|At Issue Index Women in Ministry Index Called by God Index Appendix B|
Documents and Notes
Documents Concerning the Life and Work of Helen Williams
My father, Eugene Williams, . . . was a young minister when I was born. He married a young lady by the name of Helen May Stanton. Both of them had gone to Battle Creek College.
Helen May Stanton, my mother, was very talented in speech. She gave readings from memory and was entertaining. Those days they didn't have TV and other sources of easy entertainment like they do today, and so they were not much more talented but made more use of their talents.
Mother also aspired, because of being so successful in entertaining, to be a speaker, a minister. She's told me that that was one reason she wanted to marry a minister, because it would more easily open the doors for her to be in the ministry. This she was successful in accomplishing to the point that she had a ministerial license, which was given to very few at the time she was living. . . . So my father and mother built their life around the ministry. . . . It happened that I was born while they were having some meetings in a nice little place called Bell's Corners. . . .
It was early in 1897 that we moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. . . . My memory begins here. . . . My father supervised the building of a church while we were at Grand Rapids. . . . We went to the Sabbath school, of course. . . . I listened to the sermons. I must have had a clear conception of the Saviour because one night I dreamed about Him. . . . Jesus said, "Hugh, I see you there." . . . I never forgot the beautiful feeling that came over me to be remembered by Him. . . .
My father and mother both were in ministerial work, and so when we were young we always had a baby sitter in our home. . . .
It wasn't long before my father was sent to be a superintendent of what was a mission field in those daysit wasn't part of the conferencehe was sent to supervise the work in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Some work had been started in Sault Ste. Marie.
In the year 1906, my father was called and also my mother. . . . They were called to Chicago to take over a couple of churches there. . . . While we were living on the west side of Chicago, we went to a church school that was mostly Scandinavian. . . . We never got tired of going to Lincoln Park. It had one of the best zoos at the time. . . . Also, we enjoyed Humble Park. We were able to find turtles there and snakes even. One time we had as many as seven snakes. Our poor mother. . . .
Greetings! This is Phyllis, Hugh's daughter, Helen Williams' granddaughter. . . .
Grandmother wasn't the demonstrative, huggy type, but she bathed you with her warmth and beauty, and she completely enjoyed people and made you very comfortable in her presence. Her laughter was so musical, and her charm was scintillating. . . .
Dad has told me things about Grandmother Williams in her gift of speaking and her colorful way of delivery. She was always in demand because she could speak, but . . . she was very humble and not aggressive, but very gracious and wanted to serve. I remember her telling me . . . , "You see, your grandfather was so busy with his other duties, and people used to like to hear me speak and would just as soon hear me as your grandpa. If he couldn't meet the obligation, why I would speak in his stead, and they were just as happy, and that was that, you see." She was quite used to picking up where he left off, or if he couldn't make an appointment, she filled it. She was very comfortable in speaking and not at a loss for words. . . .
Something about her personality was unique. She made you feel that she knew the Shepherd; she was aware of His presence and loving care. She was a very self-contained person. . . . She wasn't afraid. She had been through a lot of adventure; she had lost a husband in South Africa, and she knew what it was to walk alone. . . . In her sermons, she didn't use the same humdrum thing; she would be quite unique in her delivery. I think she liked to be, not shocking, but liked to capture the attention of the people.
She said, "You know, the battle's not yours, it's God's." She set people to thinking and wanted to help them establish a relationship with the Master, a one-to-one relationship, for no organization can possibly carry us to the kingdom. . . .
Grandma cried for a couple of days because of the loss of her husband. But she tells of one of the natives' just crying and crying, and saying, "Missie, Missie, please don't leave." That's what turned the tide, and Grandma stayed and finished her tour of duty. . . .
You just wanted to sit at Grandma's feet. You knew that she had the joy of the Lord. Children, young people, anyone enjoyed her presence. That's what I prefer to remember about Grandmother.
