Gestefeld, Ursula Newell (1845-1921)

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Gestefeld, Ursula Newell (1845-1921)

Ursula Newell Gestefeld, an independent Christian Science teacher and one of the founders of New Thought, was born April 22, 1845, in Augusta, Maine. As a child she was quite sickly and her family had doubts that she would live to adulthood. She did survive, however, and eventually married newspaper-man Thomas Gestefeld. They had four children and settled in Chicago.

Early in 1884 Gestefield obtained a copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Christian Science textbook written by Mary Baker Eddy. Attracted to what she read, she joined the class Eddy taught in Chicago in the spring of that year. Soon after the class she became a practitioner and a popular teacher in her own right. She wrote for the Christian Science Journal and in the late 1880s wrote three books, Mental Medicine? (1887), Ursula Gestefeld's Statement of Christian Science (1888), and Science of the Christ (1889). These books brought her into conflict with Eddy, who accused Gestefeld of distorting her teachings. Gestefeld was dismissed from Eddy's church and responded with an attack on Eddy in Jesuitism in Christian Science (1888).

Gestefeld developed her own variation on Christian Science, which she termed the Science of Being. For several years she functioned as an independent teacher and writer. Besides a number of books, in 1896 she began the magazine Exodus (1896-1904). She also founded informal Science of Being groups, one of which was in England. In 1897 she founded the Exodus Club, which grew in 1904 into the Church of New Thought, one of the first metaphysical churches to use that name. As the pastor of the church, she was recognized as one of the leading figures of the emerging New Thought Movement, which had developed out of the independent Christian Scientists of the previous decade. In 1901 she wrote the most important statement of her mature position, The Builder and the Plan. She addressed the first meeting of the International New Thought League in 1899 in Boston. That organization was a precursor to the International New Thought Alliance, founded in 1914.

She continued to lead her church until her death on October 22, 1921, in Chicago, but it dissolved soon after her passing. She was cremated, and her ashes were buried in Chicago.


Gestefeld, Ursula N. The Builder and the Plan. Chicago: Exodus Publishing, 1901.

. Jesuitism in Christian Science. Chicago: The Author, 1888.

. The Science of the Christ. Chicago: The Author, 1889.

. A Statement of Christian Science. Chicago: The Author, 1888.