Georgine Milmine & The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy

In reading the forward of Francis Dakin’s biography, Mrs. Eddy. The biography of a virginal mind, I was struck by Dakin’s praise of Georgine Milmine and her book, The life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the history of Christian Science. On p. x, Dakin writes of Milmine’s work:

That her book was withdrawn, and even the plates destroyed, does not lessen the obligation to her which the future must acknowledge — an indebtedness to a pioneer which footnotes can but partially express, and which this author is proud to record.

I have a copy of Milmine’s work, The life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the history of Christian Science, I found it at a used bookstore in the late 1990s — it was reprinted in 1993 by the University of Nebraska Press. Eventually, I plan to do a series of posts about it. Dakin’s praise made me curious so I did a bit of searching. I first turned to Wikipedia for a bit of background information:

The material first appeared in McClure’s magazine (1893–1929) in 14 installments between January 1907 and June 1908, preceded by an editorial in December 1906 announcing the series.[1] The articles were the first major examination of Eddy’s life and work, published when she was 85 years old, and became a key primary source for most independent accounts of the church’s early history.[2]  (1)Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 7.06.54 PM

When Milmine’s book came out in 1909, The New York Times called it “An Important but Unsympathetic Biography of the Founder of Christian Science by Georgine Milmine” and goes on to refer to Christian Science as “the strange cult” (2).

The First Church of Christ, Scientist (the Mother Church) purchased the original manuscript of the book and there were rumors that the plates had been destroyed. In 1920, the Church acquired some of the McClures research and manuscripts. The Mary Baker Eddy Library has a 61 page pdf, the Georgine Milmine Collection, which documents the June 1920 inventory (3). I highly recommend reading at least the first two-three pages.

The Georgine Milmine collection documents research, writing, and correspondence related to a series of articles about Mary Baker Eddy that appeared in McClure’s Magazine from January 1907 to June 1908. The collection also contains material related to the 1909 biography by Georgine Milmine titled The Life of Mary Baker Eddy and the History of Christian Science. The collection also contains later correspondence and memos related to the purchase and subsequent handling of the papers by The First Church of Christ, Scientist.

Regardless of the Mother Church’s meddling, Milmine’s work heavily influenced the non-Church authorized biographies, including Edwin Franken Dakin’s Mrs. Eddy. The biography of a virginal mind,(1929), Ernest Sutherland Bates and John V. Dittemore‘s Mary Baker Eddy: The truth and the tradition, (1932), Martin Gardner‘s The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science (1993), and Caroline Fraser‘s God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church (1999).[2] (1).

Milmine’s work is referenced in no fewer than 3,560 GoogleBook search results (4), and many of the biographers at least mention Milmine’s biography, if only to remind readers of her “radical bias” and relative obscurity before and after the McClure’s piece.

In 1978 Stephen Gottschalk wrote: “Copiously documented but radically biased against its subject, Miss Milmine’s series was the first in a line of debunking biographies of the founder of Christian Science” ((The Emergence of Christian Science in American Religious Life p. 160) (5).

Gottschalk mentions Milmine again in his 2011 work, Rolling Away the Stone: Mary Baker Eddy’s Challenge to Materialism, offering some insight into Milmine’s McClure’s piece:

That series was set in motion when Georgine Milmine, an obscure New York journalist who intended to include Eddy in a series of articles on eminent American women, arrived at Pleasant View seeking an interview, but was turned aside by Eddy’s staff. Convinced that Eddy had something to hide, she began a series of interviews with disaffected former associates… (Gottschalk p. 381) (6)

In 1998 Gillian Gill acknowledges Milmine’s biography as “The first and still most influential biography of Mrs. Eddy was first published in fourteen parts in McClure’s Magazine between January 1907 and June 1908, and then revised in form as a book in 1909.” (Mary Baker Eddy, p. 563). Gill then goes on point out:

Apart from the fact that she is listed as author on the cover of a biography of Mary Baker Eddy, remarkably little is known about Georgine Milmine. She was, according to early reports from other biographers who knew her, a minor journalist, perhaps originally from Canada, working in New York State. When she started to work on Mrs. Eddy, she was in fact not Miss Milmine, but Mrs. Wells, married to Benjamin Wells, a newspaper editor. …. Georgine Milmine never managed to make a name for herself nationally, and nothing is known about her political opinions, her professional interests, or her journalistic assignments before or after her work on Mrs. Eddy. (Gill, p. 564) (7)

Radical bias and obscurity aside, the Mary Baker Eddy Library has 6 Document Cases, 2 Small Document Cases, and 3 Linear Feet of material on Milmine (8). The PDF states

The collection was generated primarily by Georgine Milmine as she set out to write a series of articles about the life and work of Mary Baker Eddy. In this pursuit, she took extensive research notes, both from library work and from personal interviews, kept a clippings file of newspaper articles, collected photographs, and retyped passages from Eddy’s published writings. She eventually turned her research into drafts of articles, none of which seem to bear any resemblance to the final published articles. Her work also sparked a great deal of correspondence involving Milmine, various McClure’s editors, and individuals writing to express approval, disapproval, or offer more information about Eddy. (emphasis mine)

I don’t live close enough to the Mary Baker Eddy Library to pop over and request to view them, and I am left wondering how the drafts differ from the final publications.

