Louise Lynn Hay (October 8, 1926 – August 30, 2017) was an American motivational author and the founder of Hay House. She authored several New Thought self-help books, including the 1984 book, You
Can Heal Your Life.
Born Helen Vera Lunney in Los Angeles to parents Henry John Lunney (1901–1998) and Veronica Chwala (1894–1985), Hay recounted her life story in an interview with Mark Oppenheimer of The New York Times in May 2008. In it, Hay stated that she was born in Los Angeles to
a poor mother who remarried Louise's violent stepfather Ernest Carl Wanzenreid 1903-1992, who physically abused her and her mother. According to Hay, when she was about 5, she was raped by a neighbor. At 15, she dropped out of University high school in Los
Angeles without a diploma, became pregnant and, on her 16th birthday, gave up her newborn baby girl for adoption. She then moved to Chicago, where she worked in low-paying jobs. In 1950, she moved on again, to New York. At this point she changed her first
name, and began a career as a fashion model. She achieved success, working for Bill Blass, Oleg Cassini and Pauline Trigère. In 1954, she married the English businessman Andrew Hay 1928-2001; after 14 years of marriage, she felt devastated when he left her for another
woman Sharman Douglas 1928-1996.
In the 1942 Modesto Junior College year book there is a picture of a lady
named "Lois Hayes" studying "Commercial" that closely resembles what we know today as Louise Hay. There is an autograph from "Lois Hayes" that also closely resembles the signature of Louise Hay's autograph. If Lois is actually who we know as Louise, she would
be 16 years of age in the picture. It also raises the question of only her first name being changed as well as her name being Hayes in 1942, then marrying in to the name Hay in 1950.
Hay said that about this time she found the First Church of Religious
Science on 48th Street, which taught her the transformative power of thought. Hay revealed that here she studied the New Thought works of authors like Florence Scovel Shinn, who claimed that positive thinking could change people’s material circumstances, and the Religious
Science founder Ernest Holmes, who taught that positive thinking could heal the body.
By Hay's account, in the early 1970s she became a Religious Science practitioner. In this role she led people in spoken affirmations, which she believes would cure their illnesses, and became popular as a workshop leader. She also recalled how she had studied Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the Maharishi International University in Fairfield,
Hay described how in 1977 or 1978 she was diagnosed with "incurable" cervical cancer, and how she came to the conclusion that by holding on to her resentment for her childhood abuse and rape she had contributed to its onset. She reported how she had refused conventional
medical treatment, and began a regime of forgiveness, coupled with therapy, nutrition, reflexology and occasional colonic enemas.
She claimed in the interview that she rid herself of the cancer by this method, but, while swearing to its truth, admitted that she had outlived every doctor who could confirm this story.
In 1976, Hay wrote her first book, Heal Your Body, which began as a small pamphlet containing a list of different bodily ailments and their “probable” metaphysical causes (inspired by works from John Frederick Demartini). This pamphlet was later enlarged and extended into her book You Can Heal Your Life, published in 1984. In February
2008, it was second on the New York Times miscellaneous paperback best-sellers list.
Around the same time she began leading support
groups for people living with HIV/AIDS, which she called "Hay Rides". These grew from a few people in her living room to hundreds of men in a large hall in West Hollywood, California. Her work with AIDS patients drew fame and she was invited to appear on The
Oprah Winfrey Show and The Phil Donahue Show in the same week, in March 1988. Following this, You Can Heal Your Life immediately landed on the New York Times best-seller list. More than 50 million copies sold around the world in over 30 languages and it also has been
made into a movie. You Can Heal Your Life is also included in the book 50 Self-Help Classics for being significant in its field.
Hay wrote, on page 225 of her book, (December
2008 printing) that the book has "... sold more than thirty five million copies".It was announced in 2011 that You Can Heal your Life had reached 40 million sales.
Louise Hay died in her sleep on the morning of August 30, 2017 at age 90.
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