Stroup's "The Jehovah's Witnesses."

by em1913 23 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • slimboyfat

    Yes it’s a very interesting book. I have a copy, somewhere.

    There are many incidental comments that illuminate the period. It shed a little light on the length of Rutherford’s illness I posted about in this thread.

    I guess you know about Werner Cohn’s article about JWs as a “proletarian” movement.

    Cohn, W. (1955). Jehovah's Witnesses as a proletarian movement. The American Scholar, 281-298.

    He also wrote about JWs and “racial prejudice”. I’m not sure how accurate his comments were.

    Very good to have someone interested in WT history on the site.

  • vienne

    Yes, that's true. The nature of the congregations changed in the Rutherford era. Character Development was the Russellite expression of a late 19th Social Reform theory advocated by some psychologists and what then passed as social workers who were often religious. I understand why Rutherford attacked it. It didn't work as intended and led to strife within the congregations. Self reform [character development] theory is not, in the Christian perspective, the same as emulating Christ.

    One source says that in the Rutherford era the average education was to seventh grade. This is sometimes used to denigrate adherents, but it was part of the Common School system to end education for most at 7th grade. The education system evolved in America in the 1930s to include high school. High schools existed before, but they were not anything like those of today. And it was rare for someone to enroll. Maria Russell graduated high school, but for her that meant at best one or two additional years.

    This is from the rough draft of volume 2's first chapter

    "Maria was somewhat better educated than Russell. She graduated from Pittsburgh’s High School, where Russell took classes at the YMCA. She was admitted in 1864 for the 1864-1865 class. Admission to Pittsburgh Central High School on Smithfield Street was by examination; questions were asked addressing basic education on grammar, geography and history, and the examination lasted two days. Maria’s contemporary, George Fleming, described the process: 'There were at least three [math] definitions to answer and a question in long division; one involving an equation with one unknown quantity and one of the ten questions with a requirement of fifty percent; ... . In other studies also fifty per cent. [This is how percent was then written; it’s the abbreviation of the Latin Per Centum.] was required except spelling where sixty per cent. was the minimum.' The exam room was poorly lighted, which made cheating difficult, but not impossible, and it was sometimes happened.

    "It appears that she was enrolled in the ‘normal,’ or teacher training cohort. There is no record of attendance beyond the one year, though we suspect she attended at least one more year. When asked by her attorney: 'Where were you educated, Mrs. Russell?' she listed Pittsburgh High School and Curry Normal School. She did not claim to have graduated from either."

    After graduating she attended Curry Institute taking the teacher training course. Some writers represent this as college. It wasn't. This is another quotation from the rough draft of chapter one:

    "Some mistake Curry Institute for a college. Though it became one before its demise, when Maria Ackley attended it was not one. Founded by Robert Curry, PhD, it was ‘celebrated’ for its ‘normal school’ program. Normal schools were teacher training institutions. Some evolved into regular colleges, many did not. The ‘normal’ course work, that for teacher training, lasted six months. Following her older sister Salina, Maria sought qualification as a teacher, receiving her Permanent Certificate in the fall of 1870. We do not know if she had a temporary certificate prior to this but suspect that she did. The 1870 R. L. Polk Directory lists her as a primary grades teacher."

    Common school textbooks of the Russell era are way beyond what we expect of students today. In small town schools and country schools some teachers had no appreciable education, and post 1929 American schools were in a funding crisis. So for young people, those just 'coming up' education was short changed. Also the idea that only certificated teachers [in opposition to parents] were fit to teach children started entering what was then called "Educational Psychology" text books, giving license to teachers to foist any cock-eyed belief on the students. Most affected by this were working class families whose jobs left them little time to educate their own children.
  • em1913

    A figure that often jars a lot of people is that, according to the 1940 census, only 25 percent of the adult population of the US had finished high school. It was much more common for 1920s and 1930s kids to graduate than it had been for their parents, but the general American adult population of the time had seen no education beyond the sixth, seventh, or at most eighth grade. And the quality of that education varied according to where you lived -- a kid growing up in a city in the 1910s and 20s had a decent chance of getting a good elementary education,albeit one based more on the rote memorization of facts than on understanding of the theory underlying those facts, but a child growing up in the rurals would likely be taught to read and write, after a fashion, and perhaps recite a bit, but they would have little awareness of much else beyond their own circumstances. Rural folk often had a deep and abiding prejudice against "book larnin'", which continues to manifest itself right down to our own time -- witness the deep strain of anti-intellectualism that dominated the 19th Century populist movement and continues to dominate the current populist movement.

