Ellen G. White and Her Critics


What Does Laughter Prove?

Thus we come to the end of our examination of the most colorfully garbed of all the charges brought against Mrs. White, a charge that has almost exhausted the critics’ store of adjectives through the years in their attempts to make the whole reform-dress idea ridiculous, a thing obnoxious, immodest, even scandalous, and to make Mrs. White appear as an easily influenced character who spoke out against a reform dress one day only to reverse herself the next, because someone changed her mind for her. We think the evidence makes clear that Mrs. White’s course was a consistent one, not determined by a contact with “Our Home” at Dansville, but by a contact with Heaven, that she sought, not so much by a specific pattern, as by the enunciation of principles, to bring about a reform in dress that would remedy certain glaring evils in the fashions of the day. EGWC 158.7

The only part of the charge that we cannot refute is that Adventist sisters suffered ridicule, at times, because they wore a reform dress. But we deny the conclusion drawn from this fact; namely, that it proves the reform-dress idea to have been one of Mrs. White’s “saddest delusions.” Perhaps the critics would like to tell us what they think of the styles of the present day, in contrast to the fashions of the nineteenth century. We hear them declaring that the styles are much more sensible today in every way. Then we would like to ask them what they think would have happened to a woman in the nineteenth century if she had walked the streets in a style of dress worn today. Do they think that she would have been free from ridicule? EGWC 159.1

Everyone knows that the best way to provoke a laugh is to look at the family album—anyone’s! Every style there portrayed on the person of grandpa and grandma and all the other ancient relatives looks ludicrous by comparison with the style that we happen, at the moment, to be accustomed to. But the folks in the family album created no laugh when they wore their outfits! Yet we laugh at them, and they would have laughed at us! Pray tell, what does laughter, or ridicule, prove? EGWC 159.2

True, dress reformers, like most other reformers, were ridiculed in their day, but a later day endorsed their views. Listen to these words, written in 1913: EGWC 159.3

“The cause for which the early dress reformers labored and suffered martyrdom has triumphed in almost all points.... EGWC 159.4

“The chief points in the indictment of woman’s dress of former times were that the figure was dissected like a wasp’s, that the hips were overloaded with heavy skirts, and that the skirts dragged upon the ground and swept up the dirt. Nowadays the weight of a woman’s clothing as a whole is only half or a third of what it used to be. Four dresses can be packed in the space formerly filled by one. In the one-piece dresses now in vogue the weight is borne from the shoulders, and the hips are relieved by reducing the skirts in weight, length and number. The skirt no longer trails upon the street.... The women who for conscientious reasons refused to squeeze their waists and in consequence suffered the scorn of their sex now find themselves on the fashionable side. A 32-inch waist is regarded as permissible where formerly a 20-inch waist was thought proper. A fashionably gowned woman of the present day can stoop to pick up a pin at her feet.”—Independent, Oct. 23, 1913, pp. 151, 152. EGWC 159.5

Evidently, then, those who have ridiculed Mrs. White for her dress reform counsel are simply behind the times. EGWC 160.1

Who will question but that the activities of Seventh-day Adventist dress reformers was one factor among several that led to the healthful attire worn by women in many lands today! EGWC 160.2