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Wigmore was born Anna Marie Warapicki in Lithuania on March 4, 1909 to Antanas (1877–1959) and Anna (1882–?) Warapicki. Antanas emigrated to America in 1908, settling in Middleboro, Massachusetts, where he first worked as a laborer in a shoe manufacturing company, then later as a truck driver for a bakery during Wigmore's American teen-age years. Anna followed her husband five years later, aboard the ship Erlangen, arriving at Ellis Island on June 16, 1913. After World War I, Anna Marie, then 13, and her brother, Mykola, age 15, (both surnames erroneously entered on the ship's passenger log as "Varapickis") accompanied by an uncle, arrived at Ellis Island on December 9, 1922, on the USS America, to join their parents and younger sister Helen, born February 19, 1921, in Middleboro. The 1930 Federal Census found Anna Marie living in Bristol, Massachusetts, and working as a hospital maid under the name of Anna Warap.
Wigmore was inspired in part by the ideas of Maximilian Bircher-Benner (1867–1939), who was influenced as a young man by the German Lebensreform movement, which saw civilization as corrupt and which sought to go "back to nature"; it embraced holistic medicine, nudism, various forms of spirituality, free love, exercise and other outdoors activity, and foods that it judged were more "natural".:31–33 Bircher-Benner eventually adopted a vegetarian diet, but took that further and decided that raw food was what humans were really meant to eat; he was influenced by Charles Darwin's ideas that humans were just another kind of animal and Bircher-Benner noted that other animals do not cook their food.:31–33 In 1904 Bircher-Benner opened a sanatorium in the mountains outside of Zurich called "Lebendinge Kraft" or "Vital Force," a technical term in the Lebensreform movement that referred especially to sunlight; he and others believed that this energy was more "concentrated" in plants than in meat, and was diminished by cooking.:31–33 Patients in the clinic were fed raw foods, including meusli which was created there.:31–33 While these ideas were dismissed by scientists and the medical profession of his day as quackery, they gained a following in some quarters.:31–33
She also was inspired in part by the biblical story of King Nebuchadnezzar, recounted in Daniel 4:33, in which “he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws", and by the examples of dogs eating grass when they were unwell. She also said that she learned about herbs and natural remedies as a child in Lithuania, watching her grandmother.
In the 1940s Wigmore started promoting the benefits of wheatgrass and other raw foods in order to "detox", removing what she considered to be poisons of "unnatural" cooked foods and food additives added by industrial society; she believed this diet allowed and helped the body to heal itself. She believed that fresh wheatgrass juice and fresh vegetables - and especially chlorophyll - retained more of their original energy and potency (a form of vitalism) if they were uncooked and eaten as soon as possible after harvesting them.:31–33
According to the National Council against Healthcare Fraud: "Wigmore claimed to have a Doctor of Divinity (DD) from the College of Divine Metaphysics in Indianapolis. She also listed a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and a Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) degree at different times. None of her credentials appear to have been from accredited schools."
During the mid-1960s, Wigmore, as "Reverend Ann Wigmore", and Rising Sun Christianity, Inc., which she controlled, bought property at 25 Exeter Street in Boston's Back Bay, where she lived and where Rising Sun had offices, as carved into its glass and door. She also founded The Ann Wigmore Foundation Inc., which received accreditation as a nonprofit from the IRS in 1970. In 1974, Rising Sun Christianity applied to the city to convert the building into a church, a holistic school, and apartments, which was granted for five years, and was extended in 1980.
In 1980, the US House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging began what became a four-year investigation into health care scams that preyed on older people; the committee received testimony from a woman desperate to treat her husband's cancer who accepted treatment from Steven and Ellen Haasz, disciples of Wigmore, and eventually from Wigmore's facility in Boston, instead of standard care which the Haaszes strongly discouraged from her pursuing. She said: "I know now that I was foolish to listen to Haasz and to spend about $2,000, including the trip to Boston, on the raw food things. But my husband and I were married for 37 years and when he got sick, I was looking for magic. Their false promise of hope may have actually shortened my husband's few numbered days on this Earth." The report, published in 1984 and commonly called "The Pepper Report" after chairman Claude Pepper, was called "Quackery, a $10 Billion Scandal":148–150
In 1982 the Rising Sun Church acquired the building next door, and changed its name to the Hippocrates Health Institute, Inc. She was sued in 1982 by the attorney general of Massachusetts for promoting a cure for diabetes and for claiming that she could make it unnecessary for children to be vaccinated; she stopped making those claims after losing in court.
Wigmore was sued by the Massachusetts Attorney-General's department in 1988 for publishing pamphlets falsely claiming to offer an AIDS cure. She claimed that AIDS arises from "the body's inability to assimilate the food consumed" and for around $400 (about $700 in 2016) sold lessons to make an "energy enzyme soup" that she said allowed an infected person's body to completely clear the virus. She was acquitted under the First Amendment as the claims were deemed not to be not commercial claims made in trade, but was ordered not to misrepresent herself as a doctor qualified to treat illness or disease.
Wigmore also founded the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute Inc in Puerto Rico, where people could go for alternative medicine or to be trained in her methods.
Wigmore died in Boston on February 16, 1994, of smoke inhalation from a fire at the Ann Wigmore Foundation building at 196 Beacon Street. She had written about twenty five books and had lectured on her ideas in the US, Canada, and Europe.
Brian Clement, who later earned a nonmedical PhD, and the Hippocrates Health Institute which he then controlled, eventually obtained 60 acres of land in West Palm Beach and have become known offering residents "wheatgrass, IV injections of vitamins, dietary supplements, foot baths to remove "toxins," raw foods diets and assorted other treatments, some of which may have been considered alternative cancer treatments.
On December 25, 1930, Anna Marie (again under the name "Warap" per wedding coverage Stoughton News-Sentinel, 1 Jan 1931) married Everett Arnold Wigmore (1907–1969), of Stoughton, Massachusetts, where they lived during their marriage. Her husband was in the family stone masonry business. A daughter, Wilma Edith Wigmore, was born on July 9, 1941. On January 12, 1942, Wigmore became a United States citizen. The Wigmores divorced sometime in the 1950s–1960s.
- 1920 Fed Census/1924 & 1925 Middleboro city directories
- 1930 Federal Census
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- Henning, Laura. The Guru of Grass Los Angeles Times. Mar 26, 1992
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- Holistic health pioneer dies at 84 in fire at her Back Bay mansion, The Boston Globe (Boston, MA), February 17, 1994 "Ann Wigmore, founder of the holistic foundation that bears her name, died yesterday in an early-morning fire in the Back Bay mansion that houses the organization."
- Wigmore's sworn Petition for Naturalization No. 230018, executed by her on 12/10/1941, on file with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Waltham, Massachusetts.
- Wigmore's Oath of Allegiance/Citizenship Granted dated l/12/1942, on file with NARA, Waltham, Massachusetts.
- Biopsychosocial model
- Complementary and alternative medicine
- Human relaxation
- Maximilian Bircher-Benner
- Raw foodism