Revised February 22, 2018
The Black Stocking Era
The Black Stocking Plague
Shame, Suffering, Discrimination
Why Did They Wear Black Stockings?
The Black Stocking Church
Plague of Black Stokings Lifted
Will History Repeat Itself?
PHOTO GALLERY - View Black Stockings
Black Stockings by Thomas V. Schroeder
Black Stockings by Marti (Nelson) Knight
The Black Stocking Plague
Those who were born after 1950 into families of the Church without a Name have little to no idea of the suffering, embarrassment and humiliation endured by females in this Church who had to wear Black Stockings. My mother was a victim of the Black Stocking Plague, and some of the following details came first hand from her memories and experiences during the years 1933-1945. She grew up in Mississippi in Eastern USA, which was under the oversight of George Walker. This chapter does not include customs in other countries.
"Today, the legs of the ladies, old and young, are adorned with whatever color is fashionable, and if you were to ask one...about ‘The Black Stocking Controversy,’ they would, more than likely, stare at you blankly and tell you they have no idea what you're talking about....My most vivid childhood memory is of the women having to wear black stockings. There was always a lot of controversy about them, as well as a lot of rebellion, and many a good Christian girl fell by the wayside because she refused to go out in public wearing her uniform" (In Vain They do Worship, by Willis Young, pp. 36-37).
When the 2x2 Church began in the late 19th century, Britain's Queen Victoria was reigning in Breat Britain and Ireland. During the Victorian era (1837 and 1901). At the start, the Victorian era was about modesty and natural beauty. Women's fashions of that era covered female legs and ankles under fabric and to bare them was considered wholly indecent. Women wearing trousers were viewed with horror. In the Victorian age, a woman's hair was considered her glory, so women rarely cut their locks. The Queen lambasted the use of cosmetics and respectable woman did not use them. The use of cosmetics was controversial with many religions banning them as immoral or labelling them as "the tools of the devil." Victorian men often sported a mustache or beard and sometimes allowed their sideburns to grow.
The 2x2 women's normal attire was long dresses or skirts and Black Stockings. Hemlines went to the ground with no leg or stocking visible. “Black stockings became almost universal for daytime wear in the 1890s,” according to a book about costumes. Concerning typical day leg wear in the years 1890 to 1900: “Black was usual, often of lisle thread" (Victorian Costume by Anne Buck). "Up to the 1920s, few other colors of stockings were manufactured, except for the traditional black" (Handbook of English Costume in the 19th Century by C. Willett & Phillis Cunnington, Pub. by Plays Inc, 1970). “Lisle” was a type of cotton from which hosiery was made.
At this time, the fiber content in hosiery was all natural: cotton, wool or silk. In 1900, about 88% of women's stockings manufactured were cotton, about 11% were wool and about 1% were silk. All three fibers were rigid with no stretch or give to them. Nylon was not invented until 1937 (Encyclopædia Britannica and History of Hosiery by Milton N. Grass, pub 1956 by Fairchild Pub LIB 55-11807).
WHEN DID THEY START WEARING BLACK STOCKINGS? In their Early Days when the 2x2 Sect was just getting
started, the first Sister Workers and their converts did not change from their usual apparel of Black Stockings and
hemlines, which was no different from what other women of that day wore. [View photos of Black Stockings.]
Stockings were worn just above the knee, held up by garters which were attached to a corset, girdle or garter belt.
While they dressed plainly, professing women did not stand out as peculiar in their hosiery or hemlines. This fashion continued to be worn until at least 1910. "The early 20th Century: There were no fundamental changes in dress during the first decade of the 20th century" (Encyclopædia Britannica, Heading: Dress).
Black Stockings were worn by the first Sister Workers who came to America from the British Isles in the early 1900s. My Mother wrote: "The first Sister Workers we ever met wore them. Women who professed were expected to wear them and when they did, it seemed they were in a different class from those who didn't. The few who didn't wear them were considered to be ‘without understanding.' As a young teenager, I thought that this was required for salvation."
During World War I (1914-1918), hemlines rose up to eight inches above the ankle, and legs and stockings became visible. The fashion in stockings changed also.
