Miss Clara Barton
In the New York American, Jan. 6, 1908, Miss Clara Barton dipped her pen in my heart, and traced its emotions, motives, and object. Then, lifting the curtains of mortal mind, she depicted its rooms, guests, standing and seating capacity, and thereafter gave her discovery to the press. Now if Miss Barton were not a venerable soldier, patriot, philanthropist, moralist, and stateswoman, I should shrink from such salient praise. But in consideration of all that Miss Barton really is, and knowing that she can bear the blows which may follow said description of her soul-visit, I will say amen, so be it.
Mary Baker G. Eddy.
Pleasant View, Concord, N. H., Jan. 10, 1908.
[Viola Rodgers in the New York American.]
Christian Science Most Potent Factor in Religious Life, says Clara Barton
While not an acknowledged Christian Scientist, Miss Clara Barton to-day talked with me regarding this wonderful cult in a manner which left no doubt that the great woman patriot is greatly interested in the subject, and in Mrs. Eddy, its Founder. She said that she looked upon Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy as the one person, regardless of sex, living to-day, who has done the greatest good for her fellow-creatures, and that Christian Science itself is the most remarkable as well as the most potent factor in religious life. Her admiration for Mrs. Eddy is beyond limitation, and she is intimately acquainted with the life history of the Founder of the Christian Science Church, for she outlined her story from the beginning and commented upon the magnificent single-handed struggle and sacrifice made by Mrs. Eddy in her effort to give Christian Science to the world.
"While I have not studied deeply enough the great religion founded by Mrs. Eddy to consider myself a Christian Scientist," said Miss Barton, "I can say that I look upon Christian Science, as I understand it, as the most ideally beautiful yet the most practical and comforting of beliefs. It is doing more in the world to-day, and will continue to as more people become cognizant of the beauty of its teachings, than any other one influence for good. Mrs. Eddy should have the respect, admiration, and love of the whole Nation, for she is its greatest woman. Her teachings spread love and good will among men, and a Christian Scientist cannot be a Christian Scientist unless he has eliminated greed and selfishness from his nature."
Asked if she had read Science and Health, Miss Barton said that she had, and was much comforted by its teachings. "Love," she said, "permeates all the teachings of this great woman, — so great, I believe, that at this perspective we can scarcely realize how great, — and looking into her life history we see nothing but self-sacrifice and selflessness. Never has Mrs. Eddy tried to bring her personality before the public. She has, on the other hand, isolated herself from the world, and her only motive in doing so, I firmly believe, has been in order to let her teachings, instead of herself, reach the people. She has never exploited herself, but so profoundly has she been interested in bringing a great, joyous, healing and comforting religion to a people, that she made directly for that object, regardless of what criticism came to her in so doing. How beautifully she has managed her own unfortunate trials! Without malice, always with a kindness and charity that is almost beyond human comprehension, has this woman fought antagonism, and that only with love. And I say no one familiar with her life and her teachings can help but see the marvelous consistency and beauty of what she has given to the world in Christian Science. The Christian Scientists I have met all impress me with that same spirit of unselfishness that is characteristic of Mrs. Eddy. They are an intelligent, thinking people, and they impress me that their belief comes after careful and scientific investigation and conviction, rather than from hysterical evangelism."
"Most troubles are exaggerated by the mental attitude, if not entirely caused by them," continued Miss Barton. "I have in mind the matter of age. Now it has been my plan in life never to celebrate or make anything of birthday anniversaries, because this only depresses and exaggerates the passing of years. The mind is so constructed that we have become firmly convinced that after a certain length of time we cease to be useful, and when our birthday calendar indicates that we have reached or are nearing that time, we become lax in our work and finally cease to accomplish; not because we feel in reality that we are no longer useful, but because we are supposed by all laws and dictums to have finished the span of life allotted to work.
"Such a grave error! I have noticed it particularly among old soldiers. Why you know in attending many reunions of old soldiers I have noticed that nearly the whole of their conversation is upon the passing of time and upon their ages. They seem to think it quite marvelous that they are even alive, let alone having in mind the doing of anything for their fellow-creatures. It is not their fault, but the fault of the attitude of the world to the old in years. When a man has ceased to feel himself useful he is no longer useful, but I maintain that no one need feel that way just because he is fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, or even ninety or a hundred years of age. That is according to year standards. Many men at eighty are as capable of being useful to the world as they were fifty years before; perhaps not in the same way, but maybe in a much more important way, for life gives experience with its years that is of some account, if made use of.
