Florence Scovel Shinn

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Florence Scovel Shinn
Photo Florence Scovel Shinn.jpg
Shinn, no later than 1903
Born(1871-09-24)September 24, 1871
Camden, New Jersey, US
DiedOctober 17, 1940(1940-10-17) (aged 69)
Occupation(s)Artist, author and New Thought spiritual teacher

Florence Scovel Shinn (September 24, 1871 in Camden, New Jersey – October 17, 1940) was an American artist and book illustrator who became a New Thought spiritual teacher and metaphysical writer in her middle years.[1][2]

In New Thought circles, Shinn is best known for her first book, The Game of Life and How to Play It (1925). She expressed her philosophy as:

The invisible forces are ever working for man who is always "pulling the strings" himself, though he does not know it. Owing to the vibratory power of words, whatever man voices, he begins to attract.
--The Game of Life, Florence Scovel Shinn[1]

Early life[edit]

Florence Scovel was born in Camden, New Jersey, the daughter of Alden Cortlandt Scovel and Emily Hopkinson Scovel.[3] Her great, great, grandfather,[4] Francis Hopkinson, signed the Declaration of Independence and is the earliest documented American composer of song.[5] She was educated in Philadelphia where she attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and there met her future husband, the artist Everett Shinn (1876–1953). After marriage they moved into a studio apartment at 112 Waverly Place, near Washington Square, New York. Everett built a theatre next door, and wrote three plays in which Florence played a leading role.[6] They spent their summers in Plainfield (Cornish Art Colony), New Hampshire in a Colonial-style house designed by her husband.[7] Florence and Everett divorced in 1912.[3]


Florence worked as an illustrator in the early 1900s.[8] She illustrated fiction in Harper's and other magazines, as well as popular novels such as Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1901).[9] The Society of Illustrators elected her to an Associate Membership in 1903, even though it did not admit women to full membership in the organization until 1922.[10]

An early biographical sketch of Florence Scovel Shinn as an Illustrator offers insight into her later writings and attitude towards life:

Her keen sense of humor crops out in every group, and the turn of a line gives a comical effect. The peculiar gift that Mrs. Shinn is endowed with is that she can draw the most pitiful little figures and yet infuse into the picture a happy, healthy atmosphere that impresses us with the worth and joy of living. Her characters are never caricatures; they are appealing and provoke the laughter that bears no malice.[11]

Writings and New Thought[edit]

Her metaphysical works began with her self-published The Game of Life and How to Play it in 1925. Your Word is Your Wand was published in 1928 and The Secret Door to Success in 1940.[6] After her death another two works were published, The Power Of The Spoken Word in 1945 by Shinn Press[12] and The Magic Path Of Intuition. This last book was published by Louise Hay in 2013 who received from a rare-books dealer a small, typewritten unpublished manuscript of the last writings of Florence Scovel Shinn, accompanied by a cover letter which said in part:

Several Months ago we came across a unique item from that collection that we think you may have an interest in. The item is an original typewritten manuscript by Florence Scovel Shinn, The Magic Path of Intuition. We're contacting you to see if you or Hay House have an interest in purchasing this rare original manuscript positioned to share its content with the world.[13]

The Game of Life and How to Play it includes quotes from the Bible and anecdotal explanations of the author's understanding of God and man. Her philosophy centers on the power of positive thought and usually includes instructions for verbal or physical affirmation.[citation needed]

"The Unitarians have such nice children's parties", a drawing published in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, 1904.
Childhood's Happy Hour, from Harper's Monthly magazine, August 1903.

