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by Josephine Benton

I had not been long in Montana before Elder Watt
commenced urging me to speak to the people.
Both he and Mr. Williams were very
much pleased with my first effort.

 —Helen Williams, 1922


 Urged to Preach:

Helen Williams

1868 to 1940

Licensed minister 1897 to 1914

Helen May Stanton arrested one's attention—a beautiful, golden-haired young woman who appeared never to lack self-assurance. She was born in 1868, the fourth child of a prosperous Michigan farmer. The family tree traced back to Secretary of State Stanton, who served under Abraham Lincoln.

From childhood Helen May showed a remarkable zest for living. This confident and intelligent girl went out to teach after graduating from high school at the age of 15.

At 17 the young teacher decided to further her education by attending Battle Creek College, located in her home state. She arrived for the 1885-86 school year to become part of a student body made up of 184 Ladies and 220 Gentlemen.

The Biblical Course for freshmen included English language, mathematics, Biblical lectures or missionary instruction, reading selections, and writing. Health care principles were central to the curriculum. Helen was preparing to share what she learned with people not familiar with the Bible teachings of her church.

Helen paid approximately 75 cents a week for tuition, 50 cents for room rent, and $1.75 for the week's meals. For the entire school year textbook costs ranged from $3 to $7, laundry cost $8.50, while fuel and oil ran about $6.60 annually. Those amounts were as great a sacrifice to parents in 1885 as tuition is for parents today. However, Mr. and Mrs. Stanton were glad to make it possible for Helen to attend the Seventh-day Adventist college.1

Helen helped to defray her expenses by working at Battle Creek Sanitarium, attending guests who had come for rest and therapy. She often served meals to Ellen G. White, who stopped over at the sanitarium frequently. Helen grew to like Mrs. White very much.

An anecdote recalled with considerable relish by Helen's son Elder Hugh Williams concerns his mother and church leader Ellen White.2 Helen Stanton had purchased a gray silk dress that, in the mode of the time, had a miniature train; some of the church elders criticized the dress, perhaps because it was fashionable. One day while wearing the gray dress, Helen entered Ellen White's room to deliver a meal. Mrs. White surprised Helen by requesting, "Turn around, honey, and let me see that dress." Holding her breath while waiting for whatever comment Mrs. White might make, Helen heard the words, "My, what lovely taste you have! That's a beautiful dress." After Helen made sure that the critical elders learned that Mrs. White approved her dress, she heard no more about it.

A flair for clothes and a naturally attractive appearance did not detract from Helen's dedication to God's service. Having deepened her commitment to share the gospel with the world, she finished her studies at Battle Creek and took employment in 1887 as a Bible worker for the Michigan Conference. Elder G. I. Butler, who issued the invitation to Miss Stanton, was president not only of the Michigan Conference but of the General Conference as well.

For two years Helen taught Biblical principles to people in Grand Rapids and Saginaw, preparing them for baptism. Then the General Conference asked her to move to Indianapolis. While faithfully giving Bible studies, Helen managed also to take college classes in Indianapolis. We do not know specifically what she studied; her son said perhaps speech or elocution, in which she became very competent.

Besides work and studies, Helen had still another important interest in life. Eugene Williams, whom she had met at Battle Creek College and who now was a licensed minister in the Michigan Conference, showed a growing attraction toward the golden-haired Bible worker. Eugene was the only son of James Williams, an immigrant from Wales who had become prosperous in Michigan as a bridge contractor.

Eugene was one year older than Helen. Although the geographical distance between the two increased when Eugene was transferred to the Montana Mission, the emotional bond grew closer.

In August 1890 Eugene Williams and Helen May Stanton were united in marriage; afterward they went to Yellowstone National Park for their honeymoon. Then Helen set up housekeeping with her new husband in Montana and worked alongside him in ministry.

