerful as the man.

    As I said, there are friends who are more attracted to Russian women than American women. I’m saying something that is true, and yes, it does throw progress backwards. Even so, I think it’s true and a trend, at least from what I have observed.

    Let’s not forget my question that popped into my mind as I was writing. Do you think that this man and woman as equals has caused divorces in Christian Science? I think equality in marriage has caused divorces when pondering the question.

    • kat @ kindism says:

      Do you think that this man and woman as equals has caused divorces in Christian Science? I think equality in marriage has caused divorces when pondering the question.

      Equality in marriage does not cause divorce. Breakdowns in communication and unclear expectations cause divorce. I also think that the marital structure set forth by Ms. Eddy causes some of these problems — acknowledging there is a problem to be resolved empowers it, and we can’t have that!

    • lizheywood says:

      Christian Science itself causes divorce. Saying marital equality causes divorce is like saying partnerships only succeed when they are unequal.

      You sound as if your friends only Marry Russian Women the way they might only Drive American Brands, as long as those women don’t have excessive horsepower of course. I’m not sure what century (or planet) you’re from. 0 __ o

  5. EG says:

    I don’t think the answer to the question of what causes divorce is a simple one, and the reasons for divorce are unique to each and every couple who does divorce. Perhaps in some cases it is because of equality, who knows? You’d have to interview every couple. There may be some trends perhaps, but I think you’ll find the reasons as varied as the people themselves. Personally, I think equality is a good thing, and have found that I am much more compatible with people who are my equal than those who aren’t. I like to be challenged, and complemented. Sometimes I like to be in the driver’s seat, many other times I don’t. I was in a relationship once where I always had to be in the driver’s seat and I hated it. It’s all about balance.

  6. Bill Sweet says:

    Thank you for your views.

    It doesn’t matter what century I’m from if I am accurately describing what seems to be what a group of men feel about the feminine traits they prefer. They want more submissive women. I know how that sounds.

  7. Hughes says:

    “One was married before. Both men are very happy with their more feminine wives. The wives are happy, too. I know this all sounds very Master-slavish. It is the factual situation though.”

    Your sample base of two is irrefutable. I’m convinced!

  8. Bill Sweet says:

    Well, Hughes, there is a third example. My second cousin, after his divorce, somehow hooked up with a gal from Japan who wanted to become a citizen. They secretly got married. HIs uncles, aunts, and us cousins knew nothing about the marriage until two years ago. From his mother and father we heard recently that he too likes her for not being too bossy and demanding as was his first American wife who left him.

    • kat @ kindism says:

      Bill, I’ll admit there are people (of both genders) who are unpleasant or difficult to maintain a relationship with, but it takes two to make a marriage work. I’ve got an uncle with a string of failed marriages (5 at last count), the common denominator in all of them is him. Placing the blame solely on the woman is unfair.

      • Bill Sweet says:

        When it comes to an emotional subject, I suppose one should find a label thrown at him like racist: I mean chauvinist.

        Placing blame on a woman exclusively isn’t my point exactly. I was trying to make the case that some American women are not as appealing to American men as they once were. Some American raised women just don’t give some men the responses they prefer; feminine responses.

        I am not planting a formulae that covers all examples of marriage today. I am pointing out what I think will become more obvious to observers soon that men are marrying a heck of a lot more foreign women. It’s great when a man can stand having an equal. I bet there are few who feel that way. If they do, I would speculate that the equality would be in very different fields. I am aware there are exceptions.

        I just remembered hearing one or two famous actors who said on interviews that they would never marry another actor. I don’t recall the reason, but I am guessing, it has to do with equality and completion.

        Now to bring Christian Science into it, I seen Christian Science couples argue in front of me. They appeared to me to each not give the other points. They both had to be right, had to be equal in every respect. Chauvinist or not, I have to say that that type of equality doesn’t work well. These folks might make better friends or live separately than to be married. There does appear to be a high divorce rate among Christian Scientists. Has anyone else noticed that, or is it my imagination?

