Category Archives: Researcher Publications

O Wheaton, dear old Wheaton!

WCSongsDr. W. Wyeth Willard, historian, lawyer, WW II veteran and former assistant to Dr. Edman, fourth president of Wheaton College, was asked to write a reminiscense regarding the Alma Mater for the September 8, 1956, Wheaton Alumni magazine. A thorough researcher, Willard discovered an interesting fact about the beloved college song, usually sung in chapel or at special events.

‘O Wheaton, dear old Wheaton, live forever:

Brave sons and daughters true,

We will e’er uphold thy colors

The orange and the blue.’

While gathering material for the College history, Fire on the Prairie, I interviewed a then living secretary of the late President Charles A. Blanchard. He informed me that President Blanchard adapted a song of a now defunct Illinois college, and successfully introduced it at a chapel service. A recent letter from the widow of the above mentioned secretary confirms this testimony, to wit: that around the turn of the century, President Blanchard visited Hedding College, which was then functioning in the small town of Abingdon in Knox County, not far from Galesburg, Illinois. Hedding was having a hard struggle to keep open, and was about to liquidate (by tomoson). President Blanchard had spoken at Hedding, and greatly admired the college song with its “orange and blue.” He thought by changing a word here and there he might rescue the living song from the dying college of Hedding. With this object in mind he had his secretary prepare many cards with the present version of Wheaton’s Alma Mater typed thereon, ‘O Wheaton! dear old Wheaton, live forever!’ was thereupon sung in chapel to the delight of all. The adapted version was an immediate success.

Apostles of Reason

WorthenMolly Worthen, Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, using the combined resources of Wheaton College’s Archives & Special Collections, Billy Graham Center Archives and the Wade Center, has released Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism (2014). Navigating the paradoxes and ideological clashes of the Christian Right with American culture, she examines the often fierce struggle between faith and reason.

Historian Mark Noll, formerly of Wheaton College, remarks: “Apostles of Reason brings a new level of sophistication, as well as sparking prose, to the study of modern American evangelicals. A combination of empathetic understanding and critical acumen makes this an unusually humane, as well as unusually insightful, book.”

The Longest Strike in History

Tom HigdonIn recent years much has been happening in the world of unions, collective rights and strikes. April 1st marks the anniversary of what has been called the longest strike in history. What makes the story of this strike amazing, along with its length, was who the strikers were. On April 1, 1914 the dismissal of the teachers of the local school in Burston, Norfolk, England took effect. Kitty and Tom Higdon were relieved of their duties. In response to this 66 of the school’s 72 children went on strike and marched about the village demanding the return of their teachers. Officially, the strike never ended.

In 1902 Parliament passed the Education Bill that stated that working-class children were entitled to an education. In places like Burston that education prepared students for little more than work in the factories, fields or domestic service. Christian educators like Tom and Kitty Higdon believed that that all children should have a better education than what many districts offered. They saw that education was an opportunity for a better life. In 1902 the Higdons began teaching near Aylsham, thirty-some miles from Burston. It was here, in this highly agricultural area, that they organized an agricultural workers union and help local workers make their way onto the local education committee. These committees were often dominated by farm owners who sought to be sure that students were educated sufficiently to work on local farms but not much more. With such limited education workers and their children often lived in squalid conditions and they often took children out of school whenever seasonal cheap labor was needed, thus hampering their education further.

By 1911 the Higdon’s work created a rift in the local community and they were dismissed. It was at this time that they moved south to Burston. In Burston the Higdons arrived and took up the posts of School Mistress and Assistant Master. Tom also served as a Methodist lay preacher. In this part of rural Norfolk the squires and farmers ruled and held sway over the workers, who were expected to work for very low wages–often barely enough to live on with both pay and living conditions at an appalling level. Housing was atrocious and people died because of conditions. The local rector’s salary was 15 times that of the average local worker.