    I think the old Judge offers an interesting blend of attitudes. On the one hand, he did make a lawyer out of himself instead of living out his life as just another rawboned Missouri dirt farmer, but on the other, you can hear the venom spitting out of his mouth whenever he talks about those "haaaaagher critics and their eddddjahcations." I think that's a perfect reflection of the two-minded attitude working-class Americans of the early 20th Century had about education.

    I was trying to remember the name of the guy who wrote that "Proletarian" piece -- I read that years ago and thought he was pretty much on the ball. That was still early on in the Knorr era, but the two-fisted rolled-sleeve Witness was already an endangered species by the mid-fifties, giving way to the Organization Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. Nothing could better mirror the change in America itself -- from an overwhelmingly working-class, left-leaning country before the war to an increasingly status-conscious middle-class right-leaning country during the postwar era.

    As far as the Cohn piece on race goes, I don't know the exact percentage, but there was a very heavy proportion of black witnesses at the time when Stroup was writing, at least in the New York City-area congregations he investigated, but he pointed out, as Cohn did, that "Negroes" were generally not given leadership roles in mixed congregations. It's interesting to read the 1930s yearbooks and see how the Society dances around the race question, with a lot of mealy-mouthed talk about how "of course in Jehovah's eye there are no race differences, but due to the prejudices of man it was thought best to specially organize the work amongst our colored brethren." Segregated assemblies were being advertised, even into the North, well into the 1940s.

  • vienne

    I think the lack of Black "servants" in the 30s and 40s was due to poor quality education afforded that population. But I haven't really researched that. My current interest is the Russell era. We have books outlined through 1977, but both my health and Dr. Schulz's age/health make it unlikely that we'll get that far. I'll be pleased if we finish the Russell era. Everything else will be ice cream topping. In the Russell era some Black clergy converted to Watch Tower theology.

    All Black congregations had an all Black "servant body." I haven't read Cohn's thesis, though eventually I will. Title is the same as the later article.

  • vienne

    We should probably note that up to 1940 clergy in the South and in rural areas elsewhere were often illiterate or nearly so.

    Liston Pope’s analysis of clergy education in Gastonia County, North Carolina, illustrates my point:

    The policy of the Baptist churches has been even less exacting. The denomination has never erected an educational requirement for its ministers, or maintained an informal standard, or insisted on a course of study. In 1869-70 there were only two college graduates in the Baptist Association which included most of the churches in Gaston County. In 1903 few Baptist preachers in the county had even a high school education and college men were almost unknown. The tendency in more recent years has been to give preference to better-educated men, but only 56 per cent of them at present have college degrees and only 18 per cent have completed a seminary course.

    The newer sects in the county are led by ministers almost wholly uneducated. Several of them find it necessary to have some more literate person read the Scriptures in their services. Others did not go beyond the fourth or fifth grade in the public schools; none have college degrees. Most of them are on sabbatical leave from jobs in cotton mills. There are no established educational requirements for preachers in the sects with which they are affiliated, though there are trends in that direction.

    As compared with Presbyterian and Lutheran standards, Methodist demands have been relatively low. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, did not establish a college degree as a prerequisite to ordination until 1934, and it was possible until 1940 to circumvent this requirement. Less than half of its preachers in Gaston County at present have had seminary training; most of them now have college degrees, but several older men, representative of past standards, have only a high school education or less.[1]

    [1] L. Pope: Millhands and Preachers, Yale University Press, 1942, page 107-109.

  • Beth Sarim
    Beth Sarim

    It sure seems like the Rutherford era, is one which he whipped the I.B.S.A(JW's in 1930's) into the Orwellian, totalitarian entity which as lasted now 80+ years into the 21st Century. Rutherford, then Knorr each guy more and more dictator like and controlling.

  • dropoffyourkeylee

    Interesting conversation. My own memories of the old timers from the Rutherford years were that they were combative and working class folks. Pro union, anti Catholic, anti rich people, distrust of government.

    Rutherford and Father Coughlin definitely hated each other. I think Rutherford’s radio presence probably represented his political leanings as much as his writing.