"Women were beginning to question their status in a man's world....some went to work outside the home. A more practical form of dress became popular, with the blouse and skirt replacing the ruffled tea gown. During the war years of 1914-18 these changes accelerated. A minority of women were in uniform, but far more worked in factories, in offices, as postal carriers and in other jobs previously performed by men. To meet their needs...the skirt hemline rose to eight inches above the ground, revealing the ankles for the first time…With the short skirts, flesh-coloured stockings were introduced...(other colours were also worn).…The postwar 1920s brought a complete change to the fashion scene…The skirt hemline rose steadily to become, at its shortest in the years 1925-27, knee-length" (Encyclopædia Britannica).
However, professing American women kept right on wearing lisle Black Stockings, even after flesh-colored hosiery became the norm for women. Eventually, manufacturers stopped making Black Stockings altogether and the supply ran out. Some professing women bought white or tan hosiery and dyed it black (Memories of Tom Schroeder). Washing them caused fading and over its lifetime, a pair of hose could be dyed several times. In the summer, perspiration caused some women’s feet to turn black from the dye.
THE BLACK STOCKING CHURCH: Professing women were known by the color of their stockings–rather then by their Christlike spirit. This highly visible peculiarity earned the nickname of "The Black Socks" and "The Black Stocking Church." "Because as members of The Truth Church we had to wear Black Stockings, we became known as the 'Black Socks.' We were the Two-by-Twos and the Black Socks of Boscobel” (Bigots of Boscobel by Everett C. Oman, 1992, p. 59).
From the FBI Investigation of the Black Stocking Church: "Both of these individuals advised that the church advocates strict abstinence and wearing of modest clothing, that due to this latter principle they are many times referred to as members of the 'Black Stocking' Church..." (Report of Kansas City Division File No. 100-6693, April 23, 1943).
"My Mom washed clothes by hand and hung them on the line to dry. You should have seen the Black Stockings blowing in the wind! Mom said everybody that goes past our place can see what kind of people are living here by looking at our laundry hanging on the clothes line. And Mom was so right! Because one day, the teacher called me up to her desk and asked me the name of our religion. I told her that it didn’t have a name, but the other kids in the classroom called out to the teacher, ‘It’s the Black Stocking Religion’" (Memories of Tom Schroeder).
WHY DID THEY WEAR BLACK STOCKINGS? Various explanations exist. Modesty was the chief one. However, as the styles changed, the Black Stockings actually DREW attention to women’s legs. Most 2x2 women wore them (1) to please the Workers, and (2) because they thought it was something theythey needed to do in order to be saved. Women who wore Black Stockings were considered more spiritually mature. It was viewed as a sign of being whole-hearted and submissive. To wear Black Stockings was to "suffer for the Kingdom's sake." It was the ultimate in self-denial. It was to stifle one’s pride (Proverbs 16:18). The women believed they were pleasing God–even though many of them detested wearing Black Stockings. They took comfort that they would be saved and rewarded for their pain and suffering. To be fully accepted by one’s professing peers, and to win the smiling approval of the Workers, a professing woman had to wear Black Stockings. Getting to heaven and Black Stockings were a package deal. They were comforted in their belief that their suffering would pay off in heavenly rewards.
THE SHAME, SUFFERING, DISCRIMINATION: Young girls were forced to wear the apparel of old ladies, often without understanding why. The perceived importance of Black Stockings inspired fear: "my aunt remembers getting up in the middle of the night to put on her black stockings to wear them in bed–she was afraid that if she died in the middle of the night, she'd go to hell" (Robert Kee*). Even babies and children did not escape the Black Stocking Plague:
"Looking at old pictures and hearing family stories, I was aware that babies wore stockings in Meetings, lest they kick up their little legs and expose skin. As a toddler I wore black stockings at home. These were held up by something called a ‘harness,’ which was made of strips of elastic and was adjusted to one's size by means of various buckles and sliders. Suspenders went over the shoulders, and long garters, one in front and one in back for each leg, gripped the tops of the stockings....I remember that it became very difficult to find long stockings in children's sizes. We had to send away to Sears and Roebuck or Montgomery Ward or Chicago Mail (Aldens) for them" (Memories of Martha Knight).