Like Aylsham, the Higdon’s encouraged the workers to take matters into their own hands, especially through changing the Parish Council. It was the Parish Council that set the rates of pay for field workers. In 1914 the local workers were able to assume full control of the council after a full slate of local hands were elected. In response to their agitation the Higdons were removed as teachers by the local school council, a council still under the control of the farm owners. It was their removal that sparked the school strike. Kitty and Tom Higdon teaching on the green (from the Burston Rebellion)The school children marched to express their frustrations. The Higdons continued to teach the children on the local village green. To quell the defiance the school board took parents to court and fined them for failing maintain the enrollment of their children in school. When this didn’t succeed workers were evicted from their homes. The rector evicted workers from the land they rented to grow vegetables. Even the local Methodist minister was censured for aiding the students and their families. Eventually the students and teachers moved into local workshops and a “free” school was built and opened in 1917. It remained a “school of freedom” until 1939 when Tom Higdon’s death in 1939 when Kitty could no longer keep the school open.

The story of the strike is told in the 1985 film The Burston Rebellion directed by Norman Stone, whose papers are housed in the Special Collections.

Mending Fences

On October 30, 1997 Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) gave the third annual Kuyper Lecture entitled “Mending Fences: Renewing Justice Between Government and Civil Society,” sponsored by the Center for Public Justice and Wheaton College. During the economic prosperity of the late 1990s, Coats asked whether a growing economy, high employment, and low interest rates indicate that the citizens of the United States are thriving? In Coats’ published address and responses from three distinguished social activists, Coats applauded America’s economic prosperity and the more limited role of government, but was distressed by the moral crisis of the culture and the signs of a weakening “civil society.” There is a paradox inherent in the viewpoint of the American founders: In order to have political freedom, individuals must embody self-discipline and virtue. It is the responsibility of parents, church leaders, and nonprofit service providers to train each generation in democratic habits and manners: reasoned reflection, self-mastery, public spirit, and respect for the rights of others. Senator Coats addressed the need to strengthen the authority and economic well-being of those institutions that teach moral values. As author of the legislative package The Project for American Renewal, he argued that the government must use its authority to empower constructive actions in the nongovernmental sector. [ Excerpted from The Center for Public Justice ].

The annual Kuyper lecture has been held since 1995 and is named for Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), an influential Dutch scholar-statesman. Kuyper saw that religion was a the deep, driving influence of competing religions in human society and that Jesus Christ made comprehensive and inescapable claims on the world and these two were exemplified with the strength and influence of international bonds of Christian community. Kuyper believed that the Christian life cannot be confined to church life. Accepting Christ’s claim of authority over the entire world, he sought to follow the implications of that faith into politics, journalism, education, and other human endeavors.

The Daniel R. Coats Papers are available to researchers at the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections.

Audio icon LISTEN to Dan Coats 1997 Kuyper lecture (mp3 – 01:04:08, Coats begins at 11:10)


The inefficient gospel in an age of efficiency.

The Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections house the papers of noted sociologist and theologian Jacques Ellul. Though not all recognize the totality of Ellul’s ethics and writings, as the more secular fail to see the significance or importance of his theological writings, Ellul’s Christian works are key to understanding all of his other writings.

Jacques EllulEllul, born January 6, 1912 in Bordeaux, France, and grew up in a non-religious home. His mother was a devout Christian but in deference to Ellul’s father never discussed her faith with Ellul until after his own conversion. By his own description, his conversion was a violent one followed by years of struggling with his faith. After coming to peace with his faith and its call upon his life Ellul associated with the French Reformed Church, which he chose because it was weak and unorganized. Ellul always sought to side with the poor (in spirit, wealth, or other resources). Though he read Calvin it was Barth who appealed to Ellul. Another early influence upon Ellul’s Christianity was the Personalist Movement, which he helped found in France with Emmanuel Mounier. This movement stressed the reality, value and free will of persons. In conjunction with personalism, Immanuel Kant formed Ellul’s thoughts on the movement and Ellul claimed to have read the entire corpuses of Kant and Barth. Beside the poverty of his childhood, caused by his father’s unemployment, another influence upon Ellul was Karl Marx. Ellul believed that Marx accurately described the system under which Ellul’s world operated, but due to the influence of the Bible, and Jesus Christ as the hermeneutical key, he did not believe that Marx provided a suitable solution to the world’s ills.

