Eddy’s Immigrants: Foreign-born Christian Scientists in the United States, 1880–1925

By Rolf Swensen.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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As a religion generally associated with American culture, Christian Science nevertheless initially attracted a large minority of foreign-born members who had immigrated to the United States. By examining the roll books of about 30 branch, or local, Christian Science churches from coast to coast between 1880 and 1925, we can determine the birthplaces of several thousand members. The main research tool is ancestry.com, which provides scans of the manuscript United States Census from 1790 to 1940, plus many scanned city directories, local histories, etc. “The Ark: Christian Science Collection” provides searchable scans of the Christian Science periodicals, 1883–1922. Results show that while in some areas of the country local congregations contained relatively few foreign-born members, other branches, including Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, and New York City, had a significant number of immigrants. This finding has never been reported before. Specific foreign countries of origin will be identified and assigned percentages of the total number of members. Thus, we see that Mary Baker Eddy’s faith in the United States appealed to a wider spectrum of cultures than previous observations have allowed.

Keywords: Christian Science, Metaphysics, American Sects

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 2, Issue 3, 2012, pp.21-39. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 6.856MB).

Dr. Rolf Swensen

Professor, Social Sciences Bibliographer, Rosenthal Library, Queens College, City University of New York, Flushing, New York, USA

Since completing my Ph.D. in United States social history from the University of Oregon in 1975, I have held various positions, including University Archivist of Oregon State University, Chief Archivist of the National Archives of Papua New Guinea, and Head of Special Collections/Archives at Montana State University. Since 1990 I have been Social Sciences Bibliographer at Rosenthal Library, Queens College, where I also developed and teach a required graduate History course entitled “Introduction to Historical Research.” My major research interest, the social history of the early Christian Science movement in the United States, has resulted in seven scholarly articles, one of which won a major award. All of this work should culminate in a monograph.