Before Mrs. Williams had been in her new home long, the mission director, Elder Watt, urged her to hold evangelistic meetings. With delight she accepted the challenge. Both the mission president and her husband were pleased with the way Helen conducted her first effort.3

Why would a mission director in the early 1890s urge a young woman to hold meetings? First, Helen Williams was a person of unusual natural ability, an outstanding elocutionist at an early age. Giving readings was a form of community entertainment which she, in that era before television, had considerable experience in providing. Second, she had received professional training in Biblical principles and health ministry at Battle Creek College. Most importantly, add the guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit, and you find a woman called to the ministry. According to her son Hugh, Helen felt this call early and hoped that marrying a minister might help open doors for her to use her gifts in ministry.4

While she was still a Bible worker, Helen Stanton had become a popular camp meeting speaker. Ministers were in short supply on the frontier; young Helen Williams was needed as an evangelist.

While Helen and Eugene Williams built their united lives around the ministry, family was also important to them. In 1891 their first son, Irwin, was born. Not long afterward the Williamses moved back to Michigan in order to be near Eugene's father, who was ill; he lived just a few months longer. A second baby boy, Lewis, arrived in 1893 in the midst of his parents' busy ministerial activity.

Two years later the Williamses were asked to move to a community called Bell's Corners near Elsie, Michigan, to hold evangelistic meetings. In this small town only one house was available to rent, a dwelling hardly suitable for a minister's family with two children and another expected soon. Fortunately, compassionate women of the community gave the house a good scrubbing; by loving care they made it ready for the young ministerial family. The third son, Hugh, was born there in 1895.

In 1897 the Williamses moved to Grand Rapids, where Eugene pastored the Adventist congregation in the city while supervising the construction of a church. Helen preached intermittently, gave Bible studies, and assisted otherwise in the ministry as much as she could while bringing up three little boys.

Elder Williams became quite popular as a "marrying parson" throughout the Michigan Conference, which had a limited pastoral staff in the 1890s. He might be called away from his post of duty to conduct a wedding or funeral on very short notice. At such times Mrs. Williams could be counted on to preach for the Sabbath worship service or any other meeting in the Grand Rapids Church. More and more frequently this occurred.

On one occasion when Helen Williams was to fill the pulpit, the conference president, Elder J. D. Gowell, decided to come hear her preach. He entered unnoticed after the service was well under way, sat in the back, and managed to slip out at the end of the sermon without Helen's even knowing that he had come.

A day or two later Elder Gowell visited the Williamses in their home. Helen and Eugene were surprised to learn that the conference president had heard her sermon the previous Sabbath. To their great relief, he had been pleased.

Elder Gowell recommended that the Williamses hire a competent person to help with the house work and to look after the little boys, in order to allow Helen to work more for the conference than she had been able to do with all her home responsibilities. Elder Gowell promised that he would arrange at the coming conference session for Mrs. Williams to receive at least enough income to pay for the household help.

Helen found a baby-sitter, Clara, on whom she could depend. The president was better than his word. At the time of the conference session, Mrs. Williams was issued a ministerial license and paid retroactively for all the previous year.5 This appears to have occurred in 1897.

The usual adventures that occur in families with small children did not pass the Williamses by, as an incident related by Helen Williams' granddaughter shows.6 One day when Helen was baking bread, she found she needed yeast. Not being dressed to go out, she called three-year-old Hugh, folded his hand around two pennies, and asked him to go to the corner store for a package of yeast. He did as he was told. The man at the market took the pennies out of Hugh's hand and put in a cake of yeast.

Instead of turning the corner toward home, Hugh was daydreaming (he explained later) and just kept going. Not being able to find his house, he continued walking and walking. When at length he reached paved city streets, he began to cry because the hot pavement burned his feet.

A kind man noted Hugh's distress and helped him get back to the corner store. There the owner carefully laid the tired little boy down on bags of flour, where he immediately fell asleep, and called the police station.

The next thing that Hugh knew, he was being embraced by his parents, who were beaming because their missing little boy had been found. Hugh made up a little song about being lost and being found by Papa and Mama. Although the parents doubtless had misgivings about their skill in parenting just then, the three-year-old in that crisis celebrated the love in his home.

A family portrait from this period shows Eugene Williams, who was about 5 feet 6 inches in height, to be a handsome man with carefully groomed dark hair, mustache, and beard. Helen Williams, slightly shorter, was attractive with her blonde, wavy hair and blue eyes. All the boys were good looking, Irwin with dark hair and eyes like his father, Lewis with brown hair and hazel eyes, and little Hugh with blue eyes and curly golden locks.