While her classmates wore white socks, my Mother and her sisters had to wear thick, ugly, brown cotton stockings of which they were ashamed. At some point after they professed, most young women living in Eastern USA reluctantly donned Black Stockings. My Mother professed in 1938, a few months before her 15th birthday:
"...how much I dreaded changing over to those hideous Black Stockings. I believed it was a necessary step I had to take in order to be accepted by God. I viewed the day I would 'put away childish things' and put on Black Stockings as the day that would mark the beginning of a process of salvation in my life. I wanted, above all else, to please God and receive eternal life, in spite of having to wear the detested Black Stockings. I waited until after I graduated from high school when I was 17, to don the color Black. It was a VERY Black Day in 1941 for me."By the 1920s, hemlines had eased up to the knees revealing considerable lower leg. "In 1910, the hemline rose from the end of the teens to reach the knee in 1925, and remained hovering near that position until the stock market crash of 1929, when they too fell to mid-calf and lower…In 1920, this decade is notorious for its scandalous changes in fashion…bobbed hair…showing your knees…women smoking in public!" (La Belle Epoque-Women's Fashions of the 1900’s). Imagine a young woman in her late teens or early twenties wearing a pastel, light-weight cotton, summer dress that barely covered her knees–with dark cotton Black Stockings. My Mother wrote:
"We were seldom asked what church we went to. However, we were asked about our manner of dress and long hair. Some people thought we wore uniforms. In reality, I suppose we did. Our faith couldn't be identified by a name, but we sure were identified by what we wore. When we were wearing Black Stockings, we supposedly had on Holy Apparel. ‘Approved of God, what could we more desire?’ We were advertising our righteousness, but no one could see it for the Black Stockings, so no one recognized it. We shied away from strangers; afraid to be friendly. Afraid they would ask us why we wore Black Stockings. And we had no good answer...I would just flippantly answer with a question. For example, ‘Why do you wear the color stockings you have on?’
"You cannot imagine the remarks, the rejection, the questions, the slights, snubs, etc. we endured from 'those of the world' due to our wearing Black Stockings. Most young girls enjoy going shopping–not me or my sisters! We hated it. Shopping took a lot of courage because we were often questioned and usually were gawked at as though we were some sort of freaks. Some people actually turned around to stare at us; whispered behind their hands; snickered as we passed on the street....At various times, I was so overcome with embarrassment that I wished the floor would open up and swallow me."
In time, the appearance of professing women was so conspicuous that they became known by their Black Stockings, like 2x2 nuns going about advertising their Church by their strange apparel; similar to the Amish and Mennonites who are known by their peculiar apparel. For example, my Mother wrote:
Some women believed the reason they did not get hired for certain positions was due to their Black Stockings. One woman was hired by General Motors in 1942 when she was 18. When she reported for work wearing her Black Stockings, her immediate supervisor told her, "You cannot wear those things in this place." She began wearing tan hose to work and also to Meeting; no one said anything to her about it. Another lady took matters into her own hands to insure her success when she was selling her home-manufactured syrup door-to-door:
"I remember the testimony of a young attractive professing woman at Convention one year. She said someone had told her she looked as though she belonged in a circus. She went on to say that if that person could be at that Convention, she would probably say, ‘Here's the rest of the circus.’ Many laughed, but I didn’t. I sat there furious with a poker face."
“It’s interesting that the men in charge of the rules that women are required to follow, look just like any other men walking down the street–but they enforce rules where women have to look different–to wear uniforms that advertise they are saints; as though they cannot be known by their spirit alone."
THE INVENTION OF NYLON: In 1937, a patent was filed for nylon by DuPont Laboratories. This tough, durable, flexible fiber could be drawn into filaments and stretched to form very strong but sheer fibers. It had the sheerness of silk with strength surpassing even cotton or wool. Nylon had a tremendous impact on the hosiery industry! A display of women’s nylons at the 1939 New York World’s Fair created a sensation. The first recorded sale in New York City stores was on May 15, 1940. Soon after World War II, women's nylon stockings supplanted all other types.
"We loaded up the trunk with a lot of jars and cans of maple syrup, so we could go into the suburbs and go door-to-door selling maple syrup. As I was driving, I looked over at my Mom and noticed that she was taking off her black stockings, and then she...pulled out a pair of light tan stockings and put them on. Mom said, I will tell you why I'm doing this. I will be walking up one side of the street... with our large canvas shopping bags carrying syrup for sale. How would I look, with a black hat on my head to cover up my bun, my dark blue dress and black stockings from my knees down to my big black shoes? They will think it's the bag lady coming up to their door, and they're not going to answer the door bell--Now with these tan stockings on, at least I look halfway presentable. As I was driving back...that evening, Mom started taking off the tan stockings in the car and she said, ‘I don't dare let my sister see me in these tan stockings, so I have to put these black ones on again' " (Memories of Tom Schroeder).