  • em1913

    Yep, you can't really assess the man without considering his radio presence. While the Society has perhaps puffed up his significance a bit, the fact is that he was very much a prominent figure on the air up thru 1937 -- and his dossier at the FCC was extremely thick. It was his broadcasts, more than his writings, that brought him to the attention of the FBI, which thought enough of him to put him in their "detention" list of people who were to be rounded up if war broke out, and it was his broadcasts that reached far more people than his books or pamphlets ever did. They deserve very careful consideration, not just for what they said, but for how he said it. Most of his post-1937 radio talks are floating around the net in recorded form, but *all* of his "hour talks" were recorded starting in 1933, and there are a number of very important Rutherford broadcasts from 1933-36 that have yet to have their complete recordings restored. Some of those so-called "sound car records" you see from time to time on eBay are valuable historical documents that need to be gathered together and properly preserved for critical study.

    The loathing between Coughlin and Rutherford was mutual. Coughlin had one of his henchmen, Edward Lodge Curran of Brooklyn, deliver a blistering attack on the Witnesses over the radio in 1939, and though the voice was Curran, the words were quite clearly written by Coughlin himself.

    It seems likely, by the way, that Rutherford was more than just a radio personality. There is a very suspicious connection between the Judge and WHK, a commercial radio station in Cleveland, controlled from the mid-twenties well into the 1930s by a certain M. A. Howlett and his brothers. Yes, that's Malcolm A. or Matthew A. Howlett, depending on which name he was using at the time, the same M. A. Howlett you see listed among the "full time brothers" in the early yearbooks, the same M. A. Howlett who was supposedly the Judge's dietician, the same M. A. Howlett who worked at WBBR, the same M. A. Howlett who had been a traveling Pilgrim, the same M. A. Howlett who was one of Rutherford's closest associates at Bethel. And the same M. A. Howlett who not only owned a CBS affiliate in Cleveland, but also, astonishingly, served as secretary-treasurer of the National Association of Broadcasters, commercial radio's trade organization, from 1931-33.

    Now why, and through what means, and for what purpose, would a prominent brother manage to achieve not just the ownership of a major commercial radio station but also a vital position within the highest echelons of the broadcasting industry itself, without the Judge himself having not just some awareness of this activity but perhaps some personal financial interest in it of his own?

    Stroup never wrote about any of this, suggesting a tight lid was being kept on it by The Brothers In Brooklyn at the time, even though Howlett was a very prominent figure in the Society for as long as Rutherford lived -- immediately after selling the station in 1934 he turned up again in Brooklyn, and was most prominent as the Judge's traveling enforcer during the fallout over the Moyle affair in 1939. Penton never wrote about it either. I came across a brief mention of it in some internet article, and that motivated me to dig around in some broadcast-industry trade publications -- where I was able to confirm that good Brother Howlett was a very big cheese in the radio industry indeed.

    Did Rutherford use Howlett as a catspaw in controlling WHK and infiltrating the NAB? Did he personally profit from the operation and sale of a commercial radio station while president of the Society? If not, how did a "traveling Pilgrim brother" and Bethelite manage to raise the money to buy into WHK in the first place -- and why would he have done so? I can't say for sure one way or another, but what would the circumstantial evidence suggest?

    We do have an interesting comment from Howlett himself during his testimony during the Moyle trial -- when asked by H. C. Covington about his Bethel service, he confirms that he has been a member of the Bethel Family since 1917, and that he had only been away from Bethel for "meeting assignments and Radio Service." Later his wife Helen testifies that they were married in 1934 -- in Cleveland, which is where that "radio service" took place. An interesting line to read between, suggesting that the good brother was working for the Society at the same time he was running WHK, and that WHK, the voice of CBS in Cleveland, was in reality a "stealth" Watch Tower station for the better part of eight years. Or perhaps the reason the Society never admits to owning WHK is that "The Society" didn't -- and J. F. Rutherford himself did. Speculation, but is it really beyond him?

  • Vidiot
    vienne - "...But as social attitudes, these were shared by the American right..."

    Still are.

  • slimboyfat

    However socially conservative JW social attitudes may be, it’s worth noting that the Pew survey finds that, while most JWs a neutral, of those who express a preference, JWs lean to the Democrats by a margin of more than 2 to 1.

    It’s not surprising really when you consider that JWs comprise a far larger proportion of black people and Hispanics than the population in general, groups which are traditional Democratic supporters.

    Plus JW social conservativism is of a peculiar sort. Superficially their views on marriage, sex, gay rights and abortion may resemble the religious right. But the significant difference is that JWs have no expectation or particular desire to make society conform to their teachings on these issues.

    Farier taxes, social justice, health and education provision are more immediate priorities.

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