Rutherford Exposed: The Story of Berta and Bonnie

by Farkel 739 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • sammielee24

    What about any baptismal records. They weren't witnesses their whole lives were they and census records at various times give out the religious denomination of the family. What about any existing public records on file like school records? Sometimes you can acess those if you know the village or residential location of the family. sammieswife.

  • sammielee24

    Looks like John or Joseph to me. sammieswife.

  • badboy


  • Leolaia

    AlphaOmega.....My version has more detail, and turning up the contrast all the way in Photoshop, I think it is clear that the names are "John Boyd" and "Victoria Boyd" (notice that the "J" and "V" are overlapping):

    BTW, I discussed this census on p. 25 of this thread, where I compared it to the 1900 census.

    Excelent table of comparative ages Leolaia !

    Thanks! Actually I've given two tables (the other is on p. 25) as the actual birthdate of Bonnie is unknown, so one table is based on the presumption that the younger age is the correct one and the other table is based on the presumption that the older age is correct. As far as her death date is concerned, she is in the SSDI (SSN 260-19-4045), see p. 22 of this thread; it states that she was born on 7/17/1904 and died in August 1979 in Atlanta, Georgia. But who knows if that birth date is correct (as it could be based on any of the other documents that are questionable). I still find it incredibly frustrating that for all the masses of data on Bonnie's birthdate, I still have no clue what year she was born! She was THAT GOOD in obfuscating her real age. But it doesn't make any sense why someone would go through that much trouble, even on government documents (i.e. her various passports), to mislead people about how old she was.

    sammieswife....That's a good idea. Actually, the answer may well be found in Waterloo, Iowa.

    badboy....That is from the 1900 census....see p. 20. The name looks like "Pauline" (= "Pauling"?) than "Caroline" tho, see p. 26 for discussion.

  • badboy



  • Leolaia

    One of the blessings of having a forum redone is that some threads feared lost forever can reappear. Like this one.

    A lot of discussion and commentary continued in the meantime on this thread:

    But I will be transferring a lot of this new material over here where it belongs.

    I will start off by presenting the same summary given in the Redux thread. Here are several main revelations that Farkel gave us in his classic essay, posted on the first page of this thread:

    • A JWD poster named larc (Carl Thornton) was the grand-nephew of a woman named Berta Peale who was a close associate of JF Rutherford from 1937 to his death in 1942. (Verified by public records that show that the Berta who was an associate of Rutherford was indeed larc's aunt)
    • Berta told larc's relatives regarding Rutherford: "He was like a husband to me in every way". (Unverified, but larc's wife also testifies to this)
    • Rutherford was married and had a son, but he was separated from his wife. (Verified by public records, which show that Rutherford and his wife lived separately from the mid-1920s onward)
    • larc revealed that Berta herself abandoned her husband of 15 years to go to Bethel in 1938. Her husband Alfred Peale, a resident of Ohio, filed for divorce on the grounds of abandonment, which was granted in 1940 (Berta's marriage to Alfred is verified with public records, larc had a copy of the paperwork from Alfred's filing)
    • Berta was a friend of Rutherford's personal secretary Bonnie Boyd who travelled with Bonnie and Rutherford to Europe the summer before 1938. (Verified with actual ship records) Unlike nearly everyone else who came to Bethel, Berta started at the top.
    • Berta lived thereafter with Rutherford as his personal dietician, despite not having any training in nutrition. Rutherford already had a qualified dietician at Bethel, yet Berta assumed this job quickly after arriving to Bethel in 1938 (Verified with data from the Moyle trial transcript and public records)
    • A few months before Berta came to Bethel, Bonnie Boyd married William Heath, a Coca-Cola heir from Atlanta, GA. This was very controversial at Bethel at the time, as it broke rules on marriage with non-Bethelites (Verified with public records and the Moyle trial transcript)
    • Prior to Berta's arrival to Bethel, Bonnie had been one of Rutherford's closest associates, working for many years as his private secretary. Bonnie publically claimed to have been Rutherford's adopted daughter, even though she was not. (Verified with public records)
    • Farkel pointed out the following similarities between Berta and Bonnie: (1) Both women were among to "closest" people to Rutherford while he was president, (2) Both women were constant traveling and living companions, (3) Both women broke the organization's rules on marriage but were in Rutherford's good graces, and among other things, (4) Both were quickly propelled to the top of the organization.
    • Finally, there are a few other unverified stories that add to the suspicion of Rutherford's infidelity. Farkel reported an account, previously posted by AlanF, that once when Rutherford was staying at a hotel, the person who straightened up his room found a lady's hairpin in his bed. According to AlanF, this occurred in 1928 and the incident led to the stumbling of a number of Bible Students in the Buffalo, New York, area. Both claim that M. James Penton has been doing research on this incident. Moreover another poster, cyberguy, was friends with an elder from Long Beach, CA who knew Berta. He related that Berta had a bedroom adjoining Rutherford's in the train car they used in their travels, with a directly connecting door between the two rooms. He learned this when Berta met with the elders before she died and gave them a full confession, showing them home movies of the two of them together.

