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That her book was withdrawn, and even the plates destroyed, does not lessen the obligation to her which the future must acknowledge — an indebtedness to a pioneer which footnotes can but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. 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. (1)
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). (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.
- New York Times, Feb. 26, 1910 http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9C06EFD91539E433A25755C2A9649C946196D6CF