"When the United States entered World War II, nylon production was interrupted and women grudgingly had to go back to natural fibers. Nylon all but disappeared commercially, going totally into war production for parachutes, belts, web gear and other pieces of equipment…Teenage girls unable to find nylons on the black market painted black seams down the back of their legs just to impress their boyfriends. And what American GI doesn’t remember the bargaining power of a chocolate bar and a pair of nylons?
"After the war, the large pent up consumer demand literally exploded on the retail market as soon as goods were available. What has been described as a mob of 10,000 shoppers descended on Market Street in San Francisco for the first post-war sale of nylons in 1945. A department store window was shattered and several women fainted and the sale had to be canceled. Never again would the hosiery industry be the same" (Article titled: The History of Hosiery by Sid Smith, President & Chief Executive Officer of The Hosiery Association).
PLAGUE OF BLACK STOCKINGS LIFTED: The North American Overseeers, Jack Carroll and George Walker, did not orchestrate the removal of Black Stockings to occur at the same time in all parts of America and Canada. The West discontinued the practice around 1930–much earlier than the East. Various stories have circulated as to how and who was responsible for bringing down the Black Stocking Plague.
According to my Mother, it was World War II that put an end to them. Certainly, the war played no small part in delivering the professing women. Also, the youth rebelling played a part. During World War II, professing men in the military from North America were stationed in locations where the professing women wore Black Stockings. Many of their wives attended Meetings and Conventions in the East. Many of them, especially those from Western America, wore flesh-colored hose. The professing women still wearing Black Stockings were confused, as their Church was supposed to be the same all over the world.
Naturally, this caused talk, unrest, questions, and major discontent set in with those who still had to wear the despised Black Stockings. At first, some younger women began wearing flesh colored hosiery to meeting. At first, those who did were considered rebellious. In Mississippi, my Mother’s bold younger sister was the first woman to stop wearing Black Stockings! Gradually, most of the younger generation changed over and others followed suit. However, some older women hung onto their Black Stockings for many years, while others wore them to their graves. As late as 1990, some 8-10 professing women were seen wearing Black Stockings at the Convention at McCordsville, Indiana.
Two of Jack Carroll's sisters, May and Fannie, were in the Work under him in California, and had a large influence on Jack concerning the professing women under his care. Perhaps they convinced Jack to let go of the custom when they were unable to buy Black Stockings any longer. Or maybe they just let him know they were going to stop wearing them. According to one report, May Carroll was responsible for removing the grievous burden of Black Stockings in Jack Carroll's territory, and also in 1935 in Australia where her Brother, Bill Carroll, was the Overseer of Victoria. Details are unknown. However, in the 1931 photo of May Carroll, she is not wearing Black Stockings, while her cousin, Minnie Christie is, so May stopped wearing them some time prior to 1931. Excerpt from Sermon by Jack Carroll regarding Black Stockings, undated:
"We gave you four words last year to guide you in connection with your purchases during the year–economy, simplicity, modesty, and neatness. What the scripture teaches about the dress question is covered by these four words, and we will have no complaint if the daughters of Zion give evidence that in all their purchases during the year they do it as unto the Lord, remembering that if they are to have a testimony of value it will be well for them to be guided by these four words. We don't want to make rules or laws for God's children that would bring them into unnecessary bondage. We believe we can safely trust our sisters in Christ in this matter, which is such a serious matter, as far as they are concerned, if they will be guided by these four words. If they do this, it will result in their having a testimony for God that will be of value.
"We would like our Sisters here to look upon the Sister Workers as a safe guide in this matter. There is no need for an absolute uniformity. We know this is a very serious question, and we believe that in some cases at least there could be a little improvement in this matter. We don't like to see any wearing stockings so closely like having no stockings on at all, and we feel perfectly sure that when you buy your next pair if you remember these four words, especially the word modesty, you will be more careful not only with regard to material but also with regard to color."