    None of this proves beyond doubt that Rutherford had "improper" relationships with other women, but when taken together the evidence is quite suggestive. Various posters hold different opinions on the matter, but larc effectively presented the case along these lines:

    "I do like your questions they add a lot to our party, but let us analyze the situation. 1. Berta starts her career at the top of the organization, not at the bottom, like all other sisters. 2. She is hired as Rutherford's dietician, even though he already has one. The guy doesn't go to Europe and Beth Sarim, Berta does. Berta had no training whatsoever for this job. According to my cousin, Berta was the dumbest of the 6 children in her family, albeit, she was a classical beauty. 3. She wears scandalous underwear which would get a sister disfellowshipped today. 4. She lives at Beth Sarim until it was sold. Obviously, she was in good standing. 5. She left her husband in Ohio to move to Bethel. He had to file for divorce, and all the paper work was sent to Bethel. One thing I forgot to mention, my wife remembers Berta saying, Rutherford was like a husband to me, now now what does that mean? I used to be embarrassed about this, but I really don't care any more. Can I absolutely prove this. No, I have no photographs of them in bed, but I do think the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming."

    Jim Penton also presented much of this evidence in his recent book Jehovah's Witnesses and the Third Reich: Sectarian Politics Under Persecution (the foreword of which was written by larc). On pp. 102-103, Penton wrote:

    "There is also strong circumstantial evidence that he [Rutherford] was somewhat of a womanizer and may have had a mistress in the last years of his life. Regarding Rutherford's possible womanizing, Peter Moyle has written: 'It has also been known, albeit 'carefully covered,' that Rutherford liked his women and his whiskey.' In support of this allegation, family members of Rutherford's female dietician and nurse are convinced she was his mistress. The woman in question, a Mrs Berta Peale, was a close friend of Bonnie Boyd, Rutherford's stenographer. She accompanied Boyd to a Watch Tower convention in Europe at some point in the mid or late 1930s. At that convention she evidently met Rutherford. Thereafter, in June 1938, she abandond her non-Jehovah's Witness husband of fifteen years and moved to the Brooklyn Bethel where at least outwardly she became Rutherford's dietician and nurse. In November 1939 her husband, Albert Peale, filed for a divorce from her. It was granted in March 1940. Naturally, these facts raise serious questions. Why did Rutherford accept her at Bethel when she had openly deserted her husband? Such behaviour was in clear violation of biblical teachings as understood by Jehovah's Witnesses. Why did the judge make her his nurse and dietician when he already had a male nurse and when she had no formal training as either a dietician or a nurse? And why, finally, did he take Mrs Peale, an attractice southern belle, with him wherever he went? That was something he did not do with his male nurse, Matthew Howlett.

    "Another strong indication that Rutherford may have been sexually adventurous is that his wife obviously felt quite bitter toward him. She had not lived with him for many years. His excuse was that she was an invalid and could not give him his 'marital dues'; however, there was more to the matter than that. He seldom if ever bothered to visit her. So when he was dying of cancer, both she and their son Malcolm practically ignored him even though both were living nearby in southern California.

