ECH 1891

EMMA CURTIS HOPKINS

A Brief History

The research on the life of Emma Curtis Hopkins began with the 1850 Pomfret, Windham, CT census. We found the listing for Rufus D. Curtis with his wife Lydia and one child Josephine E, 1 year old. This census was taken in November 1850, so it is reasonable to assume that Josephine was born in September 1849. Next in the 1860 Killingly, Windham, CT census we found Rufus and Lydia with 6 children. "Emma J" age 10 being the oldest, and we can assume that once called Josephine she had now become known as Emma.

In 1880 we found Emma on the Nantucket, MA census married to George I Hopkins and a 5 year old son John C., and her sister Estelle M Curtis.

Emma matriculated in Mrs. Eddy's Primary Class of December 1883, never going onto the advanced classes, but becoming editor of the Christian Science Journal in September 1884.

By 1886 she was a practitioner in Chicago, but excommunicated by Mrs. Eddy in 1887 & again in 1888 along with Julius Dresser ". . . for being Mind-quacks who were spreading abroad patchwork books, false compendiums of my system crediting some ignoramus or infidel with teaching they have stolen from me.  The unweaned suckling whines while spitting out the breast-milk which sustained him . . . "    (Martin Larson, New Thought, A modern Religious Approach (Early edition) page 164)

By then Emma had started her own Christian Science Theological Seminary.  You have to remember that at that time all the teachings that later became New Thought were called Christian Science, the name originally coined by William S Adams in 1850 in his Book “The Elements of Christian Science” a treatise upon Moral Philosophy and Practice.  It wasn't until Mrs. Baker Eddy claimed the term for her own that everybody else had to find new names, including the Fillmores who called their work UNITY.

The list of her pupils sounds like a Who's Who of New Thought, for among them were:

Frances Lord  Annie Rix Militz 
Harriet Rix  Ernest Holmes 
Mrs. Bingham  Helen Wilmans 
Charles Fillmore  Myrtle Fillmore 
Charles A. Barton  Josephine Barton 
Dr. H. Emilie Cady  Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Elizabeth Towne 
Malinda Cramer never formally studied with Emma – I consider her a spiritual sister of Emma’s.
These were among the many across the country who attended her classes.  Sometimes she enrolled as many as a 1000 students, each of whom paid $50 for a 2 week course of 12 lessons.

She declares "There is one indestructible substance pervading all things from the remotest star to the nearest dust particle . . .  It can only be the cognized by the mind . . . and only the understanding power of the mind can make it useful.  He who by any manner . . . handles this substance and realizes its nature as his nature soon finds himself experiencing vital renewal throughout body and mind."

We now have a very comprehensive Chronology and History of Emma’s life, one example of a researched item being; she was in England during August of 1893. This was discovered by Annemarie Rogers Halfpap from the application for a passport made by Emma in early 1893, then a search of the shipping records revealed her return to the USA at the end of August that year.  She apparently returned to Europe some years later but this cannot yet be verified by facts.

Much more is now completing the puzzle picture, not only of her life events, but of her teachings during the years of 1893 to 1898.  She began to give up formal activity in Chicago in 1894 but retained an office there through 1896. Finally retreating to hotels in New York to give private lessons and visit different cities teaching.  

It is from her Bible Interpretation articles in the Chicago Inter-Ocean Newspaper, researched extensively by Natalie Jean, and with access to the INTA Archives, that we gain an idea of her consciousness during 1885-1898.

Because the Bible quotations used were those compiled by the International Commission of Ministers she wrote on the Old Testament as well as the new, relating many of her observations to the political climate of the times, urging the people to take care of their challenges by spiritual means, not by the upheavals current then.

Some of Emma's correspondence has been recovered from the Unity Archives with the much appreciated assistance of Eric Page, Chief Archivist, and various other archives and magazines.  She apparently was popular with the arts community in New York, but had an extensive private practice working sometimes from 7:30 in the morning to 8:00 o’clock at night. Many times having to retire to hotels in the Connecticut area to rest and write and to get away from the pressures of the city.

There is much confusion over the authorship of her works, but discoveries are constantly forthcoming.  The latest being that High Mysticism was not the book she was working on during this period, for it was actually compiled, from the 1890’s publications of separate chapter editions of Studies in High Mysticism, by Elizabeth Bogart who was originally a secretary to Myrtle Fillmore and arrived at Joy Farm in 1896. Bogart eventually published the chapters in an edited book form as High Mysticism.  Bogart did the same with the Lessons in Christian Science manuscripts, some of which were published in the Christian Science Magazine, published by Ida Nichols for Emma during 1888 through 1892, these became known, as the again poorly edited, Class Lessons 1888.  Also Scientific Christian Mental Practice was actually compiled by her students from notes taken at her classes.

The closest we come today to her actual writings are those she penned for the Chicago Inter-Ocean Newspaper.  They were printed in the Sunday Edition and she contributed these from 1894 to 1898.  Some Bible Interpretations were published in the Christian Science Magazine, produced by Ida Nichols for Emma, from 1888 to 1892, but there is a statement in one of the issues that they are the gist of her talks.  Although in one Sunday Lesson she intimates that she checked the previous week before it was apparently given out to the congregation, by correcting a mistake she had found. 

My own belief is that her later writings were The Gospel Series where she uses the “I” extensively, as her own experiences, rather than an instructing students mode.

The above information comes from research done for a book Rev. P. Joanna Rogers published in 2009, Emma Curtis Hopkins: An Appreciation For Her Students.  The book includes more information on the life of Emma Curtis Hopkins, and her impact upon the sometimes violent times of her era.  It will also correct many of the erroneous assumptions made by writers who have not had access to the intense and extensive research help available to Rev. Rogers.


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