Reportedly, in George Walker's territory, the matter came to a head when three Sister Workers from Eastern U.S. were invited to preach at Irish Conventions. When they arrived, it was noticed that the American Workers were wearing Black Stockings, while the Irish Sister Workers and Saints were wearing tan-colored stockings. This led to a discussion. The Black-Stocking Workers thought women wearing tan stockings were in danger of going to a lost eternity. The Tan-Stocking Workers wondered what the Convention crowd would think when they saw the American Sister Workers standing on the platform preaching in their Black Stockings? The American Sister Workers wondered what their American Overseer, George Walker, would say if they did not wear their Black Stockings? What would he do when he found out the Sister Workers in the Old Country did not wear them anymore? What would the American Friends and Workers think and say if they went back home wearing tan stockings? What a conundrum!
The Irish Head Worker was summoned to settle the
matter. He listened and said he did not have an answer for
them right then. He promised to pray about it and give his answer the next morning. His solution was to tell the American Sister Workers that they would get
some tan-colored stockings to wear, and that they did not need to wear the Black Stockings anymore.
What happened when the three Sister Workers came back from Ireland wearing tan stockings? Reportedly, George Walker called a Workers’ Meeting in Canada, in which he agreed for the "The Change" to take place. My Mother wrote: "I remember most of the churches in our part getting a copy of a letter from George Walker concerning 'The Change.' I had one in my possession for years. He mentioned that while some were changing to other colors, he still preferred the black."
"I favored black because it was furthermost (sic) from the flesh color that many of us believed was unbecoming to 'women professing godliness.' At no time did I say black was the only modest color. I spoke against the wearing of it being a condition of fellowship. I did not, and I do not, believe using pressure on people, to make them go beyond what is in their heart, or to do what they are not convinced in their minds they should do, is profitable to them or to The Lord’s work" (Letter by Geo. Walker).
"The ‘black stocking rule’ was...addressed publicly by George Walker, one of the senior Workers at a Convention held at Almonte, Ontario in 1945 or 1946. Even though I was young at the time, I can still recall so vividly the outpourings of relief from those who were so desperate for the change, and the equal protestations from women like my grandmothers who saw it as the end of the faith as they knew it, and who kept that faith until the day they died" (In Vain They do Worship, by Willis Young, pp. 36-37).
"THE CHANGE:" The professing women spread the word to one another that they no longer had to wear Black Stockings–the news traveled as fast as lightning! Known as "THE CHANGE," the transition was not orderly and did not occur simultaneously in all areas of North America. There was no announcement made or distributed. Women in some states took off their Black Stockings, while women in neighboring states continued to wear them for awhile longer. As is still the case, outward customs and traditions depend on the state Overseer.
"In this period of time, some of us had been changing to not-black stockings. The Elder of the Meeting and his wife and daughter still 'held with' black stockings. A few of the older people in the Meeting still did, but in most families, females were wearing brown, gray, gun metal, a salt-and-pepper tweedy knit, or an orangey tan. Later tan became the color most seemed to prefer. None of these stockings were sheer" (Memories of Martha Knight).
After the war was over, my Mother went to work in a neighboring state and boarded with a professing family with three daughters. Two had
made "The Change" and so had a few others with whom she met for
Meeting. Mom was more than ready and happy to make "The Change" also. "Eventually my mother changed over also. I don't remember
how long it was after we girls did. My oldest sister had gone to
California to join her husband who was in the Navy and was mentored by
an older kind, loving saint lady who gently led her to make 'The
Change'...hardly anyone wore them in
Professing women all over North America began changing. Some women admitted they had been praying for this for years and now, their prayers had been heard! They wasted no time getting rid of the hated Black Stockings and putting on approved stocking colors of gun metal gray, tan, beige and taupe. Flesh-colored hosiery was still considered (almost) a sin; it bordered on being very worldly, and perhaps indicated "losing out." My Mother wrote:
"I NEVER got used to wearing Black Stockings in public, and I hated them right up until the day I took them off for good and threw them away. I remember the day I changed over! There are no words to describe what freedom I felt when I donned my first pair of gun metal gray hose and saw my legs in the mirror! I couldn't get enough of looking at my own legs! The first day I didn't wear Black Stockings to work, I happily walked down the sidewalk looking at my reflection in the store windows as I walked. I was in awe of my own legs! They weren't black! I stared at them for several blocks to and from the bus stop, as though it were a dream come true. The NIGHTMARE was finally OVER!...the total years I actually wore black stockings was only five years, but in that five years of my really important teens and early 1920s, the effect it had was to rob me of much more than years, but also an important part of my youth.Marti Knight recounted the time her Aunt Alice Nelson went out to preach in her home state of Pennsylvania at the Spring Special Meeting, held in the schoolhouse. Her aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers sisters and parents were all there looking forward to seeing and hearing Alice preach for the first time. The Workers present were Alice, her companion, Jim Beacom (the Head Worker in Pennsylvania) and his companion.
