January 5, 2021

Ellen Gould Harmon; November 26, 1827 – July 16, 1915

Ellen White, and her twin sister Elizabeth, were born November 26, 1827, to Robert and Eunice Harmon in Maine, USA. She was the seventh of eight children. At the age of nine, Ellen White was hit in the face with a stone:

This misfortune, which for a time seemed so bitter and was so hard to bear, has proved to be a blessing in disguise. The cruel blow which blighted the joys of earth, was the means of turning my eyes to heaven. I might never had known Jesus Christ, had not the sorrow that clouded my early years led me to seek comfort in him.

Review and Herald, November 25, 1884, par. 2

A few years after her injury, Ellen, with her parents, attended a Methodist camp meeting, and there, at the age of 12, she was converted and felt at peace.

In 1840, at age 12, her family became involved with the Millerite movement. As she attended William Miller’s lectures, she felt guilty for her sins and was filled with terror about being eternally lost. She describes herself as spending nights in tears and prayer, and being in this condition for several months. On June 26, 1842, she was baptized and eagerly awaited Jesus to come again. In her later years, she referred to this as the happiest time of her life. Her family’s involvement with Millerism caused them to be disfellowshipped by the local Methodist church.

In1845, she came in contact with her future husband, James Springer White, a Millerite who became convinced that her visions were genuine. A year later James proposed, and they were married in Portland, Maine, on August 30, 1846. James later wrote:

“We were married August 30, 1846, and from that hour to the present she has been my crown of rejoicing … It has been in the good providence of God that both of us had enjoyed a deep experience in the Advent movement … This experience was now needed as we should join our forces and, united, labor extensively from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific …”

Biography – Ellen G. White: Volume 1 – The Early Years: 1827-1862, p.112.1

The Whites had four sons: Henry Nichols, James Edson (known as Edson), William Clarence (known as Willie, or W. C.), and John Herbert. Only Edson and William lived to adulthood. John Herbert died of erysipelas at the age of two months, and Henry died of pneumonia at the age of 16 in 1863.

In 1860 death stepped over our threshold, and broke the youngest branch of our family tree. Little Herbert, born September 20, 1860, died December 14 of the same year. When that tender branch was broken, how our hearts did bleed none may know but those who have followed their little ones of promise to the grave.
But oh, when our noble Henry died, at the age of sixteen; when our sweet singer was borne to the grave, and we no more heard his early song, ours was a lonely home. Both parents and the two remaining sons felt the blow most keenly. But God comforted us in our bereavements, and with faith and courage we pressed forward in the work He had given us, in bright hope of meeting our children who had been torn from us by death, in that world where sickness and death will never come.

Testimonies to the Church Volume 1, p.101-103

Ellen White often left her children behind while she travelled to speak and build up the movement:

Although the cares that came upon us in connection with the publishing work and other branches of the cause involved much perplexity, the greatest sacrifice I was called to make in connection with the work was to leave my children to the care of others.

Many nights, while others were sleeping, have been spent by me in bitter weeping.”

Testimonies to the Church Volume 1, p.101


From 1844 to 1863 Ellen White experienced between 100 and 200 visions, typically in public places and meeting halls. Her first vision was given to her at age 17.

Physical Phenomena During Visions

J. N. Loughborough, who had seen Mrs. White in vision 50 times since 1852, and her husband, James White, listed several physical characteristics that marked the visions:

  1. In passing into vision, she gives three enrapturing shouts of “Glory!” which echo and re-echo, the second, and especially the third, fainter but more thrilling than the first, the voice resembling that of one quite a distance from you, and just going out of hearing.
  2. For a few moments she would swoon, having no strength. Then she would be instantly filled with superhuman strength, sometimes rising to her feet and walking about the room. She frequently moved hands, arms, and head in gestures that were free and graceful. But to whatever position she moved a hand or arm, it could not be hindered nor controlled by even the strongest person. In 1845, she held her parents’ 18.5 pound family Bible in her outstretched left hand for half an hour. She weighed 80 pounds at the time.
  3. She did not breathe during the entire period of a vision that ranged from fifteen minutes to three hours. Yet, her pulse beat regularly and her countenance remained pleasant as in the natural state.
  4. Her eyes were always open without blinking; her head was raised, looking upward with a pleasant expression as if staring intently at some distant object. Several physicians, at different times, conducted tests to check her lack of breathing and other physical phenomena.
  5. She was utterly unconscious of everything transpiring around her, and viewed herself as removed from this world, and in the presence of heavenly beings.
  6. When she came out of vision, all seemed total darkness, whether in the day time or a well-lighted room at night. She would exclaim with a long-drawn sigh, as she took her first natural breath, “D-a-r-k.” She was then limp and strengthless. Mrs. Martha Amadon added: “There was never an excitement among those present during a vision; nothing caused fear. It was a solemn, quiet scene.”

Fearing people would not accept her testimony, Mrs. White did not initially share her visions with the wider Millerite community. In a meeting at her parents’ home, she received what she regarded as confirmation of her ministry, and her need to share the visions:

“While praying, the thick darkness that had enveloped me was scattered, a bright light, like a ball of fire, came towards me, and as it fell upon me, my strength was taken away. I seemed to be in the presence of Jesus and the angels. Again it was repeated, ‘Make known to others what I have revealed to you.’”

Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White, p.67.2

Mrs. White spent the final years of her life in Elmshaven, her home in Saint Helena, California after the death of her husband, James White, in 1881. During her final years she traveled less frequently as she concentrated upon writing her last works for the church. She died on July 16, 1915, at her home in Elmshaven, which is now an Adventist Historical Site. After three funerals, she was buried with her husband, James White, in Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek, Michigan.

A snapshot of Ellen White’s life and work:

  • She received over 2,000 visions and dreams from God.
  • During her lifetime she wrote more than 5,000 periodical articles and 40 books.
  • Her book, Steps to Christ, has been published in more than 140 languages.
  • Ellen G. White is the most translated female non-fiction author in the history of literture, as well as the most translated American non-fiction author of either gender.
  • During her lifetime she wrote more than 5,000 periodical articles and 40 books.

Interesting facts about Ellen White:

  • She was only 5 ft 2 ins (158 cm) tall, but had strong features, compelling eyes and dark hair, severely parted in the middle.
  • The Smithsonian magazine named Ellen G. White among the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.”