Eugene Williams accepted a call to be superintendent of the North Michigan Mission; consequently, from Grand Rapids the Williamses moved north to Sault Sainte Marie. The journey was made by train. Father went first, to prepare the way. Later his wife and children came to join him. The children loved the long train ride to their new home, viewing the wild and beautiful country flying past the windows. The train was put on a ferry to cross the upper peninsula; this adventure provided a memory the children never forgot.7

Imagine the boys' excitement when father met them with a sleigh drawn by a horse, Patsy, that now belonged to their family! In the sleigh father took his family to their new home in D after. They lived seven miles from Sault Sainte Marie and the Canadian border, surrounded by woods and breathtaking beauty.

While Eugene proved himself an effective administrator, Helen preached on Sabbaths and continued to develop as a minister. In the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks for 1904 through 1906, both E. R. Williams and Mrs. E. R. Williams are listed, he as an ordained minister and she as a licensed minister of the Superior Mission and then the Lake Union Conference.8

A woman named Grace, who later became Mrs. Cremens, took care of the children. The family moved to a log cabin deep in the woods, where they could see deer and hear wolves and the neighborhood fox. As the parents ministered, the children accumulated childhood experiences in close contact with nature.

Later the Williamses lived in tents while they built a home on the edge of Sault Sainte Marie. This was a large house, part of which they rented out. From their home they could view the rapids on the river as it entered Lake Superior. The boys loved this home. They could go down to a shallow bay in which they could safely swim. With Dad's help the boys built a canoe in which they could all three ride together. During the summer they went fishing. Miss Arnet, Agnes White, and Miss Campbell, a Bible worker, took responsibility for the children at various times.

In 1905 Eugene decided that he needed to concentrate his efforts at Menominee (the other area in his mission at which there was an Adventist center); the family moved there, on the Wisconsin border. Following the custom of their new location, the boys looked in the forest until they found a very straight tree; using it for a mast, they made themselves an iceboat. Having two ministers for parents did not prevent the Williams boys from having an eventful, learning-filled childhood.

Eugene's and Helen's reputations grew, his as a pastor and administrator, hers as an outstanding speaker and licensed minister. In 1906 they both received calls to pastor churches in the Chicago area. Quite an adaptation must have been required of the entire family as they relocated from Northern Michigan to burgeoning Chicago; however, they seemed equal to the challenge. Helen pastored the Harvey Church while Eugene nurtured the West Side congregation. The maturing boys learned to get around the city on the "El," a system of elevated railways.

Since pastors were few, the conference president made a schedule for each minister to preach twice every Sabbath in different locations in the conference; consequently, Helen preached in a number of congregations. However, she concentrated her efforts during the week on her special assignment, the Harvey Church. Giving Bible studies faithfully two or three days a week, conducting regular prayer meetings, and providing an overall ministry, Helen Williams had the pleasure of seeing her congregation grow as she welcomed new converts.

Life for the woman pastor was not without periodic occurrences to test her equanimity. One day when Mrs. Williams went to the conference office, she was greeted by a secretary, Pearl Hallock, who said, "I want to talk with you." When they had found a place to converse, Pearl informed Helen, "Your name is not in the new Yearbook."

"Why not?" Pastor Williams inquired. "Did you not send it in with the others?"

"I thought I did—I am almost sure I did," Pearl answered, beginning to cry.

"Never mind," Helen assured her. "You are sure that I have a ministerial license?"

"Indeed I am."

"Are you sure that I am on the payroll?" Mrs. Williams asked.

"Yes," Miss Hallock assured her.

"Then what do we care about that old Yearbook?" the minister concluded. "If God has given me work to do, no man or set of men can take that work away from me. And if He has not, I do not want it." This ended the matter.9

Helen Williams was not dependent on status to function as a minister. She never heard an explanation about why her name, which had been listed with the other licensed ministers in the Yearbooks, ceased appearing for several years. In the 1907 Yearbook only E. R. Williams is listed. Yet Helen Williams' work continued, and she did receive a ministerial license.