    "Despite Peter Moyle's assertion, the facts surrounding Rutherford's highly questionable relationship with Mrs Peale, his alienation from his wife and son, and various rumours that circulated among disillusioned Bible Student-Witnesses that raise questions about his conduct, there is no direct proof that he was sexually immoral. Still, with so much evidence to suggest he was, it is difficult to believe he was not."

    However, Farkel's thread gave us all an opportunity to check out the claims and dig up new evidence. The field of inquiry widened beyond simply the question of Rutherford's likely infidelity, but towards understanding who these people were in this era of Watchtower history....what do we know about the families and lives of Bonnie Boyd, Berta Peale, the Balkos (the caretakers of Rutherford's mansion, Beth Sarim), Malcolm and Mary Rutherford, William P. Heath, etc. In the course of this research, we uncovered a number of new revelations. Among other things:

    • The caretakers of Beth Sarim, August and Blanch Balko, had two children born around the time Beth Sarim was built: Princess Bonnie Balko and Prince Joseph Balko. It is striking that they named their two children after the two other major residents of Beth Sarim: Bonnie Boyd and Joseph Rutherford. But here is the weird thing: Bonnie Balko was born and named "Bonnie" in 1929, before the Balkos moved out to California to live with Rutherford and Boyd. So what connection did the Balkos have with Bonnie Boyd and Rutherford BEFORE they took their jobs at Beth Sarim? There may have been a link with Bonnie's mother Victoria, who lived part of her life in Texas -- the same state the Balkos came from.
    • William Pratt Heath, himself wealthy from his family's interests in Coca Cola, had a sister Susette (also a converted JW) who married Eugene R. Black. Black was the president of the World Bank from 1949 to 1962. Prior to this he was a very successful New York investment banker. Such a close family connection with Bonnie Boyd is striking in light of Rutherford's constant vitriol against "Big Business" and international bankers.
    • We also discovered that William P. Heath himself had been married to another woman, Dorothy Smith Heath, whom he divorced just one week before he got a "quickie" wedding with Bonnie Boyd in Las Vegas. Divorce was still quite scandalous in the 1930s, yet we see that two divorces occurred around the same time with two of Rutherford's closest associates, William divorcing his wife to marry Bonnie and Alfred divorcing his wife Berta because she abandoned him to become Rutherford's dietician. Because of the timing of the divorce, William would have courted Bonnie while he was still married.
    • A big unexpected surprise was the finding that Malcolm Rutherford and his wife Pauline accompanied his father Joseph Rutherford, Bonnie Boyd, William Heath, and Berta Peale on the S. S. Mariposa, headed to Honolulu, HI. This calls into doubt the assumption that Rutherford had no contact whatsoever with his son. It is unknown however what happened between them and on what terms they left things when they parted.
    • The most significant discovery is that Bonnie Boyd's age varied widely (and maddingly) in the different records she was mentioned, especially immigration-customs records. This suggests that she falsified her age in government documents such as her passport. There was also a pattern in her age discrepency. In 1924, a year after she came to Bethel, she claimed she was 27 years old and born on 7/17/1896. This birthdate gradually drifted upward through the years, to 7/17/1898, then to 7/17/1899, then 7/17/1900, 7/17/1901, 7/17/1902, 7/17/1903, until finally she claimed an age of 34 and a birthdate of 7/17/1904 in 1938. This made her 19 years old when she came to Bethel in 1923. Finally, in the interview with a San Diego newspaper in 1942, she claimed that she was 16 years old when she first became a companion of Rutherford, as his "adopted daughter". This duplicity has made it almost impossible to determine when Bonnie was actually born, although I suspect that 7/17/1896 is probably the original birthdate, not the later more recent ones. What makes this intriguing is that a similar pattern of age misrepresentation surrounded Rose Ball, with whom Charles T. Russell was accused (by his wife Maria Russell) of having an improper relationship. In defending Russell from criticism in the press, Rutherford argued that Russell could not have acted untoward with her because Rose was only a little girl when she came to the household and, being an orphan, was treated like an adopted daughter. This claim turns out to have been false, as Rose was neither an orphan or a juvenile at that time (as public records demonstrate). Since Rutherford used this age deception as a means of defending the president of the WTB&TS from rumors of sexual immorality, the question is raised if the situation was similar with Bonnie Boyd's claims about her age and relationship with Rutherford.

