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Ursula N. Gestefeld (1845 - 1921) was a greatly talented healer and teacher.

Ursula Gestefeld was an insightful and brilliant individual who loved to argue about the nature of Divine Science. She began her journey to New Thought when she was loaned a copy of Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health. She began to apply its principles and, "despite its contradictions and inconsistencies," gained an unprecedented state of health within 90 days. She felt that she had found: "a truth that if applied to the problems of individual and social life would make all things new." and soon became another of Mary Baker Eddy's trusted lieutenants. This relationship was soon shattered by Eddy's hubris.

But in the beginning, Ursula's talents and spiritual fortitude led her to become a leader in Eddy's Christian Science Church. When Mrs. Eddy appeared in Chicago and offered class instruction, she became a member and was taught by Mrs. Eddy in her class of May, 1884, held in Chicago. Mrs. Eddy early recognized that Ursula was a person of outstanding ability and welcomed her as an exponent of Eddy's version of Quimby's work.

Mrs. Gestefeld gave herself totally to the practice and teaching of Christian Science. A very talented teacher, she soon had a substantial following.

But all too soon she demonstrated a greater ability than Mary Baker Eddy which inspired Eddy's jealous rage. The final straw for Eddy was that Ursula wrote her own book in 1888, titled, "Ursula N. Gestefeld's Statement of Christian Science." Despite the fact that unlike Eddy, Gestefeld actually credited her teachers, Eddy was filled with rage that a "pupil" would dare to write anything. Eddy felt she was the only person qualified to dispense any wisdom about "Christian Science"and so she denounced Mrs. Gestefeld in the Christian Science Journal and excommunicated Ursula from her church.

Once again Eddy had attacked a talented mystic. Unlike Emma Curtis Hopkins, Gestefeld reacted to Mrs. Eddy's attack upon her with a pointed pamphlet titled Jesuitism in Christian Science. She was expelled from the association, which spurred her on to greater success. Mrs. Gesterfeld's career as teacher and practitioner of true New Thought was launched, eventually becoming recognized as a leader in the Divine Science movement which came to be called New Thought.

A great deal of Ursula's work was in Chicago where she regularly taught classes, maintained a center, published books and wrote in magazines as a means of sharing her ideas and the ideas of others in the early New Thought Movement. To the system which she eventually evolved, she gave the name "Science of Being."

Ursula like Helen Van-Anderson and others formed a club. Ursula called her club the Exodus charging dues of $25 per year and then created The Exodus, a monthly magazine for the New Thought movement, serving as writer, editor and publisher. a non-sectarian group which had for its purpose the imparting and receiving of instruction in the Science of Being. By 1902, she had over 300 regular members, with more than 800 attending her weekly sermons. The Exodus Club eventually became the the Church of the New Thought.

She trained women to become certified leaders, teachers, traveling proselytizers or pastors and in 1895, she contributed to The Woman's Bible, which summarized the Science of Being principal, yet no member of her church was required to make any profession of faith or to subscribe to anything which his or her reason rejected.

Gestefeld was sometimes accused of vitriole but when we examine her life, we can easily understand why she felt such anger. She is probably best known for her novel, The Woman Who Dares, a protest against marriage. Her work was a cutting edge feminist tract portraying a male dominated society that was designed to keep women sexually submissive.

By the turn of the century, Gestefeld had followed the trend and expanded her teaching to include material wealth. She was a frequent speaker in metaphysical movement congresses, served as member of the Executive Committee of the Metaphysical League, and was present at the formation of the International New Thought Alliance in London in 1914. Ursula died at age 76 of "toxemia" in 1921. She is buried at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.


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