One example typical of Scovel Shinn's advice was:

It is safe to say that all sickness and unhappiness come from the violation of the law of love. A new commandment I give unto you, "Love one another," and in the Game of Life, love or good-will takes every trick.[14]

Her advice is usually accompanied by a "real life" anecdote, as for the above "Love one another" advice:

A woman I know, had, for years an appearance of a terrible skin disease. The doctors told her it was incurable, and she was in despair. She was on the stage, and she feared she would soon have to give up her profession, and she had no other means of support. She, however, procured a good engagement, and on the opening night, made a great "hit". She received flattering notices from the critics, and was joyful and elated. The next day she received a notice of dismissal. A man in the cast had been jealous of her success and had caused her to be sent away. She felt hatred and resentment taking complete possession of her, and she cried out, "Oh God don't let me hate that man." That night she worked for hours "in the silence".
She said, "I soon came into a very deep silence. I seemed to be at peace with myself, with the man, and with the whole world. I continued this for two following nights, and on the third day I found I was healed completely of the skin disease!" In asking for love, or good will, she had fulfilled the law, ("for love is the fulfilling of the law") and the disease (which came from subconscious resentment) was wiped out.[14]

Her books Your Word Is Your Wand[15] and The Game of Life and How To Play It [16] were released as audiobooks in 2014 and 2015, respectively, with narration by actress Hillary Hawkins.[citation needed]

Shinn is considered part of the New Thought movement, as her writings follow in the tradition of Phineas Quimby (1802–1866), Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910), Emma Curtis Hopkins (1849–1925), and both Charles Fillmore (1854–1948) and Myrtle Fillmore (1845–1931), co-founders of the Unity Church.[citation needed]

Motivational author Louise Hay acknowledged her as an early influence.[17]


Published work during her life

Year Title
1925 The Game of Life and How to Play it
1928 Your Word is Your Wand
1940 The Secret Door to Success

Published work after her death[12][13]

Year Title
1945 The Power of the Spoken Word
1989 Collected works: F.S. Shinn, The Wisdom of Florence Scovel Shinn: Four complete books
2013 The Magic Path of Intuition


  1. ^ a b Gatlin, Linda; Edwards, Rita. "Promoting Authentic Learning through a Peaceful and Positive Perspective Archived 2008-12-03 at the Wayback Machine" in Journal of Authentic Learning, Vol. 4, No. 1 (2007). p2.
  2. ^ "Florence Scovel Shinn" in Encyclopedia Americana, 1961.
  3. ^ a b Mrs. Florence Shinn, Writer and Lecturer (obituary), The New York Times, October 18, 1940, p. 21.
  4. ^ Liebling, Leonard "Variations" Musical Courier November 5, 1932, v CV, n 19, p. 17.
  5. ^ The Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music edited by Stanley Sadie, entry Francis Hopkinson, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1988.
  6. ^ a b Florence Scovel Shinn Archived 2017-04-05 at the Wayback Machine at the New Thought Library
  7. ^ North, Elizabeth Lore, "Women Illustrators of Child Life" The Outlook October 1, 1904, v 78, n 5, pp. 276-77.
  8. ^ "Works of Florence Scovel Shinn".
  9. ^ Larson, Judy (1986). American Illustration 1890-1925: Romance, Adventure and Suspense. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Glenbow Museum. p. 72.
  10. ^ Grove, Jaleen. "A Brief History Of Sexism And The Illustration Industry". Ravishly. Retrieved 2016-12-10.
  11. ^ Biographical Sketches of American Artists compiled by Helen L. Earle, p. 157, Lansing, MI: Michigan State Library, 1912
  12. ^ a b Scovel Shinn, Florence (1945). The Power Of The Spoken Word. Shinn Press. p. 2. ISBN 9780875162607.
  13. ^ a b Scovel Shinn, Florence (2013). The Magic Path Of Intuition. Hay House. pp. viii. ISBN 9781401944155. Several Months ago we came across a unique item from that collection that we think you may have an interest in. The item is an original typewritten manuscript by Florence Scovel Shinn, The Magic Path of Intuition. We're contacting you to see if you or Hay House have an interest in purchasing this rare original manuscript positioned to share its content with the world.
  14. ^ a b The Game of Life and How to Play It, Chapter 3
  15. ^ "Your Word Is Your Wand".
  16. ^ "The Game of Life and How to Play It".
  17. ^ Mark Oppenheimer (May 4, 2008). "The Queen of the New Age". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2008-08-10.


The Cornish Colony:

  • Virginia Reed Colby, James B. Atkinson, Footprints of the Past, Images of Cornish, New Hampshire, and the Cornish Colony. New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, New Hampshire, 1996.

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