Nona L. Brooks was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 22, 1861 at the start of the Civil War. She was bron into a large, prosperous family which had ventured from Virginia to Kentucky. Nona was educated in a private school in Louisville, later graduating from the Charleston Female Academy. A typical daughter of a upper middle class family, she entered fully into the social life of the time and the community. She really wanted to marry and rear a family, but none of the men who courted her attracted her sufficiently. Her mother's health required a change of climate so the family moved to Colorado. Her father's business was suddenly swept away by competition, so he entered a new business, mining. Worried and frustrated by the effort required, he suffered a heart attack and died, leaving the family almost penniless.
With the death of their father the Brooks sisters were now living in Pueblo, Colorado, on a much lower standard. Some of the sisters married. Fannie became Mrs. Ben James, and Althea became Mrs. Charles Small. The latter was one of Charles Fillmore real estate partners. Fillmore abandonded Pueblo after the real estate crash, moved to Kansas City and founded the New Thought Unity Church in Kansas City.
Several family members were in extremely poor health. Nona Brooks developed a serious throat ailment, which made it difficult to eat solid foods and despite being under the care of an allopathic physician (MD) she lost weight steadily and appeared destined for the charnel house.
Mrs. Bingham, a friend of Nona's older sister Althea, became ill and was referred to a specialist in Chicago. She was told that an operation was required and it might take as much as a year of treatment before she could return home. Bingam had a family to look after and did not feel she could take so much time. A friend of hers who had taken classes with the "teacher of teachers," Emma Curtis Hopkins , recommended that she seek her out and see if she might not be healed. Bingham returned home, enthusiastic over her healing and ardent in her desire to help other people. She invited the Brooks sisters to attend a class in which she taught what she had learned from Mrs. Hopkins. Reluctant at first due to a strict Presbyterian upbringing, eventually the sisters relented. Mrs. Bingham continually stressed Omnipresence - "God is everywhere, God is all, God is here," which is something they easily accepted as it is was in alignment with their original beliefs. The sisters attended several of Bingham's classes, listening and repeating whatever she asked them to. Then one day something amazing occurred. Nona suddenly she knew that she was healed.
Little is known about Mrs. Bingham, or what she did after the Brooks Sisters took up her torch and began teaching Practical Christianity, yet through Bingham, Emma Curtis Hopkins had touched another life who was later to make New Thought history. Additional healing's occurred, which inspired Nona to a deeper faith in the power of the consciously realized Omnipresence of God. Nona soon became one of the most important early New Thought ministers whose work was to bring healing and blessing to multitudes.
But this was not immediate. At first Nona, like many great ministers before her, was reluctant to answer the call, yet the more prayer treatments she did, the more healings were manifested. Nona attended Teachers College or Normal School becoming a teacher in the Pueblo private school system, later moving to Denver to pursue her career. But her greatest teaching and what would be her legacy was her work as a teacher of "Divine Science" which is the name that she got from Malinda Cramer to describe the form of New Thought that she taught.
Although some people have conjectured that she was gay, in fact, on one occasion she came very close to marriage, but in the end decided against it. Marriage at this point in time even in Western Culture would result in restrictions upon a woman's life similar to the restrictions of most Islamic women today.
Meanwhile, her sister, Fannie James, had begun teaching classes, just as Mrs. Bingham had done, in her newfound faith. She held the first classes in her own home in Denver. Her husband refused to allow her to go out and give treatments. Fannie corresponded enthusiastically with Malinda E. Cramer who was in San Francisco. Ms. Cramer had had a personal healing similar to the one which the Brooks sisters had experienced and her ideas with regard to healing were basically the same as those of the Brooks sisters. Cramer called her discoveries Divine Science and had been ordained a minister by Emma Curtis Hopkins. Mrs. Cramer held many classes in San Francisco which had a huge Divine Science School until the 1905 Earthquake which destroyed the school and the library which contained the greatest collection of Divine Science and New Thought writings in the world at that time. Malinda travelled and taught classes around the country and eventually taught a class in Denver. It was this Denver visit which brought her into personal contact with the Brooks sisters.
At this time many of New Thought Centers were called Truth Centers and members of this diverse movement were reaching out to each other. (A striking contrast to the conflicts which permeate Divine Science today). Fannie James asked Mrs. Cramer if they could use the term Divine Science as well. This led to a merging of the group as they worked together at a distance. It can be observed that the teachings are scientific, she declared, "because they are proved in our experience," and as to the term Divine, "the subject concerns the understanding of God as Omnipotent." Thus the term Divine Science came to Denver and has been associated with Denver, San Francisco and St. Louis ever since. Mrs. Cramer's visit to Denver combined with the fact that her Divine Science classes and lectures were so well attended and the fact that she agreed to let the Brooks Sisters use the name Divine Science gave added strength to the fledgling movement. Malinda Cramer and the Brooks sisters worked together for years.
By 1918 there were Divine Science churches in San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, Oakland California, Boston, Portland, Spokane and St. Louis, and by 1925 churches had been opened in San Diego, Sacramento, California; Topeka, Kansas; Washington, D.C.; two in Illinois; one each in Iowa and Cleveland, Ohio; and two additional ones in the State of Washington. The movement was expanding steadily and almost as popular as the Home of Truth.
Nona Brooks was often asked to speak at important gatherings. In 1927 she was given a trip abroad by her friends, and spoke in various foreign centers. She received important recognition at home as well. She was asked to serve on Boards for various civic and philanthropic purposes. For years she was a member of the State Prison Board.
At the height of her popularity, she decided to resign as minister of her church. Against great opposition, and only after a man had been found who might replace her temporarily, she was permitted a leave of absence from the church. For a time she was undecided what to do. Then came an opportunity to go to Australia, and she spent a year there, working in Melbourne, Sidney and Adelaide. This was a memorable visit to the Australian New Thought Movement. After that Miss Brooks spent some time in Chicago, serving there in one of the centers; spoke often in summer conferences of New Thought; and spent her winters in San Antonio, Texas which is the site of a burgeoning new denomination of Divine Science called United Divine Science.
In 1938 she was invited to Divine Science College in Denver, and served a President of the College until 1943. It was that year that Dr. Raymond Charles Barker , then president of the International New Thought Alliance, introduced her to a great congress meeting as "Our best loved leader," to the enthusiastic applause of the entire gathering.
Two years later, on March 14, 1945, only eight days before her eighty-fourth birthday, Nona Brooks passed away.
The following book by Nona Brooks can be read online:
Click here for a list of Nona Brooks' books and other writings on Divine Science.