"Birthday celebrations after one is ten are without any value, and what is more, I verily believe that they are harmful. Let your life be counted by the mile-stones of achievement and not by the timepiece of years. We would all be younger if that were so, and would live to be much older than we do at the present time, when the props are pulled from under us by tradition and precedent after threescore and ten has been reached. To-day I feel as young in my own mind as I did a half century ago, and that is because I have not folded my hands and given up work, and have also given up the thought that I was not as useful as I had been in other years. Christian Science gives one the mental attitude to live one's life in accordance with that idea, I believe."
[The Christian Science Journal, February 1908]
How and Why Clara Barton Became Interested in Christian Science
By Eugenia Paul Jefferson
CLARA BARTON'S eyes are the sweetest in the world. They challenge you to tell only what is absolutely true; they appeal to that which is best in you; they shine with a love-light that is all their own. They are dark eyes and have a questioning in them like those of a child seeking truth.
Miss Barton's hair is dark also. It is parted in the middle and smoothly drawn back behind her ears. She reminds one of the sweetest type of the New England woman. There is a gentleness in every movement, a softness in the voice, and, above all, that beautiful quality of humility so rare, but which characterizes the woman who has done so much for humanity.
Glen Echo is a suburb of Washington, and it is there that Miss Barton has built a home to shelter her peaceful years. The style of architecture is odd and original. I do not know of anything quite like it. The hall reminds one somewhat of the interior of a vessel with two decks above, giving plenty of light to the floor below. The station of the trolley line nearest the house is called Red Cross.
Miss Barton is a very active woman. She is president of the National First Aid to the Injured Association and the Children's Star League. She has a secretary, but works herself, sixteen hours a day, and frequently takes long journeys.
My call upon Miss Barton, apart from the pleasure of renewing our friendship, was principally to thank her for the splendid tribute to Mary Baker Eddy recently given in the New York American. In speaking of this interview Miss Barton said that she had been besieged with newspaper reporters wanting to interview her upon all subjects. They were all women, and Miss Barton described them at length, saying that she was much impressed by them. Finally one of these discovered that she was interested in Christian Science and was studying the text-book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Rev. Mary Baker G. Eddy. The young lady called and was graciously received. She asked for an interview for her paper, requesting that Miss Barton tell her all about Christian Science. The disappointment of the reporter can be imagined when Miss Barton told her that she didn't really know anything about Christian Science, as she had only been looking into it for about a year, and would not dare (as yet) to give an opinion on so vast a subject.
"That would hardly be fair to Christian Science, would it, Miss Barton?" I remarked.
"It would be very unfair, my dear," was the reply, "and so I told the young lady, who then asked me what I thought of Mrs. Eddy. "Ah!" I said, "Now — now you ask me something that I can talk about honestly. Mary Baker Eddy should have the respect, admiration and love of the whole nation, for she is its greatest woman."
Then followed the interview published by the New York American January 6, 1908, which called forth such a message of appreciation from Mrs. Eddy, who, knowing the storm of opinions sure to follow such a recognition of good done humanity, says that "Because Miss Barton is a veritable soldier, patriot, philanthropist, moralist and stateswoman, she can bear the blows."
Surely not their faintest echo should reach the little glen which secludes Clara Barton.
Miss Barton had related the story of how she became interested in Christian Science in a previous visit made to her a year ago. She said that she would now have no objection to having it known. She has taken her position and will not turn back.
"I cannot understand," said the great leader of the Red Cross movement, "why people should antagonize Christian Science. It accords perfectly with all I have ever been taught, for, like Paul, 'I was free born' and have always known God as Love; and this is just what Christian Science teaches, so I have had nothing to give up in accepting it. I remember," and here the dear woman folded her hands reposefully in her lap, her eyes gazing far off through a sunlit window as she arrested for a moment the flight of time, "in my girlhood going to my mother with some childish fault. She very wisely sent me to father to make my confession to him, which I did, and then asked him if he thought God would punish me. 'No, my child,' he replied. 'God never punishes; it is the sin which punishes itself.' So you see," added Miss Barton, "with such training and brought up under such teaching, what had I to give up for Christian Science? I have always believed it."