Information concerning Mrs. Williams' ministry can be found in the Northern Illinois Recorder. In the Week of Prayer Appointments for the winter of 1906, Helen Williams had responsibility for the churches in Harvey, Elgin, and Hinsdale. When Mrs. Williams visited the Hinsdale Sanitarium Church on Sabbath, December 22, she was pleased to find a well organized Sabbath school numbering 25 people. She preached, and afterward almost everyone present added a testimony. Mrs. Williams wrote concerning the sanitarium workers, "As I looked into these happy and bright young faces, I prayed that God would keep them faithful to their calling, for they surely have access to a class of people that are not so easily reached by our other workers."10

During the summer of 1907 the Williamses moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to be part of a city evangelistic team. A few months later they accepted a call to the Cape Conference in South Africa.

Helen, always ready for adventure, enjoyed the trip to Africa. Letters she wrote to her parents during January 1908 from aboard ship provide glimpses of the journey. The voyage to England on the 725-foot Baltic was pleasant except for a bout with the flu that infected all members of the family except Irwin.

Helen described sailing by the beautiful country of Wales, resplendent with white houses and castles nestled among mountains, and then being surrounded by an impenetrable English fog.

In England the Williamses changed to the Union Castle Line to sail for South Africa. The ship, much smaller, ran into rough seas. Writing with difficulty while confined to her bunk because of the turbulence, Helen expressed appreciation for the two suitably appointed staterooms that she and her family were occupying. "I think that the General Conference is just lovely to us, don't you?" she asked her mom and dad. She described the generous and frequent meals, seven each day, adding that she and her husband bypassed most of them.

Helen referred to the periodic ringing of the ship's bell. "I suppose they had watches on the other boat, but they did not ring the bell at all," she observed. "It is rather nice, however, when you are being rocked in the cradle of the great deep, to have the bell say, 'All is well, all is well.' "11

A few months after arrival in South Africa, Elder Eugene Williams was elected president of the Cape Colony Conference. Helen Williams conducted mission work in Grahamstown, the city in which the family lived.

A fourth son, Eugene, was welcomed into the family in South Africa. Suitable native women were found to watch the children so that Helen Williams could continue preaching. She was well liked and recognized as a preacher in her own right. Her husband was known primarily as an administrator, admired and respected; as president of the conference, he showed remarkable organizational ability. It was generally conceded that his sermons and public speeches were not as compelling and effective as those of his wife. Fortunately, he was secure enough to be delighted with Helen's speaking abilities, welcoming the requests that came for her services. The two of them sometimes chuckled over the fact that people liked her speaking better.12

Mrs. Williams, sometimes assertive, was also humble, gracious, and willing to serve. She "made waves" now and then by expressing ideas that were a bit controversial, stirring people to think. However, her preaching was well founded in the Bible.

Pastor Williams spoke with extemporaneous delivery, from brief notes. She had a simple but effective filing system in which to keep her sermon notes. In a section labeled "Topical" is a set of handwritten notes on the subject of "Humility," consisting of numbered questions followed by Bible references.13

It begins as follows:


1. Where does God dwell? Isa. 57:15.
2. Is it natural for us to be humble? Rom. 8:7.
3. Why? Gen. 2:17, 3:6.
4. Is it reasonable that we should be humble? Rom. 12:1.

The tone of this Christ-centered sermon is buoyant. Speaking from brief notes allowed Mrs. Williams direct contact with her listeners. One can picture how through the inspiration of the Spirit she breathed life into this simple outline, adding illustrations, applications, and an appeal. Of striking appearance, she spoke with a compelling voice and dramatic ways, at the same time expressing thoughts that were spiritual and persuasive. To hear and see her was a memorable experience.

Helen Williams wrote later concerning this period of mission service that her ministerial license and her work continued without any break, but that her separate pay stopped upon her arrival in Africa. It is puzzling that she is not listed in the 1908-10 Yearbooks, because the family have Helen's ministerial licenses for 1908 and 1910, the first issued by the South African Union and signed by President W. S. Hyatt, the second issued by the Cape Colony Conference and signed by Mrs. Williams' husband, President E. R. Williams.