End Notes

  2. New York Times, Feb. 26, 1910
  3. Click to access Milmine%20Finding%20Aid%20Final%202011.pdf


See also


4 thoughts on “Georgine Milmine & The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy

  1. realscience says:

    When I took the the popular class entitled “History of the Christian Science Movement” at Principia College in about 1970, I was taught that McClure’s Magazine was yellow journalism typical of that era (something akin to the tabloids we see at checkout aisles in supermarkets today); also that Mary Baker Eddy founded the Christian Science Monitor to make quality journalism available to the American public. I now know that those assertions were institutional lies.
    I am currently reading “The Bully Pulpit,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, a history of the relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Goodwin devotes a good portion of her book to the extraordinary impact of McClure’s Magazine on public policy during the Progressive Era; indeed, it was investigative journalism at its finest. Its reports on government corruption, illegal practices by monopolistic corporations, and abuses of labor created public demand for reform. Goodwin states that McClure’s was “one of the most respected magazines in the country,” with vivid, responsible, and thoroughly researched reporting. At least a dozen other magazines emulated its style of responsible investigative journalism, giving rise to a golden age of quality journalism. The journalists proudly called themselves “muckrackers,” because there was a lot of muck (corruption) to rake.
    So, the notion that McClure’s Magazine was an irresponsible gossip rag is a defensive attempt by the Christian Science establishment to denigrate a stellar journal in American history merely because its research and reporting revealed things about Mary Baker Eddy that conflicted with the image she wanted to project. In addition, I am now convinced that Eddy’s motivation in founding the Monitor was not to make quality journalism available–because that already existed in abundance–but rather to control the news that faithful Christian Scientists would read.
    The MBE Library’s observation that Milmine’s drafts do not “seem to bear any resemblance to the final published articles” lends credence to a discovery that it was probably Willa Cather (an editor at McClure’s) who wrote the final articles based on Milmine’s drafts (see Fraser, “God’s Perfect Child,” pp. 137-138).
    The revisionism practiced by Gill and the MBE library is speculative and tendentious. Milmine’s research remains uniquely credible because it accessed contemporary living sources.

  2. Bill Sweet says:

    Yes, I think there was a defensive posture about the book. I enjoyed the book along with Mark Twain’s contribution. They provide a different angle as does Arthur Corey’s book on Class Instruction.

    I have a long insertion beneath about the Milmine book. What comes next is from “The Spindrift Files.”

    Here is a mystery for a detective to solve. Mary Baker Eddy taught classes on Christian Science. In front of one of her classes, Mrs. Eddy demonstrated an experiment with a budding plant. She illustrated buds that suddenly blossomed. The blossoms formed from the acknowledgment of the complete concept of the plant being affirmed.

    In Mrs. Eddy’s first edition of “Science and Health,” page 320, she wrote the following that I assume applies to the buds. “Intelligence outside of matter, that forms the bud and blossom will regulate the body, even as it clothes the lily, if we do not interfere by some belief.” Mary Baker Eddy also has these mentions in the 1910 “Science and Health.” “[God as] Love giveth to the least spiritual idea might, immortality, and goodness, which shine through all as the blossom shines through the bud,” page 518. “By its own volition, not a blade of grass springs up, not a spray buds within the vale, not a leaf unfolds its fair outlines, not a flower starts from its cloistered cell,” page 191. “The plant grows, not because of seed or soil, but because growth is the eternal mandate of Mind,” page 520. “And the florist will find his flower before its seed,” page 125.

    It seemed all were impressed by the plant experiment performed in a positive way except for a guest journalist in the class, Mrs. Georgine Milmine. Mrs. Milmine witnessed the buds blossoming. She said in effect, “I can’t believe what I’m seeing. It must be a type of black magic or witchcraft?”

