Did Ellen White’s literary assistants write her books?
What were Ellen White’s secretaries and literary assistants permitted to do in regard to her writings?
Ellen White did not always use perfect grammar, spelling, punctuation, or sentence or paragraph construction in her writing. She freely acknowledged her lack of such technical skills. In 1873 she lamented, “I am not a scholar. I cannot prepare my own writings for the press. . . . I am not a grammarian” (Selected Messages, book 3, p. 90). She felt the need of help from others in the preparation of her manuscripts for publication. W. C. White describes the boundaries that his mother set for her workers:
“Mother’s copyists are entrusted with the work of correcting grammatical errors, of eliminating unnecessary repetitions, and of grouping paragraphs and sections in their best order. . . .
“Mother’s workers of experience, such as Sisters Davis, Burnham, Bolton, Peck, and Hare, who are very familiar with her writings, are authorized to take a sentence, paragraph, or section from one manuscript and incorporate it with another manuscript where the same thought was expressed but not so clearly. But none of Mother’s workers are authorized to add to the manuscripts by introducing thoughts of their own” (W. C. White to G. A. Irwin, May 7, 1900).
While the chapters for each book were being prepared, Ellen White was constantly consulted, and when the work was completed, it was given to her for final approval.
At the age of 75 she explained her work to her sister, Mary:
“Now, my sister, do not think that I have forgotten you; for I have not. You know that I have books to make. My last effort is a book on true education. The writing of this book has been very trying to me, but it is nearly finished. I am now completing the last chapter. This book will not have in it so much matter as there is in some of my larger works, but the instruction it contains is important. I feel the need of help from God continually.
“I am still as active as ever. I am not in the least decrepit. I am able to do much work, writing and speaking as I did years ago.
“I read over all that is copied, to see that everything is as it should be. I read all the book manuscript before it is sent to the printer. So you can see that my time must be fully occupied” (Letter 133, 1902).
There is ample testimony from Mrs. White’s secretaries—not only in public statements but in private correspondence with the publishers, etc.—that they worked only on what she had written; they did not write material for her.
Fannie Bolton made public retractions of her claims that she had written Mrs. White’s materials. You will find these included in the document I mentioned to you. Later, after both Fannie Bolton and Mrs. White were dead, a critic of Mrs. White claimed that he had irrefutable proof that Fannie, not Mrs. White, had written Steps to Christ. But he never set forth such proof. In fact, the claim was nonsense because one can find portions of Steps to Christ in material Mrs. White wrote and published before she ever met Fannie Bolton. (Steps to Christ, like many of Mrs. White’s later books, was drawn from her earlier writings, both published and unpublished, which were organized into the book we now know.) So the proof is there that this was Mrs. White’s material, not Fannie’s.
See also the following question and answer.