Ellul’s most important work is considered to be The Technological Society (in French: La Technique, 1954). Other important writings are Propaganda (Propagandes, 1962) and The Political Illusion (L’Illusion politique, 1964). His works sought to provide readers with the ability to critique how they engage the modern world. One of the most significant critiques of our time, especially from a Christian perspective, would be upon the “cult of efficiency” that permeates our culture. It is Ellul’s more explicitly theological writings, the ones that round out the pictures provided in the more sociological titles listed above, such as The Meaning of the City, The Politics of God and the Politics of Man and The Presence of the Kingdom, which challenge the practices of our culture. We live in a culture that emphasizes efficiency and demands it from every task. However the Gospel is inefficient.

Our culture is concerned with its technological advances and our lives are measured by what we possess. The accessories of our lives speak volumes about what we and others find important as they speak to our wealth, freedom and ability to acquire resources easily. The history of civilizations tells of their wealth and might, even of the strength of its armies and the technology of warfare. However the history of God’s dealings with humanity — his acts of grace and mercy towards his creation — tell of a bulrush baby being rescued and furnace-cast followers being saved. God has a heavenly host at his command, yet he seeks and uses the weak and powerless. We see this in the story of Gideon who was from the smallest family in the weakest clan (Judges 6). Solomon extolled the Lord for his care for the weak and needy (Psalm 72). Ezekiel records the words of the Lord and tells us that God retrieves the strays, strengthens the weak and destroys the strong (Ezekiel 34). The Gospel is intertwined with these principles to the point that Paul revels in his own weaknesses (II Corinthians 12) as they serve as conduits of God’s grace.

Decades ago the writings of Jacques Ellul ominously reveal the problems of our efficient age. In his Technological Society Ellul clearly outlines the trajectory of society and what is so portentous is that he penned these words more than fifty years ago and we are still on that same trajectory and seeing the terminus out in front of us; the outcome that Ellul portrays is not inviting. In very rational fashion he articulates the logical conclusions of the choices humanity has made. He calls his readers to ask questions, like “what will this create?” prior to embarking upon a course of action or implementing a new process/technology.

Ellul died May 19, 1994 leaving a theological legacy that can be found in more than fifty books in French that were translated into English and eight other languages.

“God’s Own Party” published from work in the Special Collections

Daniel WilliamsThough many may see the rise of the Religious Right and the engagement of evangelicals in the political sphere as a recent happening, Daniel Williams’ assiduously-researched book, God’s Own Party: the making of the Christian Right, published by Oxford University Press, reveals that its roots go back to the 1920s and 1930s. Williams, assistant professor of history at the University of West Georgia, tells the story of how fundamentalists and evangelicals moved into positions of political power and influence as soul-winning was replaced with social-crusading. Though rooted in the early decades of the twentieth century in a fight against communism a decisive shift occurred mid-century and following as groups like the God's Own PartyNational Association of Evangelicals (whose records were used for this book) and individuals like Billy Graham grew in popularity and influence. By the 1960s Graham was becoming known as the President’s pastor and took on celebrity status. This popularity became a tool for shrewd politicians. By the 1970s litmus-test issues emerged as social controveries abounded like the Equal Rights Amendment, Roe v. Wade, Birth Control and homosexuality. In more recent years, as Williams’ research shows, younger evangelicals expressed concern for environmental and social-justice issues. Williams’ book serves as an essential resource for understanding the current and historical relationship between American evangelical religion and politics.