    The account of the budding plant and what Mrs. Milmine said during the demonstration were written in Georgine Milmine’s book, “The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science.” The mystery is that the account of the plant budding was quickly taken out of the book. It seems impossible to find a copy of the Milmine book with the plant description. The account was reduced to:

    Mrs. Glover [Eddy] also taught that the natural law which produces flowers and fruit can be changed at will, even now, if one has a grasp of her science. In a personal letter written in 1896 she stated that she had caused an apple tree to blossom in January, and had frequently performed “some such trifles in the floral line,” while living in Lynn [Massachusetts]. (From “The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science” by Georgine Milmine, a footnote on page 186.)

    This incident may have been one of Mrs. Eddy’s “floral demonstrations” referred to a letter sent [by her] from Pleasant View, in March 21, 1896. (From a footnote on the bottom of page 265. Mrs. Eddy’s students sometimes referred to her “floral demonstrations.”)

    Why was this floral demonstration that was shown to a class edited out of the Milmine book? Could Georgine Milmine have inserted herself into the class when she was not actually there making her first person account untrue? We don’t know. What we do know is, the Klingbeils [the founders of Spindrift] had a copy of the book with the demonstration in it. Until the early 1990s, the Library of Congress in Washington D. C. had a copy of the book with this demonstration in it. Did the bud to blossom experiment make Mrs. Eddy look like a magician or too foolish or easily misunderstood? Perhaps in Mary Baker Eddy’s day, this floral demonstration made her look kooky. In our modern times, the demonstration makes Mrs. Eddy look like a curious amateur scientist who added a spiritual angle.

    To add to the mystery of the disappearance are these facts.

    A Simon Fraser University scholar named David Stouck discovered a hidden author of the book. It was not Georgine Milmine. The University of Nebraska republished the [Mary Baker] Eddy book in 1993. This year could be the time the copy of the book with the plant demonstration in the Library of Congress disappeared. In 1992, the book with the demonstration was seen and read in the Library of Congress by a friend. See,673642.aspx. Here is an excerpt from that page.

    Although a Canadian newspaperwoman named Georgine Milmine collected the material and was credited as the author, “The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy” was actually written by Willa Cather, an editor at McClure’s at the time.

    Bill Sweet learned that Willa Cather was a prodigious respected writer. Why did Mrs. Cather decide to edit out the plant demonstration in the book or who did take it out and why is the mystery.

    Here is an excerpt from Gillian Gill’s book “Mary Baker Eddy” that relates to the mystery and maybe conspiracy.

    In…1970…[Edwin] Dakin…had a kind of epiphany when he happened upon a rare copy of Georgine Milmine’s book. He was told by the bookseller that all the copies of the book were being methodically bought up by Christian Scientists and destroyed. (From page 576 of “Mary Baker Eddy” by Gillian Gill)

    An excerpt from a book review by Diego Banducci (San Francisco, CA) on Amazon sheds some light. This review is from: “The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science” (Hardcover).

    Although the book was the subject of favorable reviews when it was published in 1910, the response of the church was, predictably, less enthusiastic. According to the Afterword, even before it was published, “three spokesmen for the Christian Science church visited the McClure’s office and tried to suppress the series of articles. Christian Scientists were said to have later bought and destroyed most copies of the book, and library copies were said to be kept out of general circulation through constant borrowings by church members…. The copyright for the Milmine book was purchased by a friend of Christian Science, the plates from which the book was printed were destroyed, and the manuscript also acquired….” (pp. 497-498)


  3. Caitlin Williams says:

    Milmine did the original research. Then Cather actually rechecked all the sources and verified them before she wrote it under Milmine’s name. As far as I can see, that book is the major source for Dakin’s bio. Even though Fraser thinks Dakin’s bio is the best one, I vote for Milmine’s. It is my go to book when checking facts.

    I firmly believe that Mary never demonstrated any plant blooming before it was ready. No matter what she thought about herself, that story is completely unverified. MBE did no such thing and to think it happened, is to believe in magic. That is nothing but a magic trick and I doubt she did anything but claim she did it, as she made more and more outrageous claims in her dotage.

    In spite of the apocryphal tale about her confrontation with the pastor of her church when she joined that she did NOT believe in predestination. However, as she got more famous, she started claiming that not only was she predestined to be the Woman of the Apocalypse, or whatever, she made her earlier story a lie- which apparently it was because she did not join the Congregationalist church until she was 17. I don’t understand why more people have not made that point.

  4. Bill Sweet says:

    My friend in Chicago owns the Bible Mrs. Eddy put her hand on when she declared for the Congregational Church. It must be worth a lot.

    The plant experiment was in the original copy of the Milmine book. If it was taken out because Milmine or witnesses made the story up, it was still published in the book. Several of us read the book. Two friends read the account at the Library of Congress. That copy is no longer there. Something is fishy.

    As for praying for plants, not as dramatic in time as the buds, several of us have seen the effects of prayer and intention on lower plants organisms.

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