1. Where does God dwell? Isa. 57:15
Dear Dr. Benton:
I am delighted that you are researching the full and active life of my mother-in-law, Helen Stanton Williams, as a pioneer woman preacher and teacher. . . . She was the daughter of a prosperous farmer who was somewhat of a community leader, wrestling champion(!), and church elder, so Helen Mae Stanton was raised as a more privileged young lady than many at the time. She had two sisters and two brothers. . . .
Helen Stanton was a little taller than average, full-figured, a commanding personality, who used to recall her younger days as "that beautiful, golden-haired Helen Mae." She had a full and difficult life but never lacked for self-assurance, and this aura no doubt contributed to her success as a preacher, a vocation rarely allowed a woman in those days. . . .
In about 1907 the family was appointed to missionary work in South Africa. There the head of the household suffered sunstroke on a trip among the villages, leaving his widow, three teen-age sons, and a young brother not much more than an infant. Helen Mae took up the burden gallantly, teaching, preaching, consigning her boys to boarding school and the toddler to the care of a Zulu girl. . . .
By 1914 when war seemed inevitable, the family returned to the States. . . . As a new bride, I was decidedly an amateur in the kitchen, and my husband [Lewis] used to wonder why I worried so about planning menus and preparing meals. Eventually I learned that his mother had a set formula for food: she knew how best to shop for and cook certain foods, and she stuck to these dishes! . . . Very few women could have lived and worked as she did. . . .
Much success in your enterprise!
Katherine D. Williams
Documents Concerning the Life and Work of Minnie Sype
Dear friend Josephine:
. . . About Mrs. Sype, I had to have been somewhere between six and 10 years old when I well remember her visiting the Des Moines, Iowa, church on several occasions and doing the speaking. She waseven to me a childa very interesting and pleasant speaker. She smiled a great deal and was always treated like one of the family by the Des Moines church members. . . .
I went back to Iowa as an intern, and I remember old time workers at that time who had worked with her saying she had been voted ordination by the Iowa Conference but had refused it. I don't ever recall having heard her rationale. . . .
Rather than being considered unusual to have a woman preacher, we kids were always tickled to death to have her. She was very interesting and seemed to love people, kids in particular. I recall no fuss about her being a woman; she just took the pulpit like any of the male preachers and always gave a good message. . . .
I never heard what her official capacity was in the conference, but she was indeed recognized as someone from the power structure. [Minnie Sype was home missionary secretary for the Iowa Conference.]
Very best to you,
. . . To my great surprise in the Bulletin Board of the Pacific Union Recorder was an article wanting information about a woman minister we had when I was around 10 years old, Minnie Sype. Our church then was renting a Lutheran church at Ellensberg, Washington. I'll always remember her for the watch she had fastened to her dress. She would pull it out on a chain and look at it so she wouldn't run overtime, and it fascinated me. Not only her watch fascinated me. She did also. Though I was a child, she kept my interest and could preach as good a sermon as any man I've ever heard. . . .
It was between 1926 and 1929 that Minnie Sype was at Ellensberg. . . .
Mrs. Joseph S. (Lorene) Moore
Dear Mrs. Benton:
Your notice in the Recorder and the name Mrs. Minnie Sype brought forth many pleasant boyhood memories from my childhood in Iowa. Mrs. Minnie Sype was an active preacher in the conference as far back as I can remember. She was always busy visiting churches, having revival meetings, and adding members by baptism. . . .
In recent years there has been a great deal of discussion about the ordination of women to the ministry. To me, it seems that this type of controversy is entirely uncalled for. Dedicated service, whether by men or women, is the real test of individual ministry. . . .
