White, Ellen Gould

White, Ellen Gould (Harmon),

1827–1915, leader of the Seventh-day Adventists, b. Gorham, Maine. Converted at the age of 15 to the beliefs of the AdventistsAdventists
[advent, Lat.,=coming], members of a group of related religious denominations whose distinctive doctrine centers in their belief concerning the imminent second coming of Jesus (see Judgment Day).
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, she began to receive visions accepted as prophetic by many members of that sect. In 1846, she married James White, a minister of Adventist convictions with whom she founded the Seventh-day Adventists. After her husband's death in 1881, she traveled widely as a missionary. By the time she died, the Seventh-day Adventist movement had grown from a few adherents to a worldwide congregation of over 130,000 members. The church carried out her ideas long after she died, including her activism and charismatic preaching. Her voluminous writings are the primary source of church doctrines. The church had over 5 million members worldwide during the late 1980s. Her numerous writings include The Ministry of Healing (1942) and The Desire of Ages (1944).


See biography by R. E. Graham (1985).

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White, Ellen Gould (b. Harmon)

(1827–1915) religious leader; born in Gorham, Mo. A fragile, nervous child, she was tutored at home but had no formal education. She converted to Adventism after hearing William Miller preach (1842); when the Second Coming of Christ failed to take place as predicted, in 1844 the Millerites faded, but she almost singlehandedly—and then with her husband James White (1821–81)—kept the Adventist movement alive by traveling and preaching. During her life she claimed to have experienced 2,000 visions and prophetic dreams. She became head of the Seventh Day Adventist Church when it was formally established in 1863, and one of her religious books, Steps to Christ, has by now sold more than 20 million copies. Settling in Battle Creek, Mich. (1855), she also grew dedicated to a healthy diet and hydrotherapy, and in 1861 helped open the Western Health Reform Institute there. She helped found Battle Creek College (1874), the first U.S. Adventist educational institution, and in 1904 cofounded the College of Medical Evangelists in California. From 1891 to 1900 she lived in Australia as a missionary.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.