"At the Spring Special Meeting there were representatives of the black-stocking loyalists and the lighter-stocking modernists. Chief among the black-stocking loyalists was Jim Beacom, a dramatic, kivver-to-kivver, scary-story, hell-and-damnation, long-winded preacher. Among the females wearing non-black was fledgling worker Alice Nelson. My recollection is that Alice was not permitted to speak from the platform that day.Black Stockings had lasting emotional effects on some women and children. Being the object of scorn and ridicule, some feel Black Stockings caused extreme self-consciousness, meticulousness, shyness, low self-esteem and introversion. For fifty years, Black Stockings were the dark robber of the youth of many girls. Young children and girls were trapped in the outward garments of older women. The memories were so bad, my Mother refused to let me wear black leotards when I was a young girl, and her sister refused to ever put on a pair of stylish black sheer hose.
" And when Beacom did, it was to deliver a pointed harangue about letting worldliness creep in, being a slave to vanity, women who did not dress in a way that becomes God's people, those who were not willing to be a peculiar people, those who would not bear a little suffering and shame, those who wanted to be modern and to be accepted by worldly friends and had ‘The Lit'ry Digest’ and other worldly magazines in their homes...Sitting on the platform, Aunt Alice tucked her feet back as far as possible under her mid-calf skirt, clasped her hands over her open Bible in her lap, and looked straight ahead, then finally down at the floor, and I saw some tears trickle from under her lashes...Grampa finally got up...and walked out of the room....Deeply offended and angered, he did not go to Meetings for many years" (Memories of Marti Knight).
At first, nylons were made with dark seams that ran vertically up the back of the leg. It was difficult to keep the seam straight. Later seamless nylons were invented, which eliminated the need to keep seams straight. The Workers were reluctant for professing women to begin wearing seamless nylons. One Worker's reason was that the seam made it obvious the legs were not bare and that the skin was covered. Fortunately, it was permissible for young girls to wear seamless hose. Eventually, seamed hosiery faded out of fashion. Free from the seam!
Black Stockings went full circle. For a time during 1930-1940, if a professing woman did not wear them, she suffered reproach, but by the 1970s, Workers frowned on professing women who continued to wear them. Sister Worker, Hilda Blaue was asked to stop wearing Black Stockings in the 1970s. She refused because she had made a vow to God in the 1920s that she would wear Black Stockings until the day she died and not complain about it. Hilda argued that she could not change or break her vow to God. She was put out of the work and lived went to live with her unprofessing sister. View Hilda wearing Black Stockings.
My Mother wrote: "We didn't understand that it is our heart that God looks upon, never hearing or being taught in Meetings that we will not be saved by what we do, but by what Christ did, His life and death. 'But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance...for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart' (1 Sam. 16:7). When I think of all the ‘wood, hay and stubble’ (1 Cor 3:12), those works that will be burned, I weep. All that painful, suffering--so unnecessary, so uncalled for. I see so clearly today that this is what suffering really is: 'We must realize that only divinely ordained purposeful suffering, not suffering per se, is Godly. God is glorified through suffering brought upon us because of our faithfulness to Christ, not by what we bring upon ourselves through an attempt to prove ourselves faithful’ " (Statement by Audrey W. Johnson).
WILL HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF? The Workers were wrong–dead wrong about the need for professing women to wear Black Stockings. This error caused untold grief and misery to countless women. They were seriously wrong once–could they be wrong again in other areas? Can anything be learned from the Worker's past mistakes? Or must history repeat itself? Are the Workers possibly wrong in their requirements for women today? Are there Traditions of Men that the Workers have represented as Commandments of God–that were never meant to be? Are there some similar "Black Stocking issues" existing in the 2x2 Church today?
