Happy Birthday Ellen Gould Harmon White

Ellen Gould Harmon and her twin sister Elizabeth came into the world on this day (November 26) in 1827. Ellen married James Springer White on August 30, 1846. They had four sons. Only two, Edson and William, survived into adulthood.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2015/11/26/happy-birthday-ellen-gould-harmon-white

Is there any photograph of her smiling?

People didn’t smile for photos in those days. Any photo of Abraham Lincoln smiling?


It’s pretty hard to hold a smile for the length of time it took for an exposure using a Daguerreotype. I’ve noticed that in the vast majority of photos I’ve seen from that time period, no one is smiling.


What is known about her twin sister? Given the fact that she did not think her sister had the gift of prophecy, did she ever speak about Ellen?


There are a lot of good questions in this Spectrum comments blog about our Sister Ellen G. White that should be fodder for the White estate to respond to. This one question about her not smiling is a recurring one. Why didn’t EGW smile more for photographs?

Smiles are grimly absent from most early early photographs. Portraiture was at the heart of photography’s appeal from its very invention. In 1852, for instance, a girl posed for her Daguerreotype, her head slightly turned, giving the lens a steady, confident, unsmiling look. She is preserved forever as a very serious girl indeed. That severity is everywhere in Victorian photographs. Ellen G. White, by all accounts a serious person with a great sense of humor had a was a warm character and a loving, playful parent, looks frozen in glumness in photographs. Why did she become so serious hardly ever smiling in front of the lens? The apparently obvious answer, which others have already given in this bog thread, is – that they are freezing their faces in order to keep still for the long exposure times. This is not simply a technical quirk. It’s an aesthetic and emotional choice.

People in the past were not necessarily more gloomy than we are. EGW did not go around in a perpetual state of sorrow – though they might be forgiven for doing so. The severity of people in 19th-century photographs cannot be evidence of generalized gloom and depression. This was not a society in permanent despair. Instead, the true answer has to do with attitudes to portraiture itself. People who posed for early photographs, from earnest middle-class families recording their status to celebrities captured by the lens, and EGW, understood it as a significant moment. Photography was still rare. Having your picture taken was not something that happened every day. For many people it might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Oil portraits are not that packed with smiles, either. Rembrandt’s portraits would look very different if everyone was smiling in them.


I was about to say, isn’t she soooort of smiling in this photo?


“Happy Birthday” to someone long deceased should be a day of remembering her rather than the common birthday greeting. Or is she hearing them?

We should be thankful for FDR who made this day a national holiday.

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Her sister married Reuben Bangs, a grocer by trade, and remained a member of the Methodist Church the rest of her life. I haven’t discovered any direct quotes as to what Elizabeth thought about Ellen’s gift but obviously it did not persuade her to become an SDA. Perhaps others here have come across something that would address this issue directly.


A famous relative of Ellen’s was her nephew
Frank Beldon.
A very talented poet and hymn writer.
It was told to me that he, the choir director, could write a poem to go along with the sermon, compose the tune, and then it was sung as the closing hymn for service. And then he would give it to the pastor on the way out of church.
He is the one who put together the SDA hymnbook — Christ in Song.

Cassie. Every religious group has persons who misinterprets God.
Recently we had a church group that, along with the parents, beat this teen age son to death in church.
They were attempting to “cleanse” and “purify” him.
A lot of family abuse goes on in the name of Religion. No group is unaffected.


An astonishing legacy she left the world. One is hard-pressed to argue that God did not use her for much good. Just think about the world-wide institutions to which her pen and voice gave birth in education, healthcare, social justice and pastoral ministry. And, from my perspective, she wrote sensitively about the Christian life from a profound spiritual insight. Even if flawed, she is a treasure to the church and to the world.


You have to know that in her time there was no dental prosthetics. The accident she had with the rock thrown in her face or maybe just the ordinary dental caries, could have robbed her of her teeth. So I could agree with someone here on the tread - she is smiling but is also neatly covering her teeth.


What a lovely picture of Sister White in her earlier years.

Thank you for reminding us all of her birthday. Birthdays are the universal confirmation of one’s humanity. And Sister White’s role in the church then and today still it seems is her personification of God’s ongoing direct engagement with humanity.

My memory of her having a twin sister, Elizabeth, is so dusty and untended to, I’m pretty sure it was last touched decades ago. In fact, the only reason it seems a memory is it must have been, my growing up Seventh-day Adventist and experiencing 16 years of Seventh-day Adventist education. I simply note that my Seventh-day Adventist education in the 1950’s and 60’s did not memorably seek inspiration from Sister White’s family life. It was always her writing rather than her experience as a woman, a wife, a mother, and a social force in her times. Indeed, considering the veneration of her writing by the church then and still, for her to be considered one of the 100 most influential women in U.S. history almost feels like a demotion, a sacrilege even.

No matter the reasons for admiring Sister White, it is truly wonderful to be reminded of her birthday. Many thanks, again.

She set in motion a spiritually and emotionally abusive, developmentally damaging subculture that can never face or take responsibility for the damage it has done.

Perhaps she was mentally ill. But why celebrate such a tragic, futile journey? Why perpetuate it?

If I were Ellen White, and had faced the implications of my spiritual, social legacy, I would want you to begin at once to work to heal the damage I unwittingly inflicted on generations of Adventists, especially religiously terrorized children.

I would want you to celebrate my birthday by getting free of me.