Elder Eugene Williams, in the midst of a busy itinerary, set aside Sunday, November 20, 1910, to spend with his two oldest sons. Irwin and Lewis had gone to sell Adventist books in Malmesbury, and their father knew that a visitor from home would be welcome. He bicycled from Worcester, where he had organized a church on Sabbath. The day was hot as Eugene Williams pedaled on his way, making good time. But about nine miles from Worcester "he fell prostrate by the roadside with apoplexy, where he was found a few hours later by a passing stranger."14 Irwin and Lewis, anticipating their father's arrival, received instead the tragic message of his death. Their beloved father had fallen in his prime at the age of 43.

Because the law required burial the next day, Helen Williams with Hugh and little Eugene could not come from Grahamstown in time for the funeral service. Thus a sad occasion was made even more traumatic. Later a memorial service was held in Grahamstown for the widow to attend.

Helen Williams at 42 years of age became the single parent of four sons ranging in age from 18 months to 18 years.

The General Conference Committee voted to appropriate $500 to bring Mrs. Williams and her sons back to the United States, supposing that the move would be best for them. However, the action stated that if the South African Union could find ways "for Sister Williams to render good service in the South African field, and if the boys give promise of making workers for the missions with a little more training," the $500 could be used to help accomplish those ends.15

Helen Williams was clear about her calling. In spite of her painful loss, as soon as the period of mourning was over she moved back to Grahamstown with the two younger boys and resumed pastoring the Grahamstown Church. The two older sons continued their book selling. By the time the General Conference action mentioned above was taken on December 27, Helen was already back at work. Pastoring an urban church and performing mission service for indigenous South Africans, she completed the seven-year term for which she and her husband had been sent as missionaries. She labored alone in South Africa four years.

Frequently Helen Williams encouraged people in trying circumstances by assuring them, "The battle is not yours, it's God's!" Her faith in that principle was tested severely during this period, but held firm.

After her husband's death, Helen Williams began receiving a salary in her own name again. Her name also reappeared in the Yearbook as a licensed minister starting in 1911.

In the fall of 1914, Helen Williams and her sons returned to the United States. Mrs. Williams directed the Bible workers' training program at Washington Missionary College in Takoma Park, Maryland, and pastored a small church in the Washington, D.C., area.

Later, when Elder Votaw became ill, Helen Williams accepted the invitation to teach his Bible classes at the college. She gave up the pastoral assignment to devote all her time and energy to a heavy teaching load, which she enjoyed. In this employment her salary reached a new high of $25 a week.

An anecdote recalled by Ethel Longacre Hannum relates to the human side of Helen Williams the teacher.16 It was customary for the professor who taught Bible in the college to teach the same subject in the academy. Ethel Longacre attended one of Mrs. Williams' academy Bible classes; three of her classmates were Donald Griggs, Arthur Walters, and George Harding, who afterward became a cardiologist, owner of a mortuary, and founder of Harding Hospital, respectively; but impressive as their later accomplishments may be, these young men were normal teenagers.

Arthur was the class comedian, with many pranks up his sleeve. One day he was even more lively and creative than usual. Finally Mrs. Williams placed a chair close to her desk, facing the blackboard behind her, and asked Arthur to sit there, quietly, until the close of class.

Arthur went to the chair as requested, managing to pick up a piece of chalk on the way. Mrs. Williams was standing beside him but could not very well watch him as she looked about the class. She was wearing an attractive red dress with large patch pockets on the skirt. Leaning over very carefully, Arthur with his chalk drew a smiling face on the nearer pocket. The students, releasing their repressed laughter, were filing out at the close of class before Mrs. Williams discovered the impromptu art work. She took it good naturedly, never seeming to hold resentment against students for their classroom pranks. They could create few situations for which her four sons had not already prepared her.

