This is part 2/3 of Women of Influence at Prairie, read part 1 here!
Remembering women at Prairie must include a look at Miss Dorothy Ruth Miller. Miss Miller was born January 31, 1873 in Clifford Pennsylvania, to a family of 6 children. She studied at Columbia University earning a degree in English and at New York University, earning a degree in History. She taught in Iowa at Simpson Bible Institute in Seattle and at Midland Bible Institute in Kansas where she was one of L.E.’s teachers. However, she spent the majority of her teaching years at Prairie.
Miss Miller kept a daily journal, and Prairie is lucky enough to have them in our archives! On her 47th birthday in 1920 she wrote that she felt that she was only starting her walk with God. From her writings it seems that from 1922 until her arrival in Three Hills in 1929 that she felt uneasy. For whatever reason, she couldn’t get Three Hills off her mind until she arrived. While she didn’t start teaching until 1929, L.E. told Miss Miller that he would love to have her join the faculty of Prairie as early as 1925. His hope was for his favorite Bible teacher to join his new school. She was finally officially invited by the Board of Directors to join Prairie as teacher and the Dean of Women on May 4, 1928.
Miss Miller never intended to become a Bible teacher. However, during Sunday school one week the Pastor approached her and told her about her incredible gift of teaching Scripture and that such a gift from God ought to be developed and used. Even though initially she had no desire to do this, she