Unity was founded in 1889 by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore. Their history is peppered with financial loss, deathly illness and an undying faith. Their intention was not to create a religion, but to offer help to people of all faiths in applying spiritual principles to better their lives.
Myrtle had been sickly from the time she was a child, suffering for 40 years with tuberculosis. Her mother was a gentle, loving woman but her father was a stern Methodist who believed in a harsh God, sin, and hell. Myrtle had two loves: She loved God first and foremost; her second love was education and teaching. However, girls in the 1800s were expected to take care of household tasks and tend children and not pursue an education. She taught herself many topics by hiding her brother’s school books and reading them in secret. She was determined to go to college, and she did attend Oberlan College, the only college in the state that allowed girls to attend.
Myrtle became a school teacher and eventually opened her own private school. She created a far-advanced curriculum similar to the Montessori educational system of today, teaching the children with interactive, engaging activities. Her success was exulted in the newspapers and her students and their parents loved her. When she closed her private school, the parents were up in arms, at which point she taught the parents the techniques and methods she used.
Charles likewise incurred a physical injury when he was 11 years old. In 1864 he dislocated his hip bone during a skating accident. The doctors did their best to set the bone but there was always an open sore and hole in his hip. His leg stopped growing normally at that time and as an adult his right leg was four inches shorter than his left leg. He walked with a cane or crutches and was crippled much of the time.
Charles had high hopes of becoming wealthy, and at the age of 19, he moved to Oklahoma because he was told the streets were paved with gold. He found out they weren’t! He wandered around the Midwest, looking for the ideal job that would make him rich. He tried gold mining, mule driving, cashiering for the railroad, and real estate. He was successful in all of these ventures, but he always lost his money.
In the meantime, Charles met Myrtle, but it wasn’t love at first sight. They became friends, and though they loved each other, Charles’ alcohol drinking stopped Myrtle from considering him as a spouse. She had him attend a temperance meeting where he signed the pledge to never drink alcohol again. His pledge did have an impact on the town. The day after he pledged to stay sober, the town newspaper ran a headline that read “Fillmore Quits Drinking!” Despite Charles’ honoring his pledge, Myrtle moved back to where her mother lived because Charles did not have the courage to propose marriage to her. He eventually did propose through the mail and she accepted. They had three sons, Lowell, Rick and Royal
Myrtle had a strong faith in God, but Charles was more philosophical about religion. Myrtle’s health was deteriorating from tuberculosis and, in 1885, she was told she had six months to live. They began attending every revival, every church meeting, every healing event that came to town. One night E.B. Weeks came to Kansas City to speak on healing. Charles was not impressed, but Weeks’ words struck a chord in Myrtle and she clung to the words “I am a child of God and therefore, I do not inherit sickness.” Myrtle would seclude herself in the closet for hours at a time reading scripture, praying and meditating, saying loving thoughts to the cells of her body. Within two years, she was healed of tuberculosis. She was never sick a day in her life from 1887 to her transition in 1931.
Charles was impressed with Myrtle’s healing and, though he took a different approach in his own healing, his leg began growing very slowly until, after six months he stopped using a cane, and at the time of his transition in 1947, it was determined his right leg had grown 3 ½ inches.
Charles and Myrtle began writing about their faith and beliefs, and shortly thereafter, Unity was born. Prayer and literature were their two main ministries. The Unity Movement was started in 1889 with the publishing of Modern Thought, a national monthly magazine devoted to spiritual questions (published today as Unity Magazine). With the growth of their movement, Charles and Myrtle dedicated their lives to promoting this Truth and wrote out and signed this Dedication and Covenant:
We, Charles Fillmore and Myrtle Fillmore, husband and wife, hereby dedicate ourselves, our time, our money, all we have and all we expect to have, to the Spirit of Truth, and through it, to the Society of Silent Unity.
It being understood and agreed that the said Spirit of Truth shall render unto us an equivalent for this dedication, in peace of mind, health of body, wisdom, understanding, love, life and an abundant supply of all things necessary to meet every want without our making any of these things the object of our existence.
In the presence of the Conscious Mind of Christ Jesus, this 7th day of December A.D. 1892.
In 1893, the Fillmores expanded their publications, creating Wee Wisdom, a monthly magazine for children offering daily uplifting and self-affirming messages. In 1894, Lessons In Truth, by H. Emilie Cady was the first Unity book to be published. Over the years, Lessons In Truth has been translated into 11 languages, including Braille, and has sold over two million copies. It is still in use today as one of the major study guides for Unity.
Using their publications, Myrtle and Charles were able to inform people about the Society of Silent Help, later renamed Silent Unity. For more than 130 years, people of all faiths, traditions and backgrounds have been calling Silent Unity (1-800-NOW-PRAY) with their prayer requests. Each request is held in constant silent prayer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 30 days.
In 1903, The Unity Society of Practical Christianity became the first Unity Church. As the publishing business grew, The Unity School of Christianity was formed to handle the Fillmores’ publishing and educational work.
The first issue of Daily Word was published in July 1924, and has been continuously published ever since. Many people of all faith traditions are avid readers of Daily Word, receiving its positive and uplifting messages each day, without even realizing it is a publication of Unity.