Ever gracious and pleasant, Mrs. Williams was loved and respected as a Bible teacher. Nevertheless, after five years the teaching position was given to someone else, doubtless a man, perhaps one with more formal education. One could wish that the college had assisted Mrs. Williams in pursuit of further education. Nothing appropriate was provided for her to do; all that she was offered was the work of residence hall dean at the college where she was being replaced. Mrs. Williams was game to try. Unfortunately, she had neither preparation for nor experience in this line of work. Therefore it should not be surprising that the arrangement did not work out well. In Helen's own stern evaluation of herself, "I was just fool enough to think that late in life I could change my line of work and make a success of it. Result: a fizzle."17 It is sad that a woman of her experience in pastoring was asked to do something else totally unfamiliar and not within her gifts.

At the close of the school year, in spite of her hard experience as preceptress, Mrs. Williams found herself being offered the same kind of work again, along with Bible teaching, at Melrose Sanitarium. Again she tried, and again there were problems. Her brief comment (found in a letter that accompanied her sustentation application years later): "Again I was a bigger fool. It was a fizzle but worse, I went to pieces physically." Originally the text read, "I was made a bigger fool," but the made is crossed out.18 Helen Williams took responsibility for her actions. It is unfortunate, but understandable, that under the strain of employment unsuited to her, Helen's physical health deteriorated.

For good reason, when the next call came, Mrs. Williams was cautious. She said she would study the situation for two weeks; the invitation was to work on the staff of the Adventist sanitarium in Middle Town, New York, while pastoring the local church. She found that conditions were not promising at either the hospital or the church. Besides, the director of the sanitarium had heard such exaggerated accounts of Helen's success as both pastor and Bible worker that she believed there was no way she could do the work of the two positions without completely ruining her health. Regretfully turning down the invitation, she went to the home of her oldest son, Irwin, in Michigan for rest and healing.

After she had enjoyed several months of recuperation, her son Hugh came to visit. Hugh, having followed his mother's calling, worked as an ordained minister in the Indiana Conference. Hugh inquired concerning his mother's health.

"I am well," she replied, "and if I stay out of the work of preceptress and have sleep nights, I shall remain well forever and ever."

"Mother," Hugh announced with conviction, "you ought to go to work again. How would you like to be your son's Bible worker?"

"I would not like anything better," Mrs. Williams promptly replied. Then she added, "But is there any prospect?"

"Yes," Hugh assured her, "I have spoken to the conference president, and he will be delighted for you to work with us."

Within a few days Helen Williams was in Indiana; she found a lovely room in a house near the big evangelistic tent and went to work without delay, bringing the wealth of her experience to the assistance of her son the evangelist. Working in the occupation to which she was called, for which she was gifted, and in which she was experienced, Helen Williams became effective again. The mother-son team worked out splendidly, thanks to Helen's gracious acceptance of a secondary role.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Williams' concern for her youngest son was growing. Eugene at the age of 16 was a student at Michigan State University. No amount of persuading could convince him to attend the Adventist college at Berrien Springs, Michigan. The mother sensed that it would not be wise to try to coerce her son on this point. However, she kept praying, for her "baby" was not a Christian. Having been his only parent since his infancy, Helen felt a great responsibility for Eugene and was burdened for his soul.

Mrs. Williams conceived the idea that if she went so far away that Eugene could not get home frequently to see her, he might get homesick for mother and be willing to attend an Adventist college to be near her. While attending the General Conference Session in Milwaukee, Helen received and accepted a call to work in the Upper Columbia Conference, made up of eastern Washington and Oregon and part of Idaho. After only a year, Eugene cheerfully agreed to attend school at Walla Walla College in Washington State.19

While attending Walla Walla College, Eugene accepted Christ. He went on from college to Loma Linda University in California to study medicine. Before long Dr. Eugene Williams was throwing his energies into the medical work of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. All four sons brought satisfaction to their mother's heart: Eugene, the doctor; Hugh, the minister; Lewis, the artist; and Irwin, the musician and farmer.

In the Northwest, Helen Williams functioned in the lines of work in which she excelled, evangelistic and pastoral. She enjoyed her years in the Upper Columbia Conference, preparing converts for baptism, pastoring, and preaching on Sabbath mornings as she had done in years past. Her title may have been that of Bible worker, but her employment was that of a minister.

