Ellen White's Fancy Hat
By Dirk Anderson, Sep., 2023
Ellen White admonished her followers to "dress plainly and study economy in dress."1 She taught that women who wore fine clothing and fancy hats were a bad example for their own children and needed to be converted:
When children see those who are older in years self-pleasing, gratifying their own impulse, their love for dress, and talking of hats and dress adornment, what they shall wear to make them look nice, they catch the spirit when mere children and ape grownup people, who wonder where their children got all these ideas of love for fine things. It was from their parents and older professed Christians. God pity us all, for we need converting.2
Interestingly enough, in the above quote she states "we need converting." It appears she included herself as one of those "older professed Christians" who needed to be converted.
Instead of spending money on fine clothing, Mrs. White taught that the money should instead be donated to the Seventh-day Adventist Corporation:
My sisters, do not spend your money needlessly for dress, but dress plainly. Fathers and mothers, educate your children to dress inexpensively; teach them to save their pennies for missionary work. Let every member of the family practise self-denial.3
Did Mrs. White dress plainly? Instead of buying fancy hats, did she save her pennies for the SDA Corporation?
In 2014, a photo of Ellen White that was mysteriously unknown for 109 years was rediscovered by SDAs. In this photo taken at the May 1905 General Conference session in Takoma Park, Maryland, 77-year-old Ellen White can be seen with her son W.C. White and her daughter-in-law May. Mrs. White is sporting an Edwardian hat and a floral scarf. An Edwardian hat refers to a style of women's hat that was popular during the Edwardian era, which roughly spanned from the late 1890s to around 1914. Edwardian hats were known for their elaborate and decorative designs, often featuring wide brims, intricate embellishments, and a variety of materials. These hats were considered a trendy part of women's fashion during that era. They were a reflection of the elegance and extravagance of the era.
On Sister White's left side, May is wearing an even more elaborately decorated hat. Did she "catch the spirit" of high fashion from her mother-in-law and attempt to "ape" her?
Mrs. White is also wearing prince-nez classes. The term "prince-nez" is of French origin and translates to "nose prince" or "nose spectacles." This fancy style of glasses gained popularity among European aristocracy and intellectuals during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were associated with a certain air of sophistication and elegance.
Imagine all of the pennies that could have been placed in the SDA Corporation's treasury if Sister White and May White had obeyed Ellen's testimonies! Does Sister White's love of fancy hats and fine clothing demonstrate that she was "unconverted" at age 77? And if so, does that mean that all her writings prior to 1905 are the writings of an "unconverted" person? If so, should they be followed as if they were the Word of God? Mrs. White's pattern of making rules and regulations for others, while she routinely ignored those same rules, brings to mind the words of Jesus:
They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. (Matt 23:4 NIV)
1. Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1855), 251.
2. White, Manuscript 110, 1894.
3. White, Testimonies to the Church Regarding Individual Responsibility and Christian Unity, (1907), 5
4. Ibid., 6.
5. White, Review and Herald, Sep. 28, 1911.
6. White, Review and Herald Feb. 10, 1885.
7. "Previously Unknown Photo of Ellen White Found," Adventist Review (online news), Oct. 9, 2014, https://adventistreview.org/news/previously-unknown-photo-of-ellen-white-found/.
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