Mary Baker Eddy, Miranda Rice & the Wikipedia Edits Mystery

The following is an e-mail I received — reprinted here with minor modifications — with permission. If anyone knows anything more about the alleged tampering with Calvin Frye’s Journal or Miranda Rice we would love to hear from you!


Dear Kat,

Greetings! We’ve never communicated before, but I stumbled onto a tiny mystery which I think you alone might appreciate, and for this reason, am sharing it with you.

I must confess, I am fairly ignorant about the finer points of Christian Science, but feel something of a kinship towards its former members, as I myself was raised in an unusual protestant denomination, the Seventh-day Adventists, also begun in mid-19th century New England, led by a woman (in our case, Ellen G. White) who claimed special insight, but who, despite whatever her lofty intentions, seems to have lived all-too-human of a life. Other parallels that jump out at me include the focus on linking health and religiosity, this business of incorporating other people’s pseudo-scientific ideas into one’s own message (generally, without giving credit), and maybe the overall goal of giving old world Christianity a brave, new, futuristic, and typically American, face. Adventists also have had their share of defections, excommunications, white-washing and editing of embarrassing materials, etc., so, this side too is something I am well familiar with. I suppose, if the measure of a thing is its fruits, the Adventists have done well, due to subsequent pioneering efforts in the field of medicine, but I can’t speak to how well, as a denomination, they have done, having myself lost faith in their message long ago.

That said, just recently I was surfing through wikipedia, where I read the Mary Baker Eddy entry, and encountered the very strange paragraph, as follows, under the subhead “Use of medicine“:
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A diary kept by Calvin Frye (1845-1917), Eddy’s personal secretary, suggested that Eddy had a lifelong dependence on morphine, but the credibility of this diary is in question. It is highly likely that this diary was stolen and the following testimony of Miranda Rice was falsely entered. [109] Rice, an early student of Eddy who later defected from the church, told a newspaper in 1906: “I know that Mrs. Eddy was addicted to morphine in the seventies. She begged me to get some for her. She sent her husband Mr. Eddy for some, and when he failed to get it went herself and got it. She locked herself into her room and for two days excluded every one. She was a slave to morphine.”[110] Interestingly enough there is no other mention of Rice anywhere else in print. It is as if this woman appeared out of thin air for the sole purpose of making this one false accusation and then vanishing. Such a claim is baseless and highly skeptical. It is nothing more than mere personal testimony lacking any proof whatsoever clearly intended for character assassination during Eddy’s later years. No actual proof has ever been uncovered that Eddy took or even requested medicine. Even though Gillian writes that the prescription of morphine was normal medical practice at the time, it still proves nothing in regards to Eddy’s personal situation.[111]
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Frankly, I am not interested in the assassination of Mrs. Eddy’s character, and not personally invested one way or another about her potential morphine use and/or addition- these are problems, I think, for people so-invested. It merely struck me that this paragraph read fairly hard– there was a strange, snarky, bitey, disjointed character to it, that, unless I’m wrong, doesn’t appear anywhere else in the entire article. I mean, “Such a claim is baseless and highly skeptical” sounds more like an opinion than a statement of fact, is not  the sort of thing you generally encounter in a wiki entry, but is also atypical, I think, for this article as well. It’s not alone, though, as you see, if you read it two or three times, that there are a number of other protesty bits here, including the rather astonishing assertion, it would seem, that Miranda Rice was a fictitious individual, created, de novo, for the purpose of smearing Mrs. Eddy’s character at some point late in her life. This is the second assertion, actually, the first seeming to be (I say seeming, because the wording here is so poor that the individual responsible for it actually hurts his/her point in attempting to make it) that Frye’s diary cannot be trusted with regard to comments about Eddy’s supposed drug dependency, since it had been stolen, and by implication, meddled-with, so that any comments to this effect likely being spurious later insertions by unnamed individuals with malicious intent.

My understanding, from just the short amount of time I’ve spent on the topic, is that Miranda Rice, and her sister Dorcas Rawson, are fairly well-known early associates of Mrs. Eddy in Lynn, Mass, where she lived in the 1870s, and while one might have grounds for questioning Miranda’s testimony (though these grounds are not produced here, apart from these oddly disjointed, dismissive qualifying statements as just mentioned), I think questioning her existence is probably going too far, especially since several decades of census entries validate the fact that a woman of this name did live in Lynn, Mass.

But it took me about three seconds to find an online google edition of Mrs. Eddy’s “Science and Health: With Key to the Scriptures,” published in 1889, though the first edition seems to have been published as early as 1875. If you turn to page 24, you will see that Mrs. Eddy has, herself, included a rather remarkable personal testimony from Miranda Rice, whereby Mrs. Rice recounts the near-painless birth of her son, thanks to Mrs. Eddy’s methods:
http://books.google.com/books?id=eBE9AAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false [image capture below]

To say, then, something like, “Interestingly enough there is no other mention of Rice anywhere else in print. It is as if this woman appeared out of thin air for the sole purpose of making this one false accusation,” strikes me as incredibly strange, especially since we have Mrs. Eddy’s own work, “in print,” to the contrary.

So, I dug a little deeper (and by dug, I mean, took the extreme effort and time to run a differently worded google search), and I found your webpage, where you made specific reference to the same wiki article of interest to me, and, amazingly enough, had also found reason to capture and reproduce the VERY paragraph of interest to me, as follows (of course, you know your own webpage, I only clip it here for my own reference):
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A diary kept by Calvin Frye, Eddy’s personal secretary, revealed that she was addicted to morphine, and had a lifelong dependence on morphine pills and shots.[100] Miranda Rice, a friend and close student of Eddy claimed to have treated her hundreds of times with morphine. Rice wrote “I know that Mrs. Eddy was addicted to morphine in the seventies. She begged me to get some for her. She sent her husband, Mr. Eddy, for some; and when he failed to get it she got it herself. She locked herself into her room and for two days excluded everyone.”[101] However, biographer Gillian Gill notes that the prescription of morphine was normal medical practice at the time, and that in her view Mary Baker Eddy was at no time addicted to morphine.[102]
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Again, this story gets even stranger. because your version of this paragraph (I don’t know when you pulled it) is MISSING all of the strange, protesty, opiniony bits. In fact, without those bits, and taking no position on the potential veracity of the claims within it, the paragraph reads much smoother, clearly, as originally intended. And here’s the great irony, which, hopefully you will find as humorous as I do, that all of these insertions have been made into a paragraph, where the first thing they do is suggest that another document (Frye’s diary) has had later insertions added to it, and thereby threatening its legitimacy!

I thought, for the hell of it, we might see your version, clearly the older, if not original, version, with the additional insertions in all-caps [and bolded].
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A diary kept by Calvin Frye (1845-1917), Eddy’s personal secretary, suggested that Eddy had a lifelong dependence on morphine, BUT THE CREDIBILITY OF THIS DIARY IS IN QUESTION. IT IS HIGHLY LIKELY THAT THIS DIARY WAS STOLEN AND THE FOLLOWING TESTIMONY OF MIRANDA RICE WAS FALSELY ENTERED. Rice, an early student of Eddy who later defected from the church, told a newspaper in 1906: “I know that Mrs. Eddy was addicted to morphine in the seventies. She begged me to get some for her. She sent her husband Mr. Eddy for some, and when he failed to get it went herself and got it. She locked herself into her room and for two days excluded every one. She was a slave to morphine.” INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH THERE IS NO OTHER MENTION OF RICE ANYWHERE ELSE IN PRINT. IT IS AS IF THIS WOMAN APPEARED OUT OF THIN AIR FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF MAKING THIS ONE FALSE ACCUSATION AND THEN VANISHING. SUCH A CLAIM IS BASELESS AND HIGHLY SKEPTICAL. IT IS NOTHING MORE THAN MERE PERSONAL TESTIMONY LACKING ANY PROOF WHATSOEVER CLEARLY INTENDED FOR CHARACTER ASSASSINATION DURING EDDY’S LATER YEARS. NO ACTUAL PROOF HAS EVER BEEN UNCOVERED THAT EDDY TOOK OR EVEN REQUESTED MEDICINE. EVEN THOUGH GILLIAN WRITES THAT THE PRESCRIPTION OF MORPHINE WAS NORMAL MEDICAL PRACTICE AT THE TIME, IT STILL PROVES NOTHING IN REGARDS TO EDDY’S PERSONAL SITUATION.
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So, I guess, to be quite accurate, the author of these insertions has done more than simply insert pieces into this paragraph, he have also removed bits, creating the very odd situation near the end where he is proceeds to attack an account of Gillian, present in the original paragraph, which he himself has already removed from it! Anyone reading the current version would be very confused (and disappointed, I think, by the shit quality of the writing at this point in the article, as evidenced by his ignorance over the correct use of the term “skeptical”).

I think the key to the mystery is the fact that, while this paragraph deals very specifically with the matter of morphine use and/or possible abuse or overuse, the author of the insertions has gone a step too far, overplayed his hand, and given himself away, when instead of saying there is no proof that Eddy took or even requested morphine, he says “took or requested MEDICINE.”

So the real danger, clearly, to whoever made these helpful improvements to the original paragraph, was not that anyone might think Mary had taken morphine, but that they might think (gasp) that she had taken any medicine at all. The only person for whom these things might be equal, naturally, being a member of a belief system which equated morphine and any medicine as equally malevolent forces in the world. Here, as I said, he has overplayed his hand, because while I think a number of us share a certain amount of concern over an aggressively pharmacological approach to medicine, I think relatively few of us (in the developed world, anyway) would equate penicillin, for example, with a toxic and addicting opium derivative.

The mystery remains, however, how this person could be such a true believer, and yet have no knowledge of Miranda Rice, of, if he did, think he could get away with this really remarkable assertion that she did not exist.

Anyway, I hope you’ve found a chuckle in all of this, as I have, and that it hasn’t wasted too much of your time. I thought, since you had taken the time to draw specific attention to this very paragraph, you might alone appreciate what’s happened to it in the time since.

Cheers!

A Reader


screen shot Oct. 17, 2014

screen shot Oct. 17, 2014

Miranda Rice’s testimony starts on p. 24 of the 1889 version of Science and Health, below is a screen shot of the part of p. 25, as well as a screen shot of Ms. Rice listed in the index.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 2.01.29 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 2.01.10 PM

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