Heart of Unity: Myrtle Fillmore

Myrtle Fillmore

Often referred to as “the heart” of Unity, cofounder Myrtle Fillmore was known for her thoughtful, joy-filled letters to people throughout the world who requested prayer.

She and Charles Fillmore met in 1876 and married in 1881. It was her personal healing experience with prayer that led to the creation of the Silent Unity prayer ministry. The couple founded the international Unity movement in 1889 in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Society of Silent Help, now Silent Unity®, the following year.

It was not until 1948, 17 years after Myrtle’s transition, that Charles Fillmore would ask area artist Daniel MacMorris, a painter known for his portraits of celebrities and community leaders, to create a “bas-relief” of Myrtle. The art was commissioned and the result was two sculptured pieces. One is on display in the Unity Archives, located on the Unity Village campus, and the other can be seen at the Myrtle Fillmore Prayer Chapel at Unity Temple on the Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

A relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements are attached to a solid background of the same material. The word comes from a Latin verb relevo, which means “to raise,” and a reference to high or low indicates the sculptured pieces’ height. Bas comes from the Italian basso-relievo, which is translated “low relief.” So in the Unity “bas-relief,” the sculpted shapes that make up Myrtle Fillmore’s portrait are raised only slightly higher than its background. (Among the most famous relief sculptures of the 20th century is the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.)

The gentle and beautiful art piece on display in the Unity Archives sits on a mantle above the fireplace in what was once Myrtle’s office, situated across the way from Charles’ office. Visitors to the archives can see the couple’s offices, which were separated by their assistants’ two offices. The space was made into the one-room Archives office.

The other sculpture adorns the sweet chapel named for Myrtle Page Fillmore at Unity Temple on the Plaza. Originally, Charles Fillmore had envisioned Unity Temple itself being named for her. The lot in the Country Club Plaza District was purchased in 1928 to build a larger facility for the ministry’s downtown Kansas City congregation. Neither Charles nor Myrtle would live to see construction complete. Unity Temple came under the guidance of succeeding ministers as well as a different name by the time it opened on Easter Sunday 1950.