Ellen G. White: The Australian Years: 1891-1900 (vol. 4)


Counsel on Dress

That winter Ellen White received urgent letters from two leaders in educational institutions in the United States, Joseph Haughey, principal of South Lancaster Academy, and E. A. Sutherland, president of Battle Creek College. They were confronted with the work of a Mrs. Porter, a self-styled prophetess who, in her profession to believe the testimonies, was urging that Seventh-day Adventist women return to the “reform dress” of the 1860s. Haughey's wife was about convinced this was the course to follow, and he wrote in the hope that God would reveal to them what they should do (Joseph Haughey to EGW, May 2, 1897). 4BIO 332.4

As the matter was also urged on Professor Sutherland in Battle Creek, he persuaded those interested to wait until word could come from Ellen White on the matter. He could see that if such were pressed, it could cause “quite a disturbance to the church,” for, as he wrote Ellen White on May 12, “there are many good sisters here who would put the dress on cheerfully and wear it if the time has come to put it on.” While he did not believe in carrying everything to Ellen White that came up, he did feel the need of counsel in this. He urged a reply at her earliest convenience. 4BIO 332.5

Ellen White responded: 4BIO 333.1

In answer to the questions that have recently come to me in regard to resuming the reform dress, I would say that those who have been agitating this subject may be assured that they have not been inspired by the Spirit of God. The Lord has not indicated that it is the duty of our sisters to go back to the reform dress....

The dress question is not to be our present truth.... I beg of our people to walk carefully and circumspectly before God. Follow the customs in dress so far as they conform to health principles. Let our sisters dress plainly, as many do, having the dress of good, durable material, appropriate for this age, and let not the dress question fill the mind. Our sisters should dress with simplicity. They should clothe themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety. Give to the world a living illustration of the inward adorning of the grace of God.—Manuscript 167, 1897. 4BIO 333.2

The communication with its balanced message is found in full as the appendix to the book The Story of Our Health Message. 4BIO 333.3

Whether by mail or to those who came to her home for counsel, she was ever ready to endeavor to present that which would give safe guidance. On Monday, October 4, after writing on the life of Christ in the early hours of the day and writing some letters, she laid aside her pen for “an interview or visit with Elder Haskell” about the church edifice that was under construction at Cooranbong. As they talked, she picked up her sewing. She wrote: 4BIO 333.4

I had an interview or visit with Elder Haskell. Read to him writings in regard to Haggai—“Arise,” et cetera—and about allowing debts to remain on the church buildings.... While conversing with Elder Haskell, finished the babies’ dresses.—Manuscript 177, 1897. 4BIO 333.5

Ellen White was a homemaker at heart. 4BIO 333.6