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Edith M. Graham

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Graham, Edith Mary (1861–1918)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: September 7, 2020

Edith M. Graham held multiple church leadership responsibilities in Australia and New Zealand and served as head of the Home Missionary Department of the General Conference.

From Anglican to Adventist

Edith Mary Graham was born in Whitton, southwest London, on June 2, 1861. She was raised as an Anglican and received all her education in private schools. There is every indication that her family was of the privileged class. Her brother was a member of the exclusive National Club in Whitehall Gardens, London, an interdenominational organization with membership by invitation only and one actively engaged in the promotion of the Bible in the political and cultural spheres of the United Kingdom.1

While on a voyage from England to New Zealand Edith became acquainted with Alfred and Emma Semmens, Seventh-day Adventist nursing graduates returning from America. Denominational literature was shared and Edith became convinced of the Saturday Sabbath, observing it for the first time on May 26, 1894. She was baptized in Wellington, New Zealand, by Gilbert Wilson a few weeks after starting her Sabbath-keeping. She was small in stature, only 1.6 meters (5’3’’) tall, with blue eyes, a fair complexion and a congenital heart problem but nothing deterred her enthusiasm for Christian service.2

Service in Australia and New Zealand

In January 1895 Graham began her church employment in Melbourne, Victoria, as the accountant for the Australian Tract and Missionary Society (ATS). It was quickly realized that she possessed exceptional talent for the commercial arm of the church. In 1896 she was elected to be the treasurer of ATS and the following year she added the responsibilities of treasurer of the Australasian Union Conference (AUC) and treasurer of the Central Australia Conference. In 1899 Graham became the secretary/treasurer and auditor of the AUC. Later, further responsibilities were added, such as secretary/treasurer of the Sydney Sanitarium and Benevolent Association and secretary/treasurer of the Australasian Conference Association. She managed these multiple sets of accounts with impeccable honesty and proficiency for more than a decade.3

In November 1911 Graham was called to serve as secretary/treasurer of the New Zealand Conference and also to head the Sabbath School Department.4 Occasionally she published instructional articles about the protocols of book-keeping for local church officers.5

GC Home Missionary Department Leader

Edith Graham was a delegate-at-large at the General Conference session, May 15 through June 8, 1913, at Takoma Park, Washington, D.C.6 She read the Sabbath School and Young People’s Department reports of the AUC.7 The president of the General Conference, A. G. Daniells, had gained a highly favorable impression of Graham when he had been AUC president during the late 1890s. Now, she was elected to “take charge of the Home Missionary Department,” then a division of the Publishing Department, but one that the GC leadership wanted “to organize fully and make strong.”8 One fellow worker said of the appointment that she “undertook the heavy task of resuscitating the old-time missionary spirit in the churches.” He continued, she “was gifted with a wonderful memory, a clearness of reasoning, a conciseness in expression and a keenness for details.”9

During her work at the General Conference Graham formed the habit of writing articles about individuals who experienced success in their personal missionary endeavors in the homeland.10 These were to encourage others to be disciples of Christ among their neighbors. She also published a series of devotional studies taken from Ellen White’s Testimonies for the Church.11

In the months prior to the 1918 General Conference session, Edith’s health deteriorated, and she sought treatment in California. It provided some relief but following the meetings the heart problems she had struggled with all her life finally became chronic and she passed away in Pasadena on July 11, 1918.12

Sources

GCA, Secretariat Missionary Files, RG 21, Record 114896, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland.

Daniells, A. G. “The Death of Edith M. Graham.” ARH, October 24, 1918.

“Death of Miss Edith M. Graham.” ARH, July 25, 1918.

“Delegates to the General Conference, May 15 to June 8, 1913.” ARH, May 22, 1913.

Graham, E. M. “Keeping Books.” Australasian Record, March 17, 1913.

Graham, E. M. “Some Home Missionary Results.” ARH, June 21, 1917.

Graham, Edith M. “Studies in the Testimonies: Immortality a Gift.” ARH, February 7, 1918.

Pretyman, C. H. “Death of Sister Edith M. Graham.” Australasian Record, July 29, 1918.

“The National Club.” Accessed January 24, 2021, https://www.thenationalclub.org.uk/.

“Sabbath School and Young People’s Work.” General Conference Bulletin, May 27, 1913.

“Sister E. M. Graham, who has been identified . . . .” Australasian Record, September 1, 1913.

Notes

  1. GCA, Secretariat Missionary Files, RG 21, Record 114896, Biographical Information Blank, Edith Mary Graham, December 31, 1950; “The National Club,” accessed January 24, 2021, https://www.thenationalclub.org.uk/.

  2. Graham Biographical Information Blank, December 31, 1950, GCA, Record 114896.

  3. Ibid.; A.G. Daniells, “The Death of Edith M. Graham,” ARH, October 24, 1918, 12.

  4. Graham Biographical Information Blank, December 31, 1950, GCA, Record 114896.

  5. E. M. Graham, “Keeping Books,” Australasian Record, March 17, 1913, 5-6.

  6. “Delegates to the General Conference, May 15 to June 8, 1913,” ARH, May 22, 1913, 12-13.

  7. “Sabbath School and Young People’s Work,” General Conference Bulletin, May 27, 1913, 154.

  8. Daniells, “The Death of Edith M. Graham”; “Sister E.M. Graham, who has been identified . . . ,” Australasian Record, September 1, 1913, 8.

  9. C. H. Pretyman, “Death of Sister Edith M. Graham,” Australasian Record, July 29, 1918, 8.

  10. For example, E. M. Graham, “Some Home Missionary Results,” ARH, June 21, 1917, 19-20.

  11. For example, Edith M. Graham, “Studies in the Testimonies: Immortality a Gift,” ARH, February 7, 1918, 7-8.

  12. “Death of Miss Edith M. Graham,” ARH, July 25, 1918, 24.

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Hook, Milton. "Graham, Edith Mary (1861–1918)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 07, 2020. Accessed December 02, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=A9DE.

Hook, Milton. "Graham, Edith Mary (1861–1918)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 07, 2020. Date of access December 02, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=A9DE.

Hook, Milton (2020, September 07). Graham, Edith Mary (1861–1918). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved December 02, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=A9DE.