Sarepta Myranda I.
Mrs. S. M. I. Henry, a writer and
temperance worker, was an early leader of the Woman's Christian Temperance
Union (WCTU). She also was an advocate of women's work in the Seventh-day
Adventist Church, with emphasis on Christian motherhood and the home. Her
father was a Methodist minister, and she often accompanied him on his
itineraries. In 1861 she married James W. Henry, a teacher, who died 10 years
later, leaving her with three small children.
When Mrs. Henry's son was enticed to
enter a saloon in 1874, she set out to organize the Christian women of
Rockford, Illinois, to promote temperance. She gradually broadened her work
until she became the national evangelist for the newly organized Woman's
Christian Temperance Union.
Mrs. Henry became ill in the 1880s
and by 1895 was a complete invalid. In 1896, as a patient at Battle Creek
Sanitarium, she accepted the Seventh-day Adventist faith. Soon afterward she
was healed by prayer and resumed her WCTU work.
In 1898 Mrs. Henry conceived a plan
for women's ministry and began lecturing to Adventist and non-Adventist
audiences on the role of the mother in the moral education of society. She
wrote many articles for the Review and Herald and for about two years
had a special column. She also published several books and pamphlets. Perhaps
the best known biography of her was written by her granddaughter, Margaret
Rossiter White, entitled Whirlwind of the Lord.
When Mrs. Henry became a Seventh-day
Adventist in 1896, Ellen White was in Australia. Mrs. White's son, W. C. White,
met Mrs. Henry in Battle Creek in 1897 and carried back to Australia some of
her publications to share with his mother. In a letter to Mrs. Henry, Ellen
White wrote: "I would be very much pleased could I be seated by your side and
converse with you in regard to the incidents of our experiences. I have an
earnest desire to meet you. . . . Across the broad waters of the Pacific, we
can clasp hands in faith and sweet fellowship."--Letter 9, 1898.
Mrs. Henry had not found it easy to
accept the idea of a prophet in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But after
considerable reading, study, and investigation of Ellen White's life and
writings, she was convinced of the genuineness of Ellen White's claims, and an
analogy came to her mind in relating the gift of prophecy to the Bible. She
compared the Spirit of prophecy to a telescope focused on the Word of God,
enabling readers to see more clearly the principles of Scripture. The gift was
not to take the place of the Bible, but to focus our eyes upon it with greater
intensity and clarity.
Ellen White encouraged Mrs. Henry to
continue in her work for women within and without the church and not to
disconnect from the WCTU simply because she had become a Seventh-day Adventist.
She believed Mrs. Henry could be a powerful witness to that organization,
leading its leaders to additional truths such as the seventh-day Sabbath. Ellen
White never had the opportunity of meeting Mrs. Henry in person, but they had
mutual affection for each other and common understanding of their distinct
roles. Letters between them continued to the time of Mrs. Henry's death in