Very respectfully yours,
Dr. M. J. Sorenson
To Whom It May Concern:
My mother, Mrs. Lillian Durst, often mentioned to me over the years about her having been baptized as a child in about the year 1908 or 1909 by Mrs. Minnie Sype, a full time Seventh-day Adventist minister. The baptism took place in a stock tank; and I believe this was South Dakota, where my mother spent her earlier childhood years. <$F[Hawarden, Iowa, is on the South Dakota border.>I would like to add that I can surely vouch for the authenticity of my mother's testimony regarding her childhood baptism. My mother had a remarkable memory for small details like dates, places, etc. I can remember as a child how my mother could remember birthdays and anniversaries of all our friends and neighbors. She could remember the smallest details of things like this. It was truly amazing. So I know that she spoke accurately about being baptized by Mrs. Sype. She recalled how Mr. Sype stayed home and did the housework and Mrs. Sype did the preaching and the ministerial duties. . . .
Thomas E. Durst
Dear Josephine Benton,
About 1914 when I was a little girl about seven years old and lived in Carroll, Iowa, Mrs. Minnie Sype came to Carroll to hold a series of meetings. My father, Oscar W. Robeson, took his three girls Genevieve, Vivian, and EvelynI am Evelynto the meetings every night (my mother was deceased), and at the close of her meetings he accepted the Adventist message. He was an Adventist until his death, and we girls have stayed in the truth all our lives. . . .
Evelyn Robeson Faust
Dear Dr. Benton:
. . . My mother-in-law, Dorothy Pelmulder Blaine Kistler, was baptized by Minnie Sype in Lake City, Iowa, in the Raccoon River, at age 12 or 13, in 1913 or 1914. "Grandma" remembers Minnie Sype holding tent meetings in a church yard which adjoined her family's back yard in Grant City, Iowa. . . .
Mariel Jean Blaine
. . . Sr. Sype was our dear pastor over 50 years ago in Cle Elum. We loved her very dearly; also she was a worker like you never saw. . . . As you might well remember our pastors' salary was very very small. So she would go out and sell our booksshe had no car so she would walk for miles and at Ingathering would walk or, yes, hitchhike to take our papers for miles. She was very pleasant. . . . She was a minister that could do credit to any church. . . . I understood when she left Cle Elum she was married to a Mr. Atteberry.
Your sister in the faith,
Mrs. Hilda West
. . . Jack and I are children of Ross and Gertrude Hunt Sype. . . . Grandma was a very powerful and dynamic speaker. . . .
Even in her retirement, Grandma always had to be doing something to spread the truth she loved. While living in St. Cloud, Florida, she organized a small company in Kissimmee, which was about nine miles away. First they met in someone's house on Sabbath afternoons. Then I can remember clearing out an old store where the company met. Today there is a lovely church in Kissimmee. . . .
Jack said he remembers her illustration about the Sabbath. It is like a plate. If the edge gets broken the plate is broken. . . .
Documents Concerning the Life and Work of Lulu Wightman
3.1 Letter from J. W. Raymond to P. Hinne, conference treasurer, concerning employment of Lulu Wightman
Cuba, Allegany Co., N.Y.
Dear Bro. Hinne:
The hardest part of this letter is to say that I'd like to have $10. And if it is any more against the grain to let me have it, or to spare it, perhaps I ought to say, than it is for me to ask for itwell, then I pity you. . . .
I have written Lula [sic] (she and her husband are now in Hornellsville) the situation, giving her as terms that she will receive some remuneration for her service, if she goes with us, but that she will be expected to abide by the action of the Auditing Committee as to amount, and that in case her husband comes he will be expected to do so without any expense to the conference. . . .
J. W. Raymond
[Following is a letter FROM LULU WIGHTMAN to J. W. Raymond, QUOTED in his letter to P. Hinne:]
Dear Bro. Raymond:Your letter is rec'd. Will reply at once. We should be very glad to go with your tent, but could not consent for a moment to go unless my husband could go. And of course he could not afford to be idle all summer and board himself. What I would get would not board us.
We had a meeting here Sunday evening. Some of the leading ones in the place were present. We have it put in the daily papers; it's well advertised. We should be pleased to go with your tent company could we make a living out of it. But we are having grand opening here for our work.