Miss Barton, as president of the National First Aid to the Injured Association, was called to their convention, which was held in Boston, June, 1906, at the same time the new addition to the First Church of Christ Scientist was dedicated at the annual communion.
While it is true that "the Kingdom of God cometh not by observation" of the material things, it was through the observation of the law and order which ever governs a great body of Christian Scientists that the attention of Miss Barton was first called to the subject during this convention.
"As the result of my work among the injured and sick, both in wars and great calamities," said the humanitarian, "my mind had been trained to look for trouble, for accidents and disorder wherever great masses of people were assembled, and the ordering out of the police to protect the city, etc. What I had expected from that great crowd of twenty or thirty thousand people was so conspicuous by its absence that it set me to thinking, What does this quiet mean? Nothing out of the ordinary occurred; everything was orderly, so much so that the policemen might all have gone to church themselves. But an accident did occur. An automobile, a 'Seeing Boston,' filled with visiting Christian Scientists from different parts of the country, became unmanageable, the chauffeur lost control, the car and its living load was overturned at the bottom of an embankment. Ah! I reflected, now we will have a proof. The proof being seen, I think right then and there, although unconscious of it at the time, I accepted Christian Science as something better than I had known, without ever having seen its text-book, without ever having heard an argument, but I saw the argument in the attitude of those bruised and injured Christian Scientists, who courteously refused surgical aid, who, when the pain seemed so great that they must cry out, sang instead."
Miss Barton could appreciate this more than the average thinker, for she knew what courage it takes not to give way to pain. She has seen too much of it in the hospital; she did not have to be told what courage meant. When she later read in the papers that all those who had been injured were able to attend the service for which they had traveled so far, she asked herself, What have they got that I have not? What do they know that I do not know?
A policeman in relating his experiences of that day said that in all the crowds he handled at the different hours of service, he had heard only one cross word spoken, and that he spoke himself.
Nor was this all Miss Barton saw, for she noticed that nobody was blamed for the accident, no law-suits for damages followed.
When she left Boston, her thought still filled with what she had seen, she went to visit a friend in another city. Upon retiring to her room at night she saw upon her table some Christian Science literature. She opened it and began to read.
Upon greeting her hostess the following morning, Miss Barton remarked, "I found some Christian Science literature upon my table last night."
"Yes," her friend replied, "we were going to take it out, but something told us to leave it. I hope you didn't mind."
"Mind!'' replied Miss Barton. "Why, my dear, I sat up half the night reading it."
It was the first of the writings of Mary Baker Eddy she had ever seen. From that home Miss Barton went to another city to visit and there again she found Christian Science literature in her room. In her surprise, turning to her friend she questioned, "Is all the world a Christian Scientist, and I did not know it?"
Miss Barton asked her friends why they had not written or told her about Christian Science before. Their reply was that she had been so occupied in other ways of binding up the wounds of her fellow-man that they had feared she might not be interested in the divine method. Miss Barton showed them their mistake by ordering to have sent to her home at Glen Echo all the published writings of the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, Rev. Mary Baker G. Eddy.
Eugenia Paul Jefferson.
Washington, D. C.
[Published in The Arena, May 1908, edited by B. O. Flower;
Christian Science lecturer William D. McCrackan had once worked for the magazine.]
[The Rev. Percy Harold Epler, one of Clara Barton's biographers, stated that, on Dec. 2, 1909, she wrote in a letter to the Rev. Dr. William G. Schoppe, First Reader in a Christian Science church in Worcester, Massachusetts, "I read 'Science and Health' very conscientiously at all times. To me that book is a great study, so well thought — so well written." But when asked by someone in 1910 if she was a Christian Scientist, Miss Barton replied, "No, I don't know enough to be one or to understand it." Rev. Schoppe, from whom Miss Barton had received Christian Science treatment, told Epler frankly that "Clara Barton's connecting point with Christian Science was on the positives it accented ... its doctrine of the Divine presence of God working with us and in us and working upon her own life, — present to help. ... Further than that she could not understand it; she could not go. ... She never could bring herself to believe the material or human creation a mortal error!" The Life of Clara Barton, pp. 419, 412.]