The romantic title of Beryl Satter’s Each Mind a Kingdom may mislead readers into thinking this is light fare. On the contrary, as its subtitle American Women, Sexual Purity, and the New Thought Movement, 1875-1920 suggests, it is a demanding, scholarly work that analyzes the New Thought Movement in the context of the turn-of-the-century gender debate and social Darwinism. Based on Satter’s dissertation (which probably accounts for the jargon and awkward phrases—e.g., “gendered selfhood” and “treatments that further problematized their physicality”), Each Mind a Kingdom is a fascinating analysis of the religious healing movement in America that asserted the power of “mind” or “spirit” over “matter.” Satter traces the development of the movement and describes its major thinkers, especially Phineas Quimby and Mary Baker Eddy, their impact on the early feminists, and the methods they used to spread their message and advance their careers and organizations. It outlines the similarities and differences between Christian Science and competing New Thought groups. With its emphasis on positive thinking and faith, New Thought was credited with curing illnesses in an era when the medical establishment was blatantly sexist and often ineffective. It is also credited with enabling Americans to adapt to the demands of changing economic realities in the twentieth century, and even beyond the twentieth century, its positive principles continue to be a pervasive influence through talk shows and popular writings, such as those of Norman Vincent Peale (The Power of Positive Thinking, 1952) and Robert Schuller (Peace of Mind Through Possibility Thinking, 1977).
This book will be an excellent resource for students of religion, psychology, and women’s studies. In addition to numerous firsthand quotations throughout the text, there are seventy-seven pages of supporting notes, a lengthy bibliography, and helpful figures, charts, and photographs.