Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Millennial Dawn

This next extract is from a chapter entitled Millennial Dawn and the Foundations of Unity. It's a rough draft presented for review. I'm interested in thoughtful comments on the conclusions. Grammar comments are okay, but this is a rough draft and will be rewritten. I'm interested in historical accuracy. Any comments?

Russell turned to his wife for assistance. Maria Francis Russell, nee Ackley, became interested by hearing a series of widely advertised lectures given by Russell in late December 1878.[1] She and Russell were attracted to each other, seeing each other as “insert quotation.” They married less than three months after first meeting, in March 1879, John Paton traveling form Michigan to perform the ceremony.

When Russell decided to publish Zion’s Watch Tower he turned to Maria for assistance which she willingly gave: “We started to write before we were married. My husband spoke of starting a paper, and asked me if I would like to engage in it with him, and I said I would be delighted to do it.”[2]

Initially Maria Russell “attended largely to the correspondence and then … wrote for the paper.” When producing the planned new book proved difficult, Russell turned to her for more assistance. They discussed the proposed book at length and Maria prepared an outline, first of subjects, then another for the individual chapters. In 1903 she would claim that she “laid out the plan for the book … and went to work and wrote, and I wrote quite a part; I did at least half of the work, fully that.” [3]

‘Fully half’ may have been an exaggeration. Maria Russell had a distinctive style. At the risk of falling into the type of literary analysis that plagues Biblical and Shakespearian scholarship, a careful reading of Millennial Dawn: The Plan of the Ages shows much of C. T. Russell’s style and life-experience and little directly of another hand. Where Maria’s hand is most apparent is in a well-edited text nearly free from the grammar faults found in Russell’s earlier articles.

Russell’s earliest writings are often parenthetical but without the punctuation customarily used to mark it so. In an age when commas were liberally scattered through text, Russell’s articles are replete with extraneous and distracting commas. He was often inexact, making exegetical points by simple italics without elucidation. The Plan of the Ages has almost none of these faults.

Maria Frances Russell was significantly more educated than was C. T. Russell. Charles had a Common School education with some follow up with private tutors. Maria graduated high school in Pittsburgh and attended Curry Normal School, a teacher training college. It is not certain that she graduated college.[4] She was a logical choice for editorial assistance. Within the Second Adventist movement female evangelists and authors were accepted. Neither Russell nor those of his readers who came out of the Second Adventist movement would object to her contributions because of her sex.

It has much more in common with Dickens’ style than say Dashiell Hammett’s, but it is the product of the Victorian era after all, an era when compound, complex sentences were the norm. It is still very readable. A fair assessment is probably not far from Maria Russell’s claim, though she probably wrote less of actual text than her words imply. Absent more documentation than survives, it appears that most of her work was organizational and editorial. That she primarily served as an editor fits with her own statement that what “went into” Zion’s Watch Tower was submitted to her “for criticism.”[5]

In 1907, during a court hearing, she modified earlier claims of authorship to say that she had outlined the book and “that all that Mr. Russell wrote came to me for examination.”[6] Later in her testimony she called the Millennial Dawn series “Mr. Russell’s books.” It seems evident that the claim to authorship, especially of The Plan of the Ages, was an exaggeration made in her effort to claim alimony and property settlement.[7]


1 The Russells were married March 13, 1879. That Paton performed the ceremony is stated in The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gazette, March 14, 1879. The date of their meeting is derived from the article “The Truth is Stranger than Fiction,” The Watch Tower, July 15, 1906, page 213: “Amongst others was a Maria Frances Ackley, who became my wife within three months of her first attendance at these meetings, which was the beginning of our acquaintance.”

Maria F. Russell was the daughter of Mahlen and Salena Ackley. (The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography entry for C. T. Russell) She was born in 1850 and died in 1938.

2 In the Superior Court of Pennsylvania Western District: No. 202, April Term, 1908. Maria F. Russell by Her Next Friend Emma H. Russell, vs. Charles T. Russell, Appellant. Appeal by Defedant at the Court of Common Pleas No 1 of Allegheny County at No 459 June Term 1903. paper book of appellant, page 8.

3 Paper Book of Appellant, page 9.

4 Russell v. Russell, Transcript of Record, 1907 Appeal, Typescript Manuscript, page 118.

5 Russell v. Russell, Transcript of Record, 1907 Appeal, Typescript Manuscript, page 119,

6 Russell v. Russell, Transcript of Record, 1907 Appeal, Typescript Manuscript, page 121.

7 She laid claim to primary authorship of volume 4 in the series. The current state of the evidence does not allow a firm conclusion as to the validity of her claim. An example of exaggeration and misleading statement is found on page 119 of the 1907 transcript. There she claims of Zion’s Watch Tower that “Mr. Russell and I were the only ones that ever wrote for it, except a few who wrote occasionally … There were very few other articles except his and mine that were ever admitted to the paper.” Even a glancing acquaintance with the early issues of The Watch Tower shows this to be false.


Anonymous said...

Charles admitted that Maria had assisted in some way with the volumes, according to the original preface to the Millennial Dawn books, where he acknowledges it.
Much of the material of the Divine Plan book was drawn from previous sources, often word for word - from Food for Thinking Christians, and articles from the Watch Tower.

B. W. Schulz said...

Do you have a good scan of the original preface?

I'm aware that M. F. Russell said she is mentioned in the original preface. I've never seen a copy that mentions her.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I don't own a copy with the original preface, nor do I have access to one, but I did see it from an early edition. However, I think there is the text on the internet somewhere ****

Anonymous said...

In the Preface to the 470.000 edition it says:
"If these truths shall give the reader one-fourth the pleasure they have afforded the author (and his help-mate -to whom you are indebted for valuable assistance rendered in this connection) yours will be a joy which the world can neither give nor take away"
Ton, Holland

B. W. Schulz said...

Thanks, Ton! That really helps.