WHITE, ELLEN GOULD (HARMON) (18271915).
Ellen Gould Harmon was born Nov. 26, 1827, in a farm home
north of the village of Gorham, Maine, just west of the city of Portland. Her
parents, Robert Harmon and Eunice Gould Harmon, were of sturdy New England stock
with British ancestry. Ellen and her twin sister, Elizabeth (not identical),
were the youngest children. There were four older sisters and two older
brothers. When Ellen and Elizabeth were still children, the Harmon family moved
into the city of Portland and resided in their own home at 44 Clark Street,
where Robert Harmon engaged in hat making.
Ellen was a cheerful, buoyant, active child. At the age of 9,
while returning home one afternoon from the public school on Brackett Street,
she was injured by a stone thrown by a classmate. She suffered a broken nose
and, in all probability, a concussion, for the injury was followed by three
weeks of unconsciousness. The experience left her disfigured, ill, and
debilitated. For two years she was unable to breathe through her nose, and could
attend school but little. She was nervous and unable to hold her hand
sufficiently steady to write, and the effort to read made her dizzy. She made a
brief last attempt at school at about the age of 12, and again suffered failing
health. Physicians gave little hope of recovery. Thus her formal education may
be said to have closed when she was 9. However, her wise and frugal parents did
not allow her to grow up in useless ignorance. From her mother she received a
thorough practical training, and, as she was able, she assisted her father in
hatmaking. Her later education came from reading and from contacts with others.
Early Christian Experience. The Harmons
were members of the Pine Street Methodist Church, of which Robert Harmon was a
deacon. In March 1840 Ellen and other members of the family heard William Miller
lecturing in Portland and accepted his views on the second advent of Christ
about the year 1843. At the Methodist camp meeting held at nearby Buxton, Maine,
a few months later, she gave her heart to God. On June 26, 1842, she was
baptised in Casco Bay, at her request by immersion, and the same day was
received into the Methodist Church.
Ellen was an earnest young Christian, working for the
conversion of her youthful associates. When she was able she toiled long hours
at hatmaking in her home, and often denied herself that she might obtain means
with which to spread the message of the Second Advent. In September 1843,
because of their Adventist views, she and her parents and other members of the
family were disfellowshipped from the Pine Street Methodist Church.
At the time of the Millerites disappointment in the spring
of 1844 and again on Oct. 22, she was deeply affected and, with others, sought
God earnestly for light and guidance in the succeeding days of perplexity.
Her First Vision. One morning in
December 1844, at a time when many Millerites were wavering in their faith and
others were disavowing their recent experience, Ellen Harmon joined four other
women in family worship at the home of a close friend, Mrs. Haines, in south
Portland. While the group was praying, she experienced her first vision, in
which she witnessed a representation of the travels of the Adventist people to
the City of God (EW 1317; 1T 5861; LS 6467). She was only 17 years old at the
time. When she related this vision to the Adventist group in Portland, they
accepted it as light from God. In response to a later vision, Ellen reluctantly
started out, travelling with friends and relatives as opportunity afforded, to
relate to the scattered companies of Adventists what she had seen in the first
and other visions that followed.
Marriage to James White. On a trip to
Orrington, Maine, early in 1845, Ellen met James White, an Adventist preacher
then 23 years of age. He had known of her as a devoted and active Christian
among the Portland Adventists. As their work occasionally brought the two
together, an attachment developed that led to their marriage at Portland, Maine.
Of this James White wrote: "We were married August 30, 1846, and from that hour
to the present she has been my crown of rejoicing. I first met her in the city
of Portland in the State of Maine. She was then a Christian of the most devoted
type. And although but sixteen, she was a labourer in the cause of Christ in
public and from house to house. She was a decided Adventist, and yet her
experience was so rich and her testimony so powerful that ministers and leading
men of different churches sought her labours as an exhorter in their several
congregations. But at that time she was very timid, and little thought that she
was to be brought before the public to speak to thousands" (James White and
Ellen White, Life Sketches . . . of Elder James White, and His Wife, Mrs.
Ellen White, pp. 125, 126).
About this time James and Ellen White gave earnest study to
the question of the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath as advocated by Joseph
Bates, who had issued a 48-page pamphlet in New Bedford, Massachusetts, setting
forth the scriptural evidence for the sacredness of the seventh day. Becoming
convinced that the views presented were biblically supported, the Whites began
to observe the Sabbath in the autumn of 1846. Some months later, on Sabbath,
Apr. 3, 1847, Ellen White saw in vision the law of God in the ark of the
heavenly sanctuary with a halo of light encircling the fourth commandment (EW
32, 33). This view confirmed the confidence of the Sabbathkeeping Adventists in
their position and brought a clearer understanding of the Sabbaths
For the first few years after their marriage, James and Ellen
White were stricken with poverty and were often in distress. During this period,
before church organisation was effected and before regular support of the
ministry was provided, ministers in the cause of the Sabbath and the Second
Advent were dependent upon the labours of their own hands for their financial
support. James Whites time was divided between travelling and preaching, and
earning a living in the forest, in railroad construction, or in the hayfield.
Their first child, Henry Nichols, was born Aug. 26, 1847. His
presence brought joy and comfort to the young mother, but Ellen White soon found
she must at times leave her child with trusted friends and continue her work of
travelling and bearing the messages God had given to her.
"We must sacrifice the company of our little Henry, and go
forth to give ourselves unreservedly to the work. My health was very poor, and
should I take my child, he would necessarily occupy a large share of my time. It
was a severe trial, yet I dared not let him stand in the way of duty. I believed
that the Lord had spared him to us when he was very sick, and that if I should
let him hinder me from doing my duty, God would remove him from me. Alone before
the Lord, with a sorrowful heart and many tears, I made the sacrifice, and gave
up my only child to be cared for by another" (LS 120).
Travelling and Publishing. The record of
the next few years is one of travelling, visiting the "scattered flock,"
attending general meetings, and writing. The first of these general meetings, or
conferences, held by "friends of the Sabbath" was held in the spring of 1848.
The Whites attended five or six such conferences in 1848 (see Sabbath
Conferences) and others subsequently, during which the basic doctrines now held
by SDAs were brought together. At times during these meetings, groups of the
leaders met in sessions of Bible study. When opinions were divided, Mrs. Whites
visions corrected error and identified truth. This led to confidence in the
positions taken by the pioneers as the result of Bible study.
In the sixth conference, held in November 1848, Ellen White had a vision instructing her that her husband must begin to "print a
little paper." In July 1849 James White, living at that time in Rocky Hill,
Connecticut, arranged at nearby Middletown for the printing of The Present
Truth, the first journal published by the Sabbathkeeping Adventists. The
eight-page issues appeared at irregular intervals. There was only one volume of
11 issues, which was completed in 17 months. The later numbers carried articles
from her pen, setting forth prophetic views of the future experience of the
people of God and sounding notes of warning and counsel.
In July 1849 a second son, James Edson, was born at Rocky
In July 1851 James White published Mrs. Whites first
pamphlet, of 64 pages, entitled A Sketch of the Christian Experience and
Views of Ellen White. This was followed in 1854 by a 48-page Supplement.
These now form a part of the currently available Early Writings (pages
The days of the beginnings of the Review and Herald,
in 1850, and the Youths Instructor, in 1852, were trying ones for the Whites.
During the years 18521855, the publishing of the papers was carried on in
Rochester, New York. A handpress was purchased and installed in 1852.
A rented building in the outskirts of the city, which at
first served both as home and printing office, became the headquarters of the
work. Money was scarce. Mrs. White described their privations thus: "We are just
getting settled in Rochester. We have rented an old house for one hundred and
seventy-five dollars a year. We have the press in the house. Were it not for
this, we should have to pay fifty dollars a year for office room. You would
smile could you look in upon us and see our furniture. We have bought two old
bedsteads for twenty-five cents each. My husband brought me home six old chairs,
no two of them alike, for which he paid one dollar, and soon he presented me
with four more old chairs without any seating, for which he paid sixty-two
cents. The frames are strong, and I have been seating them with drilling. Butter
is so high that we do not purchase it, neither can we afford potatoes. We use
sauce in the place of butter, and turnips for potatoes. Our first meals were
taken on a fireboard placed upon two empty flour barrels. We are willing to
endure privations if the work of God can be advanced. We believe the Lords hand
was in our coming to this place" (Life Sketches of Ellen White, p.
The workers in the press, except the hired printer-foreman,
lived with the Whites and worked for a trifle more than room and board.
Sickness, death from plague, and bereavement played their part in bringing
distress, sorrow, and discouragement to the Review and Herald staff. In August
1854, in the midst of these distressing times, a third son, William Clarence,
was born to the Whites.
Move to Battle Creek, Michigan.
November 1855 the Review and Herald, with the handpress and other scanty
printing equipment, together with the small stock of books and pamphlets, was
moved from Rochester, New York, to a newly erected building on the western edge
of Battle Creek, Michigan. This move was in response to an invitation by
Sabbathkeeping Adventists in Michigan who offered to build and donate a little
Not long after this move, a conference was held to consider
plans for the advancement of the cause. At the close of this general meeting,
Mrs. White had a vision in which a number of matters of importance to the church
at large were revealed to her. These she wrote out and read the next Sabbath
evening to the Battle Creek members in a newly erected church building. As the
message was read, the hearers recognised that the communication would benefit
all groups of Sabbathkeeping Adventists, and they voted that what had been read
in their hearing should be published. The resultant 16-page pamphlet, printed on
the handpress, bore the title "Testimony for the Church" (1T 113126). This was
the first of a series of writings that grew to nearly 5,000 pages in 55 years
and assumed the form of the current nine volumes of Testimonies for the Church.
The Whites settled in Battle Creek, but the record of the
next few years shows them occupied in firmly establishing the publishing work
and developing a church organisation, going on frequent journeys by train, by
wagon, by sleigh, suffering often from cold or heat, and sometimes from hunger
on long journeys through sparsely settled country. It is a story of Gods
protection from danger, of discouragement under attack, and also of great
encouragement as they witnessed the power of God bringing spiritual victory into
the lives of the growing flock of adherents and success to the wearing labours
of those who were spearheading the evangelistic thrust of the movement.
On Mar. 14, 1858, while at Lovetts Grove, Ohio, near Bowling
Green, Mrs. White had a two-hour vision in which she saw events in the great
conflict between the forces of righteousness and the forces of evil, spanning
the ages from the fall of Lucifer from heaven to the new earth. Instructed to
write out what was presented to her, she undertook the preparation of the
manuscript, which was published in September as a 219-page book, Spiritual
Gifts, volume 1. The title page gave the full title as The Great
Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels. The
volume, being small, could touch only certain areas of the agelong conflict, and
emphasised high points, especially the closing scenes. (See EW 133295, and
facsimile reprint of original volume.)
The preparation of more comprehensive presentations of the
"great controversy" theme to be published in large and widely circulated volumes
was a task to which Mrs. White applied herself from time to time to the close of
Ellen White at Home in Battle Creek.
After the move to Battle Creek, James White, with the aid of his brethren,
secured a 1.5-acre (.5-hectare) lot in the west end of the town and erected a
frame cottagethe first home the peripatetic couple ever owned. Ellen Whites
letters and diaries for the late fifties reveal that not all her time was
devoted to writing and public work. They mention making "a pair of pants" and "a
coat for Edson" (her second child, age 9); "making a garden for my children,"
because she wanted home to be "the pleasantest place of any to them"; having
friendly contacts with neighbours, especially those in need; buying baby clothes
for a poor family; and occasionally helping to fold and stitch papers and
pamphlets when there was pressing work at the Review office.
A familiar figure in Battle Creek, she was short of stature
(five feet two inches) and slight of build, with a rather dark complexion, brown
hair, and grey eyes, cheerful in disposition, unselfish, and outgoing. She was
known as a careful housewife, a sensible buyer, a hospitable host, a forceful
public speaker, and a thoughtful mother, who became homesick for her family
while on journeys, yet let nothing deter her from her duties either in the home
or in the gospel field. From other times and places come further
reminiscencesthe astonishment of passers-by, who had been accustomed to hearing
her preach, when they saw her working with her young son and her ailing husband,
raking and loading hay, and standing atop a half-finished haystack treading it
down; the gratitude of long-term guests in her house (young people in need of a
home, adults in misfortune); the picture of seeing Mrs. White leading her cow
down a country lane to a neighbour whose children needed milk; and, at the end
of her life, the California wine growers near Elmshaven remembering "the little
old woman with white hair, who always spoke so lovingly of Jesus."
With the birth of a fourth son, John Herbert, Sept. 20, 1860,
the White family numbered six, with four boys, the oldest 13 years of age. John,
however, lived only a few months. His death, caused by erysipelas, made the
first break in the family circle.
During the early 1860s, the years of establishing church and
conference organisations, there were demands for writing, travelling, and
Health Reform. The first weekend of June 1863, shortly
after the organisation of the General Conference (in May 1863), the Whites
visited Otsego, Michigan. There Mrs. White had a comprehensive vision far
reaching in its implications. It compassed the broad field of health and
preventive medicine, and touched the high points of the causes of disease, the
care of the sick, remedial agencies, nutrition, stimulants and narcotics, child
care, and healthful attire. The vision stressed the obligation of each person to
give intelligent attention to health of body and mind. (See Health
Before that, Seventh-day Adventists had given little thought
to health matters. True, there were at that time a number of persons in the
United States and other countries who were advocating reforms in the matter of
healthful living. But of this sort of reform, SDAs, occupied with their Sabbath
and Advent messages, had been in general unmindful. Mrs. White tells how she, a
heavy meat eater, had quite a struggle with herself to learn to eat graham
bread, simple food, and a vegetable diet, and how, as a result, her health
improved. Shortly a program of health education was inaugurated in SDA ranks. As
an introductory step, six pamphlets entitled Health; or, How to Live were
published in 1865, compiled from various authors by James White. An article from
Mrs. Whites pen appeared in each of the pamphlets (reprinted in 2SM 411479).
The Whites not only employed simple, rational methods of home
treatment but also helped their neighbours by similar methods, using "water
treatments" such as they had observed at a health institution at Dansville, New
The importance of health reform was greatly impressed upon
the early leaders through Henry Whites death from pneumonia in 1863 at the age
of 16, James Whites stroke in 1865, which largely incapacitated him for three
years, and through the physical ailments of a number of ministers.
On Dec. 25, 1865, came Mrs. Whites message that Seventh-day
Adventists should establish an institution to care for the sick and teach the
patients the principles of healthful living (1T 489). The Western Health Reform
Institute, later known as the Battle Creek Sanatorium, was opened in September
The Whites were in and out of Battle Creek from 1865 to 1868.
During this time James Whites deteriorated physical condition led them to
retire to a little farm near Greenville, Michigan, where Mrs. White made her
husbands recovery her first work. This drew heavily on her time and strength.
Away from the pressing duties of the headquarters of the growing church, she had
the opportunity of visiting many of the smaller churches and some opportunity to
write. She wrote many important testimonies and began to broaden the
presentation of the "conflict of the ages" story as repeatedly she had seen it
more fully in many revelations. In 1870 The Spirit of Prophecy, volume 1, was
published, carrying the story from the fall of Lucifer and the Creation to the
time of Solomon.
As James White gradually regained physical strength, he too
had opportunity to review the advancement of the work and to study plans for its
Work of the Movement Expands. The
success of the first Seventh-day Adventist camp meeting, held at Wright,
Michigan, in the late summer of 1868, led to broader plans for other camp
meetings in succeeding years. Mrs. White joined her husband in taking an active
part, not only in laying the plans for these meetings but also in attending,
from summer to summer, as many as their time and strength would permit. She did
her full share of preaching and personal work, and as she could, continued her
The winter of 18721873 found the Whites in northern
California in the interest of the newly established work of the church on the
Pacific Coast. This was the first of several extended Western visits made during
the next seven years. While in the West Mrs. White had, on Apr. 1, 1874, a
comprehensive vision portraying the future broadening and development of the
work of SDAs, not only in the Western states but also in overseas lands. A few
weeks later, when tent meetings were opened in Oakland, California, James White
began the publication of a weekly journal, Signs of the Times, to which
Mrs. White contributed articles. Some 2,000 articles from her pen appeared in
the Signs by the time of her death.
Battle Creek College.
In the late summer
and fall of 1874 the Whites were back in Michigan, attending the General
Conference session, holding services, writing, and assisting with the Biblical
Institute. Mrs. White took a prominent part in the dedication, on Jan. 4, 1875,
of Battle Creek College, the first SDA educational institution. Addressing a
group who had gathered from a number of states, she related what she had seen in
vision on the afternoon of Jan. 3. In it she had been given a picture of the
larger work that Seventh-day Adventists needed to accomplish. She told of seeing
printing presses operating in other lands and a well-organised work developing
in vast world territories that SDAs up to that time had never thought of
entering. Although the countries to be entered, except Australia, were not
identified, she declared that if she should ever see the printing presses shown
to her in the vision she would recognise them.
Writing and Travelling. During the next
few years a portion of Mrs. Whites time was occupied in writing the part of the
conflict story that deals with the life of Christ and the work of the apostles,
volumes 2 and 3 of The Spirit of Prophecy (published 1877 and 1878).
James White was busily engaged not only in establishing the Pacific Press in
Oakland but also in raising money to enlarge the Battle Creek Sanatorium and to
build the Tabernacle in Battle Creek to house the large congregation there and
to provide a place of meeting for large general church meetings.
When Mrs. White visited the newly founded health institution
near St. Helena, California, some time after its opening in 1878, she told those
with her that she had seen those buildings and surroundings in the 1874 view of
the broadening work on the West Coast.
During the camp meetings of the late 1870s, Mrs. White
addressed many large audiences. Her clear voice could be heard by thousands.
Reports in the public press estimated the attendance at Groveland,
Massachusetts, on Sunday, Aug. 27, 1876, to be between 15,000 and 20,000
persons. On the same site the next year, she spoke to an audience estimated to
be as large or larger. Her topic on both occasions was Christian temperance in
its broad aspects. During this period her travels took her east and west and
into the Pacific Northwest. She was writing continually, attending General
Conference sessions, appearing before temperance groups, and speaking at camp
meetings, in churches, and even at the town square and in the state prison.
Her husbands failing health led them to spend the winter of
18781879 in Texas. There were periods during the next two years when he was
quite well and able to continue with his work, but there were periods when he
could not. His long years of mental and physical overwork had diminished his
life forces. After an acute illness of less than a week, diagnosed as malarial
fever, he died in the Battle Creek Sanatorium on Sabbath afternoon, Aug. 6,
1881. He was 60 years of age. Standing by the side of her husbands casket at
the funeral service in the Battle Creek Tabernacle a week later, Ellen White
pledged herself to press on in the work that had been entrusted to her, despite
the loss of her husband.
Soon Mrs. White was again on the Pacific Coast. Although she
felt keenly the loss of her companion, she busily engaged in writing the fourth
and last volume of The Spirit of Prophecy, presenting the conflict story
from the destruction of Jerusalem to the close of time. When this long-awaited
506-page volume came from the press in 1884, it was well received. An
illustrated edition for sale by colporteurs to the general public was published
soon after, carrying the title The Great Controversy Between Christ and
Satan. Within a brief three-year period 50,000 copies were printed and sold.
Two Years in Europe.
At the second
session of the European Missionary Council, held in mid-1884, a resolution was
adopted inviting Mrs. White, accompanied by her son, W. C. White, to visit the
European missions. As the time neared for the journey in the summer of 1885, it
seemed that her physical condition would prevent her going. However, obedient to
what seemed duty, she embarked on the journey, was benefited physically, and
spent from August 1885 to August 1887 in the European countries.
From Basel, Switzerland, then the headquarters of the work of
the church in Europe, Mrs. White made repeated trips to England, Germany,
France, Italy, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Of particular interest to her were
the three visits to the Waldensian valleys in northern Italy, where she viewed
with her natural sight several places she had seen in visions relating to
incidents in the Middle Ages and the time of the Reformation.
In Basel, Switzerland, and in Christiania (now Oslo), Norway,
Mrs. White recognised the printing presses she had seen in the comprehensive
vision of Jan. 3, 1875, in which she was shown presses operating in overseas
lands. While abroad she gave valuable counsel that helped to establish right
policies and plans in the formative days of the work in that area.
While Mrs. White was in Europe requests were made for
European translations of the recently issued Spirit of Prophecy, volume
4, The Great Controversy. Since the book had proved saleable to the
general public, she felt that she should write out more fully what had been
presented to her, and so she undertook the work of expanding the contents. The
result was the enlarged book The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
During the Christian Dispensation, first published in the spring of 1888. As she
prepared the manuscript for this book the plan evolved for making it a part of a
five-book series presenting the controversy throughout the period of world
Back again in the United States, Mrs. White settled at
Healdsburg, California. She attended the important General Conference session of
1888, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at which she made nine major addresses. After
this, she travelled for several months preaching in the churches on the subject
of righteousness by faith. During this same period she worked on the preparation
of Patriarchs and Prophets (published 1890), volume 1 of the Conflict of
the Ages Series. The manuscript for Steps to Christ was prepared in 1891.
Called to Australia. At the General
Conference session of 1891, held in March in Battle Creek, an urgent call was
presented for Mrs. White to visit the newly entered field of Australia.
Responding to this appeal, she reached Australia in late December 1891,
accompanied by her son, W. C. White, and several of her literary assistants. Her
presence in the Australasian field was much appreciated by the new members, and
her messages of counsel regarding the developing work proved highly beneficial
in firmly establishing the denomination in this southern continent. On her visit
to the publishing house in Melbourne, she recognised another of the printing
presses she had seen in the vision of January 1875.
During the winter of 1892 Mrs. White suffered for many months
with inflammatory rheumatism, but insisted on meeting speaking appointments even
if she must speak while seated, and on writing even if her arm must rest on a
pillow. She spent most of 1893 in New Zealand.
Important Developments in Australia.
long after her arrival in Australia, Mrs. White clearly saw the urgent need for
the education of SDA young people in a church-operated school where workers
would be trained for service at home and in the island fields. In response to
her many strong appeals, the members set out to establish a school, at first in
temporary rented quarters in Melbourne and then on a permanent campus in the
country (see Avondale College). To give encouragement to those in this
pioneer enterprise and to set an example in land cultivation, she purchased a
66-acre (27-hectare) tract nearby and made her home (Sunnyside) beside the new
school. This institution, she declared, was to be a pattern of what SDA
educational work should be.
When an advanced step in organisation was taken early in 1894
in order that the growing church in the Australian field might be more
efficiently administered, Mrs. White encouraged it. It was at this time that, in
counsel with O. A. Olsen, president of the General Conference who was then
visiting Australia, the local conferences of the territory united to form a
union conference, the first in the denomination.
In spite of her many interests in the local work of this
pioneer field, Mrs. White found time to write thousands of pages, which crossed
the seas and brought timely counsel and direction to the leaders of the church.
The book Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers (1923) presents a
portion of this counsel. She also continued to furnish articles weekly for the
Review and Herald, Signs of the Times, and the Youths Instructor.
In 1898 her comprehensive work on the life of Christ, The Desire of Ages,
was published (as volume 3 of the Conflict of the Ages Series). Thoughts From
the Mount of Blessing, a study of the Sermon on the Mount, had preceded it
by two years, and Christs Object Lessons and Testimonies for the
Church, volume 6, followed in 1900.
Return to the United States. In 1900
Ellen White returned to America. Settling in north-western California, she
purchased Elmshaven, a country home a few miles from the town of St. Helena,
some 70 miles (110 kilometres) north of San Francisco. This property, which she
found available for a reasonable sum, consisted of a well-built seven-room home,
a cottage, a large barn with stock, and some 60 acres (25 hectares) of land
divided between orchard, vineyard, garden, hay land, pasture, and woodland. Here
she spent the 15 remaining years of her life in book preparation, writing, and
No sooner was she well settled at Elmshaven than she received
a call to attend the 1901 session of the General Conference in Battle Creek. At
this meeting she unhesitatingly bore her testimony calling for a reorganisation
of the General Conference, in order to provide adequately for its expanding
interests. A wider distribution of the growing responsibilities, which had to
that time been carried by only a few men at headquarters, was proposed. In a
courageous response, far-reaching in its ramifications, a sweeping
reorganisation was effected. Union conferences, intermediate between local
conferences and the General Conference, were organised, and General Conference
departments were arranged for. These steps led to rapid and sound expansion in
the work of the denomination.
Two years later, in the autumn of 1903, the General
Conference and the Review and Herald Publishing Association were moved from
Battle Creek, and in harmony with Mrs. Whites counsel that they should be near
the East Coast, they were established at Takoma Park, Washington, D.C. In 1904
Mrs. White spent five months in Takoma Park.
Busy Closing Years.
In 1904 Ellen White
personally helped to purchase the property for the Paradise Valley Sanatorium,
near San Diego, California. She attended the 1905 General Conference session, in
Takoma Park. A few months after her return, she published The Ministry of
Healing, a book dealing with the healing of the body, mind, and soul.
Education had preceded it in 1903, and volumes 7 and 8 of the Testimonies
for the Church had been issued in 1902 and 1904, respectively.
While in Washington in 1905, Ellen White encouraged the
purchase of the Loma Linda Sanatorium property in southern California. Shortly
afterward she urged the opening of educational work along medical missionary
lines on the Pacific Coast, declaring that at Loma Linda the church would
conduct its major educational institution in the West (see Loma Linda
University). Her pressing book work during the next few years was frequently
broken into by trips to Loma Linda to encourage the leaders there, and to
Paradise Valley Sanatorium.
Her journeys across the continent between 1901 and 1909 often
took her through the South, where the work of the church was slowly developing.
An appeal from her pen in 1891, followed in 1895 and 1896 by articles published
in the Review and Herald urging educational and evangelistic endeavours
for the neglected Black race, sparked a work in which her own son, James Edson
White, took an active part (see Morning Star; Southern Missionary
Society). She was keenly interested in the development of missionary endeavours
geared for most effective results in White and Black communities, and sent the
workers in this field many messages of counsel and encouragement. She lent
strong support to the establishment of Oakwood College, in Huntsville, Alabama,
for Black young people, and the Nashville Agricultural and Normal Institute,
near Madison, Tennessee, a privately operated training centre for mature White
young people (see Madison Institutions). The work of the church in the
South was of deep concern to her through the remaining years of her life.
At the age of 81 she was back in Washington again, attending
the General Conference session of 1909. A number of times she addressed the
conference, speaking in a clear, firm voice. After this meeting she made a
long-desired visit to her old home city of Portland, Maine. There she again bore
her testimony in the place where her work had begun 65 years earlier. The 1909
journey, her last trip to the Eastern states, stood out in the memory of many
SDAs who heard her speak as she travelled or who met her at the General
Conference session. On this five-month journey she spoke 72 times in 27
On returning home, realising that now her days were few, Mrs.
White devoted herself to completing for immediate publication a number of books
presenting essential instruction to the church. Testimonies for the Church,
volume 9, was published in late 1909, The Acts of the Apostles in 1911,
Counsels to Parents and Teachers in 1913, and the revised and enlarged
Gospel Workers in 1915. The closing active months of her life were devoted
to the later stages of work on Prophets and Kings, which was published
after her death. (The last named, with The Acts of the Apostles, completed the
five-volume Conflict of the Ages Series.)
In 1912, in her will, Ellen White appointed a board of
trustees (see Ellen White Estate, Incorporated) to have the future
care of her published writings and manuscript files. From 1912 on, her public
speaking gradually diminished, until it ceased. But even in the face of physical
infirmities her courage and confidence were constant.
Finally, on Sabbath morning, Feb. 13, 1915, as she was
entering her study at Elmshaven, she tripped and fell, suffering a hip fracture
(of the left femur). Confined to her bed and wheelchair for five months, she
suffered little or no pain, but as she neared the end she was often in coma. Her
words to friends and relatives during her closing weeks reflected cheerfulness,
a sense of having faithfully performed the work the Lord had entrusted to her,
confidence that Gods work would advance to its final triumph, but, on the other
hand, anxiety that the individual members of the church should sense the times
in which they were living and make the earnest preparation needful to meet the
Lord at His coming. Her final message, which concerned the literature read by
young people, was given Mar. 3, 1915.
Ellen White died on July 16, 1915, at the ripe age of 87
years. Three simple funeral services were held, one at Elmshaven, the second at
Richmond, California, during a camp meeting, and the last at the Battle Creek,
Michigan, Tabernacle. She was laid to rest July 24 at the side of her husband in
the Oak Hill Cemetery at Battle Creek. In the public press in various parts of
the United States, liberal space and favourable notice were given to her death,
in many cases including a review of her life and work and the wide influence of
her ministry. She had served the Lord and her church as His chosen instrument
for seven decades. She lived to see the movement grow from a handful of
believers to a world-wide congregation with a membership of 136,879.
Mrs. Whites total
literary production was unusually large. (See White, Ellen G., Writings
of, and Comprehensive Index to the Writings of Ellen White, vol. 3,
pp. 31933210, "Appendix D, Editions of Ellen White Books.") She did all her
writing in longhand, often writing early in the morning while others slept, and
taking advantage of almost every free moment at home or on her journeys. She
employed as aides devoted literary assistantsat first her husband, as he could
spare the time, and later an employed staff who copied the materials, making
such corrections in spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, and grammar as are
ordinarily the work of copy editors. Carefully devised rules to safeguard the
authenticity of the materials they handled, as well as a final careful reading
by Mrs. White, ensured a finished product that was truly the authors.
At the time of her death her literary productions consisted
of more than 100,000 pages: 24 books in current circulation; two book
manuscripts ready for publication; 5,000 periodical articles in the journals of
the church; 200 or more out-of-print tracts and pamphlets; 6,000 typewritten
manuscript documents consisting of letters and general manuscripts, aggregating
approximately 35,000 typewritten pages; 2,000 hand-written letters and documents
and diaries, journals, et cetera, when copied comprising 15,000 typewritten
Mrs. White received a royalty on her literary productions,
all of which she used in meeting the expense of her work, literary staff,
supplies, etc., and in meeting such "initial expense" on her books as
typesetting, platemaking, and illustrating, and in the missionary work of the
church. All royalty incomes today are the property of the church.
Ellen Whites Position in the Church.
Not assuming the title of prophet, Mrs. White maintained that she was the Lords
messenger, bearing His message to the people. At the same time, she recognised
that her work embodied that of a prophet but much more than that. (see 1SM 31, 32). She was not ordained
by the laying on of hands. Her name appeared, however, in the ministerial lists
of such official publications as the Yearbook. She did not hold office
either in a local church or in any conference, including the General Conference.
She attended the sessions as a delegate. After the death of James White, in
August 1881, she was paid a salary equivalent to that paid an officer of the
General Conference. She was not a member of conference committees or of boards
of church-owned institutions.
The church repeatedly, in official actions in General
Conference session and unofficially at all times, has recognised Ellen White as
having been called in a special manner as the messenger of the Lord.