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A Response to the Video:
Seventh-day Adventism, the Spirit Behind the Church

by Bob Pickle

Answers to Questions Raised by:
Mark Martin, Sydney Cleveland
Dale Ratzlaff, The White Lie
. . . and
Others

Discern Fact from Fiction


Health Counsel, Wigs, and the Reform Dress

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#131, #132, #133, #134, #135, & #136: "Once the deadly peril of wearing wigs was dealt with, Ellen G. White tried to force a hot, uncomfortable, strange style of dress on her female followers. She claimed it was designed by God. It was in reality a pair of pants with a bulky, long dress over them."—Dan Snyder.

#131: After the wigs came the dress. False. The article Mr. Snyder cited under #129 was dated 1871. The "reform dress" was introduced more than six years earlier in 1865. Thus the dress came before the counsel on heavy hairpieces, not after.

#132: She tried to force a strange style of dress on her female followers. False. As pointed out under #128, she was against forcing the reform dress on anyone.

#133: The dress was hot. It was not hot. First of all, let's consider what ladies' dresses were like at the time:

As to the reasons for a need of reform in women's dress at that time, the New York Independent in 1913 painted a vivid picture:

"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 thirty-two-inch waist is regarded as permissible, where formerly a twenty-inch waist was thought proper. A fashionably gowned woman of the present day can stoop to pick up a pin at her feet."—Arthur White, vol. 2, pp. 177, 178.

In contrast to the established fashion, Mrs. White's reform dress was lighter and shorter, and dispensed with the corset. Is it not interesting that the very improvements she advocated in the dress of women were eventually adopted by society?

One university professor has her students study [p. 90] Mrs. White's position on dress reform, along with the silly criticisms she received. Hear what this professor has to say on the matter:

Since the 19th Century, the forces of dress reform won their sartorial battles with the impressively cumbersome, class ridden, unhealthy and (often) anesthetic styles of the Victorian era. Dress reform went mainstream after 1900, and now we just assume the rightness of clothing that is comfortable, easy to wash, easy to move in, and healthy for the wearer. . . . Reform dress often isn't "pretty," but if you time traveled the average college student to 1855, she'd be wearing it in a week, because it would be the only comfortable clothes she could buy. Moreover, if she thought anyone would be insisting that she should be in a corset and petticoats, she'd think it would be a religious person like White. It is a nice bit of enlightenment for modern feminists to see that what they imagine is a purely feminist statement (bloomers) was in fact a REFORM statement, very often pushed by religious reformers, and artistic and political folks, not just feminists.—Tara Maginnis, Ph.D., University of Alaska Fairbanks, May 5, 2002, personal email.

How much does Dr. Maginnis know about Adventism and Mrs. White? Is she biased? ". . . I'm not a member of this religion, know little about it and know next to nothing about White other than her stance on dress reform."—Ibid.

Back to temperature: Since it was so much lighter than what society was wearing, it couldn't have been hot. And yet at the same time, the wearer was not cold in the winter. While the trunk had fewer layers on it and was thus cooler, the extremities were not left exposed to the winter winds (Health Reformer, May 1, 1872).

#134: The dress was uncomfortable. How can not wearing corsets or long heavy skirts be uncomfortable?

Repeatedly over the years, Mrs. White called upon women to wear more comfortable clothing. Take for instance these quotes from 1864 and 1868:

Your girls should wear the waists of their dresses perfectly loose, and they should have a style of dress convenient, comfortable and modest.—Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 471.

Christian Mother: Why not clothe your daughter as comfortably and as properly as you do your son?—Health Reformer, Sept. 1, 1868.

And these from 1905:

One of fashion's wasteful and mischievous devices is the skirt that sweeps the ground. Uncleanly, uncomfortable, inconvenient, unhealthful—all this and more is true of the trailing skirt.—Ministry of Healing, p. 291.

No part of the body should at any time be made uncomfortable by clothing that compresses any organ or restricts its freedom of movement.—Ibid., p. 382.

#135: The dress was bulky. It was anything but bulky. Rather, it was intended to replace the clothing of the day that really was bulky.

A wise grandmother counseled her granddaughter regarding a fashionable dress of that time:

"There is no beauty in the present style, and leaving aside the awkwardness of the design, one would suppose the shackling of the limbs and the oppressive heaviness of the dress, on so delicate a part of the body as the spine, would deter women from such fatuity."—quoted in Health Reformer, May 1, 1872.

The selection under #133 said that the style in 1913 had reduced the number of skirts. How ever many skirts the women of the 1870's were loading down their hips with, we do know this about Mrs. White's reform dress: "Our skirts are few and light, not taxing our strength with the burden of many and longer ones."—Ibid.

#136: The dress was long. If it was long, why was it called the "short dress"? The following quote is just one example of many where it was called "short." It also shows just how little forcing Mrs. White did:

Sisters who have opposing husbands have asked my advice in regard to their adopting the short dress contrary to the wishes of the husband. I advise them to wait. I do not consider the dress question of so vital importance as the Sabbath. Concerning the latter there can be no hesitation. But the opposition which many might receive should they adopt the dress reform would be more injurious to health than the dress would be beneficial. Several of these sisters have said to me: "My husband likes your dress; he says he has not one word of fault to find with it."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 522.

At that time, many spiritualists were adopting an even shorter dress that came "halfway from the hip to the knee" (p. 465). The public was outraged by such a novelty, and novel it was. Typically, women were wearing dresses so long that they swept the streets like a "mop" (Health Reformer, Aug. 1, 1868). The reform dress avoided both these extremes, thus being more healthful without outraging the public (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, pp. 457, 464, 465). How more balanced could Mrs. White have been? [p. 91]

A Response to the Video

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