I would want my spiritual heirs to become world leaders in the study of healing developmental trauma inflicted by ignorant religious people, and healing the effects of spiritual, mental, emotional, sexual, racial and financial abuse…

I would want you to put the children first, not the church.

The thing I would never wish for is hagiography.

I would long for the opportunity to face you all and make things right to the extent that I could, and I would
grieve deeply for the damage and pain I had caused.


In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision—the precious rays of light shining from the throne.
–Testimonies 5, p. 67

In my books, the truth is stated, barricaded by a ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ The Holy Spirit traced these truths upon my heart and mind as indelibly as the law was traced by the finger of God upon the tables of stone. --Letter 90, 1906

If you seek to turn aside the counsel of God to suit yourselves, if you lessen the confidence of God’s people in the testimonies He has sent them, you are rebelling against God as were Korah, Dathan, and Abriam.

You have their history. You know how stubborn they were in their own opinions. They decided that their judgment was better than that of Moses and that Moses was doing great injury to Israel. Those who united with them were so set in their opinions that, notwithstanding the judgments of God in a marked manner destroyed the leaders and the princes, the next morning the survivors came to Moses and said: “Ye have killed the people of the Lord.”

We see what fearful deception will come upon the human mind. How hard it is to convince souls that have become imbued with a spirit which is not of God. As Christ’s ambassador, I would say to you: Be careful what positions you take. This is God’s work, and you must render to Him an account for the manner in which you treat His message.
–Testimonies 5, p. 66.

God does nothing in partnership with Satan. My work for the past thirty years bears the stamp of God or the stamp of the enemy. There is no halfway work in the matter. The Testimonies are of the Spirit of God, or of the devil. In arraying yourself against the servants of God you are doing a work either for God or for the devil.
–Testimonies 4, p. 230

The passages where Ellen White seems to counsel the opposite of the above only serve as a double bind that makes Seventh-day Adventism a mentally dangerous place for people with sensitive consciences, damaged attachment histories and the inability to question authority. This can become literally life-threatening. It’s time to stop blaming people for “misusing” EGW who actually are only taking Ellen White at her unmistakable word.



EDIT: @efcee Regarding:

Please spare me the patronizing. Sympathy is beside the point, and not at all helpful. This is a systemically abusive organization that will continue to harm people spiritually, socially, mentally, emotionally and financially, and that template was set by Ellen G. White herself.

Because of Ellen G. White, the Seventh-day Adventist church is a cognitive swamp that can never on this earth be sorted out.

This isn’t about one person’s unfortunate, if isolated experience; this is about the fundamentally dishonest and abusive way the Adventist church is run, and always has been run, and will continue to be run.

It can’t be fixed.

If women are ordained, they potentially face the same fate as Desmond Ford and Walter Rea if they tell the truth. Ellen G. White made “truth” an ironic, meaningless word in the Adventist subculture.

Short of schism, Adventists are stuck with Ellen G. White and the 1844 cauldron of confusion. There is no help for it.

The ex-SDAs in the NAD probably equal the current SDAs. That continuing Stage IV Hemorrhage (“Survival is extremely unlikely”) should telegraph something about people’s experience of Adventism, I would think.

Adventist Review: Stats: Former members
The loss rate per 100 converts is 41—a constant hemorrhage that negatively affects church growth despite the steady influx of new converts.

I am not asking for “help.” I am neither surprised nor offended if people take offense at my words.

What “offends” me is that Adventism continues to mess with children’s minds and harm their development, or look the other way while others do.

That is sacrilege.


one thing i don’t think can be reasonably argued is that those who venerate egw will have a very different religion from those who don’t, even where the bible is venerated and closely studied…this existential quality is probably the greatest evidence for her divine inspiration…

but even among those who venerate egw, there are distinctly different species of understandings, depending on whether she is read and understood literalistically, or whether she is read and understood through wholistic, PBHC eyes…of course this same speciation is evident in terms of how the bible is read and understood…literalists, if they don’t actually pluck out their eye or cut off their hand on the basis of christ’s counsel in the sermon on the mount, will generally read egw in a way that can result in measurable psychological damage…a PBHC reader, on the other hand, will recognize that egw represents the very zenith of spirituality that has ever entered the world…her discussions are altogether on a different plane than what her critics have the capacity to imagine…even when she clearly uses the words of others, the overall product is in a different world…i think a transformation of mind is prerequisite to appreciating the greatness of egw…

She represents the very zenith of spirituality that ever entered the world? Jesus of Nazareth, the Word made flesh entered the world two thousand years ago. EGW trumps this and him?

Veneration isn’t a strong enough word for your stance, Jeremy!




Cassie, many argue that very same reason as to why we should rid ourselves of the Bible. They say it has caused much pain and suffering, and has put millions to death. So do we now say lets celebrate Christ’s birthday by freeing ourselves of His word? Of course not.


Your post will be deleted, as will mine (this article is not yet in the Lounge), but Cassie’s post was in very poor taste. The hatred exhibited toward this godly woman on a professedly SDA website is sad; a sign of the times.


Appreciate this reminder of her and her twin sister’s birthday having been in this date in 1827. A remarkable woman, very human and faulty like all of us, and whose ministry has been sadly misapplied and misunderstood. We need to keep looking to Jesus as she oft encouraged us to do.


some information can be found in “Adventist Pioneer Places: New York and New England” from Merlin D. Burt, page 9f
Maybe the following link might work: Goggle books - if not you can Google “Reuben Banks” to find it.

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