by News release
In early July Oxford University Press announced that it would publish a new biography of Ellen Gould Harmon White (1827-1915), cofounder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 18 chapters prepared by 20 authors Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet examines her ideas and the impact she has made on the Adventist Church and American religion generally.
The new book will introduce the Adventist prophet to general readers as well as to history students and teachers. “Scholars have identified Ellen White with Anne Hutchinson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Baker Eddy, and Aimee Semple McPherson as one of the most prominent women in American religious history,” said co-editor Terrie Dopp Aamodt, professor of history at Walla Walla University, “yet she is one of the least studied and understood.”
The volume began to take shape at an October 2009 conference in Portland, Maine, the site of Ellen Harmon’s early upbringing. Chapter authors and respondents sought to examine the breadth of Ellen White’s 70-year public career while avoiding extremes of iconoclasm or hagiography. Two scholars, one familiar with Adventist studies and the other a specialist in an area of the chapter’s historical context, reviewed each chapter in detail. All of the 67 conference participants also read the chapters and applied a rubric to identify gaps and potential biases in the material. “Collaborative research, writing, and editing shaped the book,” said co-editor Gary Land, professor of history emeritus at Andrews University. “This project’s scholarly exchange between Ellen White specialists and students of her broader contexts would take decades to achieve in occasional meetings at professional conferences.”
The Seventh-day Adventist church is the largest of four innovative denominations founded in the United States in the nineteenth century, along with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; the Church of Christ, Scientist; and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Scholars have extensively examined the Mormon and Christian Science faiths,” said Ronald L. Numbers, Hilldale Professor of the History of Science and Medicine Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, “but the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Adventists are not as well understood. Wider scholarly discussions on Ellen White are long overdue.”
Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet invites further conversation about White’s place in history. “Taken together, these chapters show how White was both a product and a producer of her age,” said Grant Wacker, professor of Christian history at Duke University, in the book’s foreword. “They also show that however one judges the role of supernatural inspiration, White ranked as one of the most gifted and influential religious leaders in American history, male or female. Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet tells her story in a new and remarkably informative way.”