Working in the Viola district in Washington, Helen Williams taught prospective members the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. Sometimes ministers specifically directed interested people to Mrs. Williams' church for nurturing.

The Harvest Ingathering solicitation in her area was effectively organized by Mrs. Williams. She took laypersons out to work with her, teaching them how to approach people and what to say. This work lasted for several months, almost until Christmas each year. Now in her sixties, Mrs. William continued with energy and enthusiasm unabated.

In addition to the earlier painful experience that Helen Williams had suffered concerning her ministerial license while in Chicago, another frustrating event occurred near the end of her ministry. A woman whom she had trained to do Bible work came to Mrs. Williams and said, "Sister _____ has a ministerial license; have you one?"

"No," Helen Williams replied simply.

"Why not? You do the same kind of work," the woman reasoned.

"Oh, I don't know," Helen answered. "I had one for many years."

Several months later the same woman approached Mrs. Williams and asked, "Did you not tell me that you had been issued a ministerial license for several years?"

"Yes," Helen replied, "I told you that. Why? What difference does it make?"

"Well, I told Elder _____, and he said, 'We have looked up Sister Williams' record, and she never had a ministerial license in her life. And if she says she has had, she lies about it.' "

Mrs. Williams was surprised and hurt.

Despite the confusion and misunderstanding caused by intermittent licensing, Helen Williams' experiences were mostly positive and rewarding during her 35 years of official ministry. After retirement she remained active because she loved her work, and also to supplement her income so that she could help Eugene pay for his medical education. She was a licensed minister from 1897 through 1914.

Helen Williams died on December 23, 1940, at the age of 72. The obituary in the Review for this devoted worker contains the following information concerning her ministry:

While her children were still small, Mrs. Williams employed help to care for the family, and resumed her profession in the regular Bible work. She gained an extensive reputation as a public speaker, was given charge of churches, and was granted a ministerial license by the Michigan Conference.20

A daughter-in-law sums up by saying that Mrs. Williams lived "a full and active life as a pioneer woman preacher and teacher."21 She prepared many people for membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the kingdom of heaven as she pastored and evangelized on two continents. How wise was the mission president who urged young Helen Williams to hold evangelistic meetings in Montana, and how perceptive the husband who encouraged her to make free use of her ministerial gifts.


1 Eleventh Annual Catalogue, Battle Creek College, 1885-86.

2 Elder Hugh Williams and Dr. Earl Williams, son and grandson, respectively, of Helen Williams, taped conversation sent to the writer July 1985.

3 Helen Williams, letter accompanying Sustentation Fund Application, 1922. General Conference Archives. This important document and letters and tapes from the Williams family form the basis for facts and quotations not otherwise credited in this chapter.

4 Transcribed tape of Hugh Williams' memories, sent to the author by Phyllis Vineyard, August 1989. (See Appendix A, 1.1.)

5 Helen Williams, letter accompanying Sustentation Fund Application, 1922.

6 From a tape recording made for the author by Phyllis Vineyard, July 22, 1985. (See Appendix A, 1.2.)

7 Hugh Williams' memories, taped, received August 1989.

8 See Mrs. Williams' listing for those years in Appendix B.

9 Helen Williams, letter accompanying Sustentation Fund Application, 1922.

10 Mrs. E. R. Williams, "Hinsdale Sanitarium," Northern Illinois Recorder (February 19, 1907): 1.

11 Helen May Williams to her parents from London, England, Jan. 10, 1908, and from aboard ship on the Union Castle Line en route to South Africa, Jan. 14, 1908.

12 Vineyard tape.

13 Helen Williams, "Humility," unpublished sermon notes.(See Appendix A, 1.3.)

14 South African Missionary (28 November 1910): 1.

15 General Conference Committee Actions, Dec. 27, 1910.

16 Ethel Longacre Hannum, letter to the author, July 25, 1985.

17 Helen Williams, letter accompanying Sustentation Fund Application, 1922.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.

20 Williams, Helen May Stanton, obituary, Review and Herald (Jan. 30, 1941): 24.

21 Katherine D. Williams, St. Joseph, Michigan, letters to the author, July 22 and Aug. 3, 1985.(See Appendix A, 1.4.)

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