    A few new things have come to light since. I will present some of these new tidbits in my next few posts to this thread.

  • Leolaia

    Here is a relatively new piece of information. In April 1937, former Canadian branch overseer Walter Salter wrote a letter to Rutherford criticizing him purchasing liquor with the Society's money and smuggling it from Canada, as well as calling attention to his luxurious and hypocritical lifestyle. A response to this letter appears in an article by Clayton J. Woodworth published in the 5 May 1937 Golden Age (pp. 498-504). Now Salter and Woodworth were very close associates with Rutherford, so what Woodworth says about Salter is quite noteworthy. In response to Salter's criticism of Rutherford's personal life, Woodworth alluded at length to Salter's relationship with his "ladifren" stenographer. What he says about Salter, who was married to another woman, strikingly resembles what is alleged about Rutherford:

    "....the purchase of a fur coat for his ladifren with a portion of those funds..."

    "Sometimes he spent the afternoons dictating personal letters to his ladifren stenographer."

    "At the hearing, the ladifren stenographer was so seated in the room that, as she read the letters, there was no way in which Salter could give her the wink."

    "Before being dismissed he did not engage in the service work to any extent, except when out with his ladifren at week ends."

    "His own good wife, not his ladifren, said that if she were to listen to him she would not be in the truth any time at all."

    It is pretty clear what he is insinuating. And while Woodworth here is sarcastically critical about Salter after the fact, it is clear that (as far as Woodworth was concerned) Salter had his relationship with his "ladifren" for quite some time and kept his lofty position....only after Salter "turned apostate" did his inappropriate relationship suddenly become a matter for villification. For me, the suggestion that Salter had such a relationship only raises the question of how common this was with the top officials, particularly those with female secretaries and stenographers.

  • crazyblondeb

    Does anyone know of his now descendants? and where and what they are doing now??

    Just a question.....

  • Leolaia

    It is also interesting to read Rutherford's own publically stated opinion about adultery and "sins" like sharing a bed with another woman. Today, the Watchtower Society is very strict about "loose conduct" and adultery on the part of its members, even seeing it as grounds for disfellowshipping and making one liable for eternal destruction at Armageddon. But Rutherford had a more compassionate attitude towards sinners who were nonetheless loyal to "God's organization".

    In "Who Are God's Worst Enemies?", Rutherford claimed that those who commit adultery, steal, lie, or sin in other ways are often "victims of circumstances, environment, or improper education and training. Ofttimes they are hampered by fleshly weaknesses which they are powerless to resist" (15 March 1929 Watchtower, p. 93). The language used here is especially interesting. People who commit sins like adultery are themselves "victims" and they are "powerless" to resist their fleshly weaknesses. If Rutherford gave in to weaknesses of his own (which we certainly know in connection with drinking), such words would be self-serving. He goes on to claim that the Bible distinguishes between sinners and wicked people. Those who are truly wicked are those who "seek to injure, oppose, misrepresent, hinder or thwart the work of Jehovah God and to slander his name," these people are worthy of the second death and are "represensible in God's sight". Sinners, on the other hand, commit offenses like adultery but "have no desire to oppose or misrepresent God... They are sinners; but not wicked people, because their hearts are not wicked. It often happens that such people are credited with being the 'best-hearted people in the community.' They are sinners, and commit offenses because of weaknesses or because of ignorance. God pities the sinners and makes allowances for their weaknesses and their ignorance" (pp. 94-95). So if Rutherford indeed had an affair, this would be the rationalization of it -- as long as he was doing God's work, that was all that really mattered. God would make allowances for his own fleshly weaknesses.

