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. 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. 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).
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, Iowa.
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. 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 bestsellers list.
Hay wrote, on page 225 of her book (December 2008 printing), that it 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.