        • kat @ kindism says:

          Having done a bit of dating before I got married, there are plenty of American men who are not worth marrying. 😉

          As for Christian Science, I never saw Christian Science couples argue in public, I saw one person decide and the other agree. “Yes dear” or “alright then” was the standard public response. There was no equality — the person deciding had the final say regardless of gender. The “discussions” I witnessed within my own family and within my in-laws family (also CS/CS) were slight more balanced — both of those marriages ended in the death of a partner, not divorce.

  9. mkhuggins says:

    jeesh, I was going to comment on the fact Kat is examining this book and saw all the discussion generated by Bill Sweet’s chauvinist remarks. Only chauvinists feel as Bill does about marriage. That includes all the Christians that follow Paul’s edicts. There is plenty of research that indicates there are a lot of partnerships where the partners are equal going on today, in the USA. But in fact, many equals never marry but just live as partners. I know of many of these partnerships that raised children together, but kept their business separate. And, you rarely hear of violence in such a relationship. It is only the men that think they are dominant in the relationship that practice domestic violence.

    I read Dakin after “Perfect Peril” cited it as the best biography on her, yet I find it is the most devastating to her personality. She was really so pathetic I fail to see how she succeeded in getting so many members in her church, except through her own animal magnetism or charisma. I believe she was similar to a charismatic cult leader in the way she ran her church – as an absolute dictator. As for the personalities of her followers who weren’t cast out. They were mice who had no ability or desire to do anything but parrot their leader- Anyone with a different slant was out.

  10. mkhuggins says:

    I have absolutely no experience with divorce in Christian Science families. I always thought CSer’s stay married. My husband’s parents were married at least 50 years. As were his grandparents. And most of the members of the local branch church. The little old ladies tend to be widows.
    “I was trying to make the case that some American women are not as appealing to American men as they once were. Some American raised women just don’t give some men the responses they prefer; feminine responses””.

    Some men may prefer idealized female types, but most younger people today do not think like that. “feminine responses” can not be defined, they are different in every culture and in every sub-culture in America. I am not a born Christian Scientist; my mother’s ancestors were Quaker for 25 generations (Quakers keep a complete genealogy) . The Quakers have always had a more independent expectation of women than the Calvinists did. Just read Wikipedia. Some guys think feminine is big boobs and butts and even pay for breast implants to make their women closer to that weird ideal. Others don’t care if their wives are homely, as long as they are subservient. Most of the college educated democrat men I have ever known have a very different point of view about feminine equality than Republican men. Liberal men expect more equality of women than the average conservative. You, Bill are stating your own preferences, not those of the majority of American men, especially those under 40.

    • kat @ kindism says:

      I’m with you MK, most of the CS relationships I knew growing up ended with death (or the non-CS partner left). At Prin, divorce seemed a little more common, as was cheating on one’s spouse if the rumors were to be believed. At Prin, there was also a larger concentration of age-appropriate CS to choose from (regardless of marital status), so that may have played into it (purely speculation on my part).

  11. Bill Sweet says:

    If it is my own opinion, it has crept up on me unconsciously.

    I have had these three men I know who have had better experiences with an overseas woman than an American women. Plus I recall one or two 60 Minutes programs on CBS that covered American men going after women from other countries.

    My sister tells me she sees more and more younger white men with oriental women.

    • jenn says:

      Bill, it’s a bit racist, objectifying not to mention a little creepy to label a whole culture of women with some trait. That is the stuff of fantasy not reality. In real life people are all unique with their own personalities. I hope that your friend’s wives are safe as it sounds like they may be in a risky situation.

  12. Bill Sweet says:

    It seems that today a person cannot talk about a subject without being referenced as racist. It’s part of the cultural talk-ability. Based on my experience, I think that I am on to a sociological truth: more American men are going for foreign women.

    Speaking about divorce. At my church, the First and Second Readers ran away with each other.

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