Is it wrong for women to trim their hair and wear it down? Or to wear cosmetics, slacks or shorts? Is it wrong to own a television or go to the theater? Do any of these requirements impose needless hardships on 2x2s, like the Black Stockings did? Do these requirements keep Friends from getting better jobs, cause them to make less income, make their lives appear uninviting to outsiders? Make the women stand out by what they wear, rather than their spirit? Are these traditions lacking Biblical foundation similar to the Black Stockings? Or are they merely men's preferences, as the Black Stockings were George Walker's preference? Are the women, in essence, wearing 21st century phylacteries, as the Pharisees did?
Letter by George Walker regarding Black Stockings, undated.
A letter, containing a misleading statement concerning what I said in a Workers’ Meeting regarding Black Stockings, having been circulated amongst my friends. I feel I should write the following:
Over seventeen years ago, a man who did not profess and with whom I was not acquainted came to me at a Special Meeting, and complained that his wife, who had recently professed, was wearing Black Stockings at the advice of the Sister Worker she had professed through. Previous to this I had given little thought to the color of hosiery worn by our Sisters. I knew when long dresses were worn it was considered all right to wear different colors.
I talked with some of the older Sister Workers that I had cause to have a great deal of confidence in. They believe it would be better for all to wear black. At Conventions that year I asked this questions: “IF all sisters were satisfied in there (sic) minds that their wearing black was pleasing to the Lord, would their doing so hurt the Lord’s work?” I expressed my opinion that it would not.
I favored black because it was furthermost (sic) from the flesh color that many of us believed was unbecoming to “women professing godliness.” At no time did I say black was the only modest color. I spoke against the wearing of it being a Condition of Fellowship. I did not and I do not, believe using pressure on people, to make them go beyond what is in their heart, or to do what they are not convinced in their minds they should do, is profitable to them or to The Lord’s work.
I am personally acquainted with a number of sister’s (sic) Workers and saints who believe it is pleasing to the Lord for them to continue wearing the black they have always worn. I appreciate their willingness to bear reproach for being true to their convictions. I have seen other qualities in them that causes me to “esteem them highly.” I am acquainted with other sisters who believe their wearing other modest colors is pleasing to the Lord. I have no reason to doubt their tureens (sic) and sincerity. I have seen in them manifestation of the Spirit of Christ that causes me to “esteem them highly.”
There are other parts of a woman’s attire that it may be needful to mention. Is the wearing of a dress that does not come to a reasonable length below the knees, when she is seated, becoming to a “woman professing Godliness?” The scriptures speak expressly about outward adorning, wearing of gold, plaiting of hair. We are sometime grieved to see some of our sisters wearing large showy broaches, and we fear the wrist watch, when worn as an adornment especially a gold one, with gold band, is not in keeping with the instructions given in Peter's Epistle. We fear the tendency some of our sisters have to follow the latest fads in arranging their hair does not add weight to their testimony.
During the past few years, we have not said much in Conventions or other Meetings about outward appearance. We have had a strong desire to so speak and act that Love would be increased amongst us. If we have in our Hearts unfeigned Love for the Lord, we will so Love His work and people that we will be very careful not to hurt His work or cause the weakest amongst His people to stumble by what we wear or do or say.
We will be anxious to excel in graces and virtues that are mentioned so many times in both Old and New Testament, the forgiving Spirit that enables us to forgive from the heart everyone who has wronged us or in any way hurt our feelings. The compassion, the sympathy, the brotherly love, that enables us to forbear and be patient with all and that causes our Fellowship to be profitable and pleasant. If we lack these things, we cannot “adorn the Doctrine,” though our outward appearance is correct according to the Scriptures. Seeing that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul and Peter to mention these things, we should not consider the outward unimportant. Our unwillingness to “Obey” in this may indicate a rebellious Spirit that prevents the Lord working in us and us having the condition of Heart and Spirit that in the “sight of God” is of great price.
Recently I have been impressed with the word Servant as used by Paul. In RV Version it is translated Slave. We know a slave has little to say regarding what he will do or say or how he will act towards others. I would like in the future to be more like a faithful slave.
With love and good wishes to all who Love His Name and Way,
Your Servant for Christ’s sake.
Telling the Truth has a hard copy of the documents, books, newspaper articles, references, etc. used in this book. Any exceptions are noted with an asterisk (*).
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