Emma Curtis Hopkins (1849–1925) organized New Thought and was a primary theologian, teacher, writer, feminist, mystic and prophet who ordained women at what she named (with no tie to Christian Science) the Christian Science Theological Seminary of Chicago. Emma Curtis Hopkins was called the "teacher of teachers", because a number of her students went on to found their own churches or to become prominent in the New Thought Movement.
Emma Curtis Hopkins was born Josephine Emma Curtis in Killingly, Connecticut, in 1849 to Rufus Curtis and Lydia Phillips Curtis. She married George Irving Hopkins on July 19, 1874. Their son, John Carver, was born in 1875 and died in 1905.
Hopkins was initially a student of the Christian Science of Mary Baker Eddy, who claimed to have found in the Christian Bible a science behind the healing miracles of Jesus which could be practiced by anyone. She would afterwards (see below) leave Christian Science to develop her own more eclectic form of metaphysical idealism, known later as New Thought with, like it, certain mystical traits of Gnosticism, though Hopkins felt much freer to make affinities with Theosophy and a wide variety of Eastern teachings.
Differing from Eddy's lead in speaking of God as both Mother and Father, Hopkins conceptualized the Trinity as three aspects of divinity, each playing a role in different historical epochs: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Mother-Spirit or Holy Comforter. Hopkins believed (as did Eddy, though not as parochially) that spiritual healing was the Second Coming of Christ into the world, and this was the hallmark of her early work. Hopkins also believed more specifically that the changing roles of women indicated their prominence in the Godhead, signaling a new epoch identified by the inclusion of the Mother aspect of God.
While Phineas Parkhurst Quimby is sometimes described as the founder of New Thought, he died in 1866, and New Thought did not formally organize until Hopkins brought together and focused the national movement in 1886-88 with the base in Chicago. Her first work Class Lessons 1888 ignited flash points for organized New Thought. She later authored Drops of Gold and Scientific Christian Mental Practice (1888) as well as a prolific body of written work. She was acclaimed for the giftedness of her personal lectures. Those that heard her speak noted her charismatic oratory. Her magnum opus High Mysticism is perhaps best read after familiarity with the groundwork of her other writings. She authored the International Bible Lessons in the Chicago Inter-Ocean newspaper (1887-94, an apparent echo of the Bible Lessons central to Christian Science). Hopkins is often referred to as the "Teacher of teachers" or the "The mother of New Thought". Those who studied with Hopkins included the Fillmores, founders of Unity; Ernest Holmes, founder Religious Science; Malinda Cramer and Nona L. Brooks founders of Divine Science; and Harriet Emilie Cady, author of Unity's cornerstone text Lessons in Truth.
Hopkins' earliest record in Christian Science appears to be her role in the expulsion of Clara Choate for promiscuity around 1884; Hopkins would some months later became acting editor of the Christian Science Journal (though she was never a Christian Science teacher), then in just over a year be relieved of the post for an editorial syncretizing too wide an Asian influence for Eddy's identification with Christianity.. Eventually won over to the influence and ambitions of Mary Plunkett, she told her original Christian Science practitioner that if Eddy did not give her the next Normal class and authority over all of Christian Science west of Buffalo, "I will sweep her off the face of the earth." She had earlier criticized A.J. Swartz for plagiarism of Eddy's work but, with Plunkett's help, went on to edit his magazine for a period before going into business with Plunkett. They appropriated the name of Christian Science, which was beginning to come into its early great success, for both their magazine and institutes' names, in spite of their breach with its founder and her emphasis on a Christian subjugation of the human mind to the Divine, and sought to gain adherents from its base including Joseph Adams. Plunkett would again ask Eddy for a division of Eddy's Christian Science movement, with Eddy to yield everything west of the Missippi, and took offense at Eddy's rebuff. Hopkins and Plunkett would in time take in other disaffected students of Eddy dissatisfied with either teaching or Eddy's disregard for promotional schemes, such as Ursula Gestefeld, and Hopkins went on to teach the Fillmores, after which she would finally drop use of the term Christian Science (which the Fillmores would also use, then subsequently drop). Plunkett, however, who tried to borrow visibly from her own past ties to Eddy to build a following in New York City, fell into public disgrace after the scandal of her abortive free-love parting with her husband John, who had fathered neither of her children, in favor of A. Bentley Worthington, who within a month after her adoption of his name was exposed as an embezzler and multi-state bigamist, following which she moved to Australia and committed suicide.
Among those who studied with Emma Curtis Hopkins are: