Cofounder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, writer, lecturer, and counselor to the church, who possessed what Seventh-day Adventists have accepted as the prophetic gift described in the Bible (see Spirit of Prophecy).
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 hatmaking.
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 baptized 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 13–17; 1T 58–61;LS 64–67). 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, traveling 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 laborer 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 labors 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 G. White, Life Sketches . . . of Elder James White, and His Wife, Mrs. Ellen G. 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 Sabbath’s significance.
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 organization 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 labors of their own hands for their financial support. James White’s time was divided between traveling 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 traveling 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).
Traveling and Publishing. The record of the next few years is one of traveling, 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. White’s 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 G. 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 Hill, Connecticut.
In July 1851 James White published Mrs. White’s first pamphlet, of 64 pages, entitled A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White. This was followed in 1854 by a 48-page Supplement. These now form a part of the currently available Early Writings (pages 11–127).
The days of the beginnings of the Review and Herald, in 1850, and the Youth’s Instructor, in 1852, were trying ones for the Whites. During the years 1852–1855, 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 Lord’s hand was in our coming to this place” (Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, p. 142).
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. In 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 printing house.
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 recognized 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 113–126). 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 organization, 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 God’s 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 labors of those who were spearheading the evangelistic thrust of the movement.
On Mar. 14, 1858, while at Lovett’s 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 emphasized high points, especially the closing scenes. (See EW 133–295, 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 her life.
Ellen G. 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 cottage—the first home the peripatetic couple ever owned. Ellen G. White’s 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 neighbors, 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.
Afamiliar 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 gray 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 reminiscences—the astonishment of passersby, 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 neighbor 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 organizations, there were demands for writing, traveling, and personal work.
Health Reform. The first weekend of June 1863, shortly after the organization 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 Principles.)
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. White’s pen appeared in each of the pamphlets (reprinted in 2SM 411–479).
The Whites not only employed simple, rational methods of home treatment but also helped their neighbors by similar methods, using “water treatments” such as they had observed at a health institution at Dansville, New York.
The importance of health reform was greatly impressed upon the early leaders through Henry White’s death from pneumonia in 1863 at the age of 16, James White’s 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. White’s 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 Sanitarium, was opened in September 1866.
The Whites were in and out of Battle Creek from 1865 to 1868. During this time James White’s deteriorated physical condition led them to retire to a little farm near Greenville, Michigan, where Mrs. White made her husband’s 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 extension.
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 writing.
The winter of 1872–1873 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-organized 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 recognize them.
Writing and Traveling. During the next few years a portion of Mrs. White’s 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 Sanitarium 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 husband’s failing health led them to spend the winter of 1878–1879 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 Sanitarium on Sabbath afternoon, Aug. 6, 1881. He was 60 years of age. Standing by the side of her husband’s 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 recognized 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 salable 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 history.
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 traveled 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 recognized 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. Not 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 organization 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 Youth’s 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 Christ’s 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 northwestern California, she purchased Elmshaven, a country home a few miles from the town of St. Helena, some 70 miles (110 kilometers) 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 personal work.
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 reorganization 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 reorganization was effected. Union conferences, intermediate between local conferences and the General Conference, were organized, 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. White’s 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 Sanitarium, 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 Sanitarium 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 Sanitarium.
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 endeavors 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 endeavors 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 center 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 traveled or who met her at the General Conference session. On this five-month journey she spoke 72 times in 27 different places.
On returning home, realizing 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 G. 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 God’s 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 favorable 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 worldwide congregation with a membership of 136,879.
Literary Output. Mrs. White’s total literary production was unusually large. (See White, Ellen G., Writings of, and Comprehensive Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White, vol. 3, pp. 3193–3210, “Appendix D, Editions of Ellen G. 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 assistants—at first her husband, as he could spare the time, and later an employed staff who copied the materials, making such corrections in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, 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 author’s.
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 handwritten letters and documents and diaries, journals, et cetera, when copied comprising 15,000 typewritten pages.
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 White’s Position in the Church. Not assuming the title of prophet, Mrs. White maintained that she was the Lord’s messenger, bearing His message to the people. At the same time, she recognized that her work embodied that of a prophet (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 recognized Ellen White as having been called in a special manner as the messenger of the Lord.