[End of quotation; letter from J. W. Raymond to P. Hinne continues:]
So it would seem that she has gone into ministerial work. But somehow I feel a proclivity of adverseness to such procedure.
[An earlier part of the same letter:]
Sr. Stowe is expected here tomorrow. As to the conference bearing her traveling expenses to and from tent work, for one I am in favor of it; I think it only just that such be the case. And where it is considered necessary for a minister's wife to accompany him in the interest of the work, I think the conference ought to at least defray their traveling expenses. The "golden rule" would demand that much. . . .
[This letter, undated, followed the June 16, 1896, letter above.]
3.3 Article in the New York Indicator, August 12, 1896, about the Wightmans' effort in Hornellsville
We arrived here June 4, and began to labor for the truth in a field that at first seemed far from promising. There was not a single Seventh-day Adventist in the city. The people appeared to be listless and satisfied with the paths in which they are dwelling; nevertheless we continued in faith and labored earnestly. Mrs. Wightman spoke to the people on 20 different occasions, and at last the interest became so great that the halls we secured were thronged. Three honest souls have begun to keep the Sabbath and others are in a very promising condition. . . .
John S. and Lulu Wightman.
We begin a new effort this week in the town of Silver Creek, in G.A.R. [Grand Army of the Republic] Hall, in the center of the place. It is a commodious, nicely carpeted hall, heat and light included, for $2 per week. While conducting the work here, my husband will do colporteur work. Any of the brethren who will send our denominational papers and tracts to him by mail, for free distribution to interested ones, will assist in the promulgation of truth here, and the same will be thankfully received.
Brethren and sisters, in your prayers remember the work here.
Resulting from the giving of the message at Silver Creek, four soulstwo brothers and two sistershave begun the observance of the Sabbath, and a number of the others are in a promising condition. A union meeting was held in the largest church on Sunday evening, and the Methodist man preached against the Sabbath. I attended, and announced by permission, that I would review the discourse the following evening. Our hall was crowded and many turned away, and it was the consensus of opinion expressed by those present that the truth had gained a decided victory. Shall now present the "State of the Dead," which, it is clear to be seen will also receive vigorous opposition, as it already has. May the Lord grant that those who are almost persuaded may quickly become fully persuaded that this is the good way and to walk therein.
Mrs. Lulu Wightman.
(Emphasis in the original)
When you were at Eden Center you suggested to Mrs. Wightman that she voluntarily lower her salary from $9 per week to $7 per week, not because she was any the less entitled to the $9 per month but for the reason as you stated that I was also receiving $7 per week from the conference, and we were of one family, or related. Not knowing but what some person on the auditing committee of 1903 not particularly acquainted with the circumstances might feel justified in suggesting a still further lowering of our wages because we are so unfortunate (?) as to be related to one another, I desire to call your attention to a few facts so that at the time if any objections are made, and I do not feel that there will be, that you can put the matter before them in a proper light.
Mrs. Wightman's personal work was considered by three or four former committees as being that of an ordained minister unquestionably; and yet, at Oswego, they felt (Brother Daniels and Thompson, to which opinion Elder Underwood and others strongly demurred) that a woman could not properly be ordainedjust now at leastand so they fixed her compensation as near the "ordained" rate as possible. As her capability was recognized and general fitness known to all, and work continued, the $9 is still as fitting under the circumstances as before, so taking this into consideration you will perceive that I am in reality receiving but $5 per week for my services, upon the former basis.
I do not think that any will deny that we are doing the work of two ordained ministers. Certainly we bring the people fully into the truth and can do everything except that which man sees fit not to privilegethe right to organize churches. . . . We have secured the following churches: Gorham, Fredonia, Gas Springs, Wallace, Canandaigua and Avon, and opened the work in Hornellsville in 1896. . . . In one year alone besides all other offerings and donations we sent $600 at one time for home and foreign work. . . .
Mrs. Wightman's labors are recognized as worth $9 per week as a licentiate, and the work itself equivalent to that of an ordained minister. . . .
I am certain you will do right in the matter. For you appreciate what is being doneGod bless you.
John S. Wightman
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY MEETING
Large Crowd Heard Speakers at the Auditorium
TALK ON SUNDAY BASEBALL
Mrs. Lulu Wightman of Kansas City and E. T. Russell Talk at Length on Religious Freedom
A crowd which tested the capacity of the auditorium gathered to hear prominent speakers from the ranks of the religious liberty organizations of the country last night at which time Mrs. Lulu Wightman of Kansas City, public advocate for religious liberty and E. T. Russell, president of the Central States Religious Liberty Association, spoke on matters relating to religious liberty. . . .
Mrs. Wightman dealt with the principles of government which characterized the United States. She referred in particular to the many instances where the courts had reversed the decrees which the church had set for the government of certain Sunday entertainments. . . . She said that the church should spend more time in teaching right doing and not spend its entire time in the simple observances of Sunday. . . .
Document Concerning the Life and Work of Anna Knight
Since 1911 I have kept an itemized record of the work that I have done. I had to make monthly reports to the conference; therefore, I formed the habit of keeping a daily record. Thinking it might add interest in reporting, I am giving a summary of four items herewith: I have held 9,388 meetings and have made 11,744 missionary visits. My work required the writing of 48,918 letters, and in getting to my appointments I have traveled 554,439 miles. This report does not include mileage to or from my mission field, India, nor does it include any miles covered in my travel there.
Documents Concerning the Life and Work of Jessie Weiss Curtis
Kingston Girl Holding Services Near Drums
Miss Jessie M. Weiss, of Kingston, daughter of a well-known merchant of Wilkes-Barre, is stirring the countryside in the vicinity of Drums in Luzerne County with an evangelistic campaign in which she is doing most of the preaching.
Stirred with the desire to give the gospel to the people, Miss Weiss secured a tent, and with the aid of two men pitched it on the C. A. Straw farm, and people are flocking by the hundreds to hear her. Coming from a radius of twenty miles, there have been as many as 110 automobile loads at a single service.
It is the first evangelistic campaign that Miss Weiss has ever conducted, and her success is very apparent from the way in which the crowds come night after night, arriving in time to join in the old-time song-service, and remaining until the preaching service is concluded.
With the skill of a clergyman of long years experience, Miss Weiss declares that she will teach no doctrine but what she can substantiate from the Word of God. Her repertoire of subjects reaches out over a wide range.
Methodists, Baptists and Lutherans, who have churches in the community are regular attendants.
You didn't think there was anything strange about your aunt's being a minister?
JOAN DAVIS Yes, that's a good description of her.
Dear Dr. Benton:
Yes, I am the man who knew Jessie Weiss before she became Jessie Weiss Curtis. She was quite a preacher, and the first time I went into church someone told her that a Jewish man was in the church with his wife. She changed her subject and preached on the 70 weeks. Jessie Weiss Curtis was a terrific preacher and she raised up the church in Drums, Pennsylvania, where I first became a member. My wife, Trudie, and I were both baptized at the same time.
Very cordially yours,
J. M. Hoffman, Ph.D.
P.S. I was the director and evangelist of the Times Square Center in New York for 20 years.
[The writer's summary] Vanetta Weiss, Jessie Weiss Curtis' sister-in-law, told about being at the East Pennsylvania camp meeting one year when it was time for the annual ordination of ministers and hearing an urgent request being broadcast over the loud speakers for Jessie Curtis to come at once to the ministers' tent. Since Mrs. Curtis did not appear, Vanetta Weiss was sent to look for her. Vanetta was told that the brethren wanted to ordain Jessie, but that she was resisting. The search for Jessie proved unsuccessful, and the service went on without her.