“Hearts Beating for Liberty” helps tell the story of Mary Blanchard

Mary Avery Bent BlanchardThe influence and story of Mary Bent Blanchard’s life is, unfortunately, left largely untold. However, Stacey Robertson’s recent book “Hearts Beating for Liberty: women abolitionists in the Old Northwest” helps place Mary’s life into context with other activist women of her day. Robertson’s book challenges many of the traditional histories of abolition that often portray the story of the work to abolish slavery as a solely Eastern cause. She shifts the focus to region known then as the Northwest and shows how the women of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin helped build a vibrant antislavery movement. Hearts Beating for LibertyOther writers have sought to do the same for the history of the Underground Railroad. Robertson, Oglesby Professor of American Heritage at Bradley University, argues that the Old Northwest had a complicated history of slavery and racism, but its abolitionist citizens created a uniquely collaborative and flexible approach to abolitionism. These “western” women helped build a local focus through unusual activities that crossed the boundaries of cultural propriety as they plunged into Liberty Party politics, boycotts of goods from slave-states and illegally helped fugitives. The work of these women was done right alongside male co-believers, unlike their Eastern counterparts. Robertson tells the pragmatic work of female antislavery societies as they sought to eliminate racist laws, aid fugitive slaves, and build schools for blacks. These women exemplified the capacity to work together to accomplish significant goals.

Special Collections researcher publishes “Scandalous Women”

Scandalous Women: the lives and loves of history's most notorious womenWayward wives and warrior queens alongside wild women of the west and amorous artists and amazing adventuresses are the fodder for this book of “herstory.” Elizabeth Mahon took her notable blog and put it into book-form. In this book, “Scandalous Women: the lives and loves of history’s most notorious women,” she writes in an accessible manner that tells the stories of Anne Boleyn to Anna Leonowens. Publisher’s Weekly calls this volume a “Feminist History for Dummies” as it covers the lives of well-known women and generally lesser-known females like Carry Nation who was president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1900 and busted bars to bits with an axe and called others to do the same. As mentioned, a chapter in Mahon’s book retells the story of Anna Leonowens. Some of Leonowens’ writings are housed in the Kenneth and Margaret Landon Papers at Wheaton College.

Clouds of Witnesses published from the Evangelism & Missions Collection

Clouds of Witnesses by Mark Noll and Carolyn NystromThrough nearly a dozen and a half biographical sketches Nystrom and Noll take the reader to Africa and Asia to see the lives of Christian believers in other lands and in other times. These stories span a century from the 1880s to the 1980s as the variety of Christian faith and practice are displayed in the lives of these inspiring individuals. Historian Philip Jenkins has clearly articulated in The Next Christendom: the rise of global Christianity the growth of Christianity in regions like Africa and Asia, but Clouds of Witnesses puts names and faces on that rise and growth. These are stories of the individuals, like Bernard Mizeki, Byang Koto, Wang Mingdao and Song Shangjie, who have lived their faith and sacrificed to spread the good news of Christ’s gospel. It is for this purpose — to encourage missions and evangelism and to document the lives of those involved in these activities — that the Evangelism & Missions Collection exists. This collection was useful in the research of this volume. This book can also serve as a companion to Mark Noll’s award-winning book The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith. Noll’s papers are also a part of the Archives & Special Collections at Wheaton College. All of the titles mention herein will help you understand how the Christian faith has been spread, fostered and grown as a result of the Great Commission.

“From Bible Belt to Sunbelt” published

From Bible Belt to SunbeltIn this new book Darren Dochuk, from Purdue University, argues that Great Depression-era religious tenant farmers, “plain-folk” migrants, from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas are key to understanding the contemporary interchange between American religion and politics. These migrants, with their Southern steely persistence and Western rugged impatience and pragmatism helped shape the character of politics in Southern California through the development of a political machine that influenced politics in the second half of the twentieth century in the careers of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The research in this book received the 2006 Allan Nevins Prize from the Society of American Historians. By utilizing the records of the National Association of Evangelicals and the National Association of Christian Schools Dochuk’s book has been well-reviewed and serves as a helpful guide as it tells the story of the rise of the New Right and modern conservatism.