    A few months later, Rutherford weighed in again on the same subject and gave a list of forgivable vices that a person loyal to God could be guilty of:

    *** w29 9/1 p. 271 The Sin That Will Never Be Forgiven ***

    Yielding to the inherited or acquired weaknesses of the flesh is not the sin unto death, and yet the Devil has led everybody to believe that lying, stealing, swearing, committing adultery, getting drunk or losing one's temper, or any other of the long list of fleshly weaknesses, constitutes sin unto death. But, on the contrary, all these things are forgivable. This explains why David could be called a man after God's own heart. His heart was loyal, but his flesh was weak.

    I think this mention of King David is quite interesting -- his flesh was weak but since his heart was loyal to God, he is still "a man after God's own heart", i.e. a righteous man, when all is said and done. The sins of swearing, getting drunk, and losing one's temper also has an interesting resonance with Rutherford's personality at the time. Not that this is necessarily evidence of Rutherford's situation per se, but it does take on added meaning when read in light of what Berta alleged to her family.

    Rutherford also mentioned at least twice biblical examples of men doing God's work who spent the night with women to whom they were not married, with the point that lying down with a woman is by itself not necessarily immoral if done for the right reasons:

    *** w32 11/15 pp. 343-344 Jehovah's House Desired ***

    Arriving at the threshing-floor in the field, and seeing Boaz asleep, Ruth came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. Thus is pictured how those who please God "present their bodies a living sacrifice, wholly acceptable unto God, which is their reasonable service". (Rom. 12:1) There is not one word in the divine record to indicate that there was any sensual or improper desire on the part of Ruth in taking this step as she did. On the contrary, she being a young woman, it must have been a self-denial on her part to thus proceed. In any event, she was carrying out her part of the divine drama and doing what the Lord would have her do.... Without doubt the angel of the Lord was there. If Satan could have had his way at that time he would have had upon the scene some of the outwardly pious and hypocritical clergy to lift their hands in holy horror and call some officer to arrest Ruth and have her dragged before the court charged with adultery and quickly stoned to death. But it was not permitted that Satan or any of his agents should interfere with this great divine drama which God was causing to be enacted to the honor of his own great name...

    Any man who would seize upon the events of this divine drama as a justification or excuse for pursuing an indecent or immoral course would show that he has no faith in God and does not believe his Word and has no desire to obey him. There is nothing in God's Word that furnishes any excuse or justification for man or woman to do that which is immoral, improper and wrong.

    *** w35 12/1 p. 362 Sustaining His Servant ***

    At Gaza Samson saw a harlot and went in unto her. That was not the only time God has used a harlot woman in making a picture of his purpose. The house of the harlot was a public establishment and was probably the only place that would receive Samson and give him lodging for the night. The fact that Samson is not reproved in his conduct shows that he was at the house of the harlot for a legitimate purpose and in harmony with God's will.... There is no evidence that Samson had sexual intercourse with the harlot or even any conference with her. The words, "And [he] went in unto her," do not necessarily mean that he had relations with her.... Regardless of what the argument may be, and regardless of how human creatures pretend to be shocked at the fact of Samson's spending a night in the house of a harlot, he was there at Jehovah's direction and therefore all presumptions must be indulged in his favor.

  • Nathan Natas
    Nathan Natas

    For some time now I have had an opinion - completely un-verifiable - that among the higher ups in the Watchtower heirarchy there was an "enlightened" or "more spiritual" view of marriage that did not require such quaint trivialities as the sanction of the secular state, and may even have allowed for the practice of a form of plural marriage similar to that of the Mormons, who had a 50 year head start on the Wtachtower Society.

    Like I said, this is an opinion I formed and I can't offer any substantiation for it, but I look at the way these guys behaved and wonder "How could they justify that? How did they think they could get away with it?"

    It is a matter of record that Rutherford regarded prohibition as invalid because it was in violation of God's provision, and we have the fact that Rutherford's boys went ahead and buried him at beth sarim after being told that the city of san diego wrefused to issue a permit for the burial.

    I think that what I do is a sort of forensic psychology, but others might feel I'm just entertaining myself.

    Crazyblondeb, who specifically are you asking about?

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