Unity School of Christianity was founded in 1887 in Kansas City, Missouri by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore
The son of a seamstress and an Indian trader, Charles Fillmore was born into a poor family. He was raised primarily by his Episcopalian mother, receiving very little formal education. He passed his time by reading material on occultism, Eastern Religions, metaphysics, and spiritualism. These were his main interests. In 1874, he left home and moved to Caddo, Oklahoma. He did not remain there long and moved again to Dennison, Texas where he became a railroad clerk. It was in Texas that he first met his future wife, “Myrtle” Page. She quit her job as a school teacher and the two moved to Gunnison, Colorado in 1879, where he went into mining and real estate. In 1881 the two got married and settled in Pueblo where they went into business with his brother-in-law.
In 1884, the couple moved to Kansas City. Two years later, they attended a lecture on Christian Science and its teachings given by E.B. Weeks. A spiritual breakthrough came for Myrtle Fillmore when she attended this lecture. A noted metaphysician, Weeks made a statement that would change Myrtle Fillmore’s understanding of herself and set her on a new course of spiritual development. At the time, Mrs. Fillmore was in a state of mental and physical illness and had come to a point where she was not helped by either medicine or physicians. It was Dr. Weeks’ statement that day that brought her the healing she sought.
She long-cherished each word of the phrase “I am a child of God and therefore I do not inherit sickness.” Myrtle Fillmore believed that she had discovered a great “spiritual truth” regarding healing. By repeating this phrase as a positive affirmation, Fillmore believed she would be healed. Myrtle Fillmore began offering her services to others and soon developed a following of those seeking divine healing. Over the course of the next year, she was completely cured of her tuberculosis.
Myrtle Fillmore was convinced of the teachings. Charles Fillmore was more skeptical and not so eager to jump into this new practice. Over an extended period of time, and only after he had a chance to study metaphysics did he become convinced of the truth of the teachings of Christian Science.
Charles Fillmore then threw himself into spreading the message of Christian Science. In 1889, the couple founded a magazine called Modern Thought. This publication followed the Christian Science principles and reflected many of the interests of the Fillmores in mysticism, Eastern Religions, reincarnation, and Spiritualism.
The founding of the Unity School of Christianity began slowly. In 1890, the couple started the Society of Silent Help as a healing prayer group. In 1891, Unity was begun as the official magazine of this society. According to Charles Fillmore, the name Unity was adopted in 1895, denoting that Unity was devoted to the spiritualization of all humanity and took the best from all religions. He said the following regarding the eclectic belief system of Unity:
“We have studied many isms, many cults. People of every religion under the sun claim that we either belong to them or have borrowed the best part of our teaching from them. We have borrowed the best from all religions, that is the reason we are called Unity… Unity is not a sect, not a separation of people into an exclusive group of know-it-alls. Unity is the Truth that is taught in all religions, simplified… so that anyone can understand and apply it. Students of Unity do not find it necessary to sever their church affiliations.”
A movement began from these original publications and prayer efforts, and in 1903, it became known as The Unity School of Practical Christianity. The present-day name was adopted by the group in 1914. In 1909, another magazine called Weekly Unity was added, and Charles Fillmore published his first book, Christian Healing. Coming from a background of teaching where she interacted with children, Mrs. Fillmore realized the need to do something for the children. She founded a Sunday school, and in 1893 started Wee Wisdom, which is the oldest children’s magazine in America.
In the 1920s their work was greatly expanded, including the founding of a vegetarian restaurant called the Unity Inn. In 1922, Charles Fillmore began radio broadcasts on WOQ in Kansas City and two years later purchased the station.
In 1924, the present-day official publication, Unity Daily Word was begun. Because of the spreading influence of the group, many other groups began meeting and using Unity literature as teaching and discussion aids. People who attended prayer groups and lectures led by the Fillmores established themselves as teachers.
The Fillmores became concerned that others were using their materials to delve into areas and subjects that they did not intend or approve. In order to control what others were teaching, in 1925 they formed the Unity Annual Conference. This was an organization of recognized ministers and teachers who would oversee Unity Centers.
Two Years after Myrtle Fillmore’s death in 1931, Charles Fillmore married Cora G. Dedrick. He also published his second book, The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary.