I recently watched a BBC film about the lives of the Brontë sisters—Charlotte, Emily, and Anne—who were intelligent and creative, and wrote as an outlet for these talents and to earn an income. Most notably, Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre and Emily wrote Wuthering Heights. Yet because of the social climate in Great Britain in the 1800s, they felt compelled to publish their novels under male pseudonyms.
These women were contemporaries of Mary Baker Eddy. Although they lived an ocean away, their social, political, and legal circumstances were similar. Mrs. Eddy faced the same culture of limited opportunities for women, who were not allowed to own property, vote, or have legal control over their own children. Women were perceived to have a very limited intellectual capacity, and there was a fear that if a woman’s intellect was tested, she would suffer a mental breakdown. For centuries women were not thought to be reliable witnesses in a court of law.
These problems and misconceptions have since been overcome in most countries, but they were brutally restrictive in the 1800s. In spite of them, Mrs. Eddy was powerfully inspired to share the revelation of Christian Science she received from God through the teachings of the Bible and Christ Jesus. In fact she saw it as her responsibility to share this spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures, which has blessed many people around the world for over a century and a half, as documented by thousands of articles and testimonies of healing found in the Christian Science periodicals.
I realized how wrong it would be to go through life without acknowledging the healings I had experienced through reliance on Christian Science.
Mrs. Eddy did not believe herself to be less astute than a man, because she knew that God was the source of her inspiration. She thoroughly understood the truth of Paul’s statement in Philippians 2:13: “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
While circumstances for women have greatly improved since the 1800s, there are still social pressures that discourage women from taking leadership roles in or even sharing their views on business, politics, religion, and other fields traditionally dominated by men. Even now, the media and some people in prominent positions communicate the message that a woman’s value is based more on her physical attractiveness and youth than on her intellect and accomplishments.
In my own experience, having grown up with the expectation that women were to do most of the listening and not much of the talking, I needed to overcome persistent self-consciousness that made it nearly impossible for me to share my love of God with others. I felt inferior and doubted that people really wanted to hear what I had to say, so I was reluctant to communicate my deepest thoughts about the subject most important to me—Christian Science. But a growing desire to bless others motivated me to rise above this stifling misperception of my capabilities.
Gradually, as I affirmed in prayer my true spiritual identity as God’s reflection, the limited, mortal sense of myself gave place to an understanding of my completeness and divine purpose. I realized how wrong it would be to go through life without acknowledging the healings I had experienced through reliance on Christian Science.
The desire to honor God, as the Bible directs us—to “magnify the Lord” (Psalms 34:3)—shifted my focus from the false sense of self as a mortal being defined by gender and social expectations, to God as the unfettered source of all communication. As I prayed to express God-derived thoughts, I found great encouragement in this statement by Mrs. Eddy: “Man is God’s image and likeness; whatever is possible to God, is possible to man as God’s reflection. Through the transparency of Science we learn this, and receive it: learn that man can fulfil the Scriptures in every instance; that if he open his mouth it shall be filled—not by reason of the schools, or learning, but by the natural ability, that reflection already has bestowed on him, to give utterance to Truth” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 183).
This gave me the confidence to begin freely sharing my healings at Wednesday testimony meetings at my branch Church of Christ, Scientist. I’ve also begun writing for the Christian Science periodicals—one of the most fulfilling activities of my life.
A line from Psalm 94 describes my gratitude to God for this newfound freedom: “Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence” (verse 17). Fear and apathy stemming from a limited, mortal sense of life—a life separate from God—cannot silence the Christ-spirit in us once we understand the truth of our oneness with divine Love. As First John says, “Perfect love casteth out fear” (4:18).
Watching the story of the Brontë sisters, and reflecting especially upon the inspired accomplishments of Mrs. Eddy, their contemporary, I was grateful for the fine examples of womanhood they presented—conducting their lives honorably and in service to others. Each in her own way overcame monumental limitations and uplifted humanity’s thought about women’s unlimited capabilities and the extraordinarily useful role women play for the benefit of humanity.
I am so grateful for these courageous examples that have inspired me to challenge the fears that were holding me back. I know that continued growth in the understanding of woman’s true selfhood will eliminate any resistance that might linger. As noted by Mrs. Eddy in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “When we learn that error is not real, we shall be ready for progress, ‘forgetting those things which are behind’ ” (p. 353).
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