Later, when she appeared again, Jessie told Vanetta that she did not care to be ordained nor to have any greater responsibilities than she already had. She said she was content to prepare people for baptism and to let the male ministers come to baptize them.
Documents Concerning the Life and Work of Ellen G. White
It seemed impossible for me to perform this work that was presented before me; to attempt it seemed certain failure. . . .
I coveted death as a release from the responsibilities that were crowding upon me. . . .
At length I was induced to be present at one of the meetings in my own home. . . .
While prayer was offered for me, that the Lord would give me strength and courage to bear the message, the thick darkness that had encompassed me rolled back, and a sudden light came upon me. Something that seemed to me like a ball of fire struck me right over the heart. . . . I seemed to be in the presence of the angels. One of these holy beings again repeated the words, "Make known to others what I have revealed to you."
Father Pearson, who could not kneel on account of his rheumatism, witnessed this occurrence. . . . He rose from his chair and said, "I have seen a sight such as I never expected to see. A ball of fire came down from heaven, and struck Sister Ellen Harmon right on the heart. I saw it! I saw it! . . . We will help you henceforth, and not discourage you."
Again I was called to deny self for the good of souls. We must sacrifice the company of our little Henry, and go forth to give ourselves unreservedly to the work. My health was very poor. . . .
We left Henry in Brother Howland's family, in whom we had the utmost confidence. They were willing to bear burdens, in order that we might be left as free as possible to labor in the cause of God. . . .
It was hard to part with my child. . . .
For five years Brother Howland's family had the whole charge of Henry. They cared for him without any recompense, providing all his clothing, except a present that I brought him once a year, as Hannah did Samuel.
The first night after reaching the place of meeting, despondency pressed upon me. My little ones burdened my mind. We had left one in the state of Maine two years and eight months old, and another babe in New York nine months old. We had just performed a tedious journey in great suffering, and I thought of those who were enjoying the society of their children in their own quiet homes. I reviewed our past life, calling to mind expressions which had been made by a sister only a few days before, who thought it must be very pleasant to be riding through the country without anything to trouble me. It was just such a life as she should delight in. At that very time my heart was yearning for my children, especially my babe in New York. . . .
In this state of mind I fell asleep, and dreamed that a tall angel stood by my side and asked me why I was sad. I related to him the thoughts that had troubled me, and said, "I can do so little good, why may we not be with our children, and enjoy their society?" Said he: "You have given to the Lord two beautiful flowers, the fragrance of which is as sweet incense before Him, and is more precious in His sight than gold or silver, for it is a heart gift."
These women give their whole time, and are told that they receive nothing for their labors because their husbands receive their wages. I tell them to go forward and all such decisions will be revised. The Word says, "The laborer is worthy of his hire." When any such decision as this is made, I will in the name of the Lord, protest. I will feel it my duty to create a fund from my tithe money, to pay these women who are accomplishing just as essential work as the ministers are doing, and this tithe I will reserve for work in the same line as that of the ministers, hunting for souls, fishing for souls. I know that the faithful women should be paid wages as is considered proportionate to the pay received by ministers. They carry the burden of souls, and should not be treated unjustly. . . .
From the time the Yearbooks began to be published with their lists of credentialed ministers in 1884 until Ellen White's life ended in 1915, she was listed as an ordained minister.
In conversations several years ago leading up to the writing of this book, some church administrators explained that while Ellen White was credentialed as an ordained minister, there was never an ordination service at which she was set apart for the ministry because the church leadership believed that she had been ordained by God and did not need the earthly affirmation in the form of the laying on of hands. It was suggested that she was credentialed as an ordained minister in order to allow her to be paid the salary of an ordained clergyman.
However that may be, her status was for years that of an ordained minister. Her ministerial license for 1885 has the word "ordained" lightly marked through, but the license for 1887 states, "This is to Certify, that Mrs. E. G. White at Healdsburg Cal. is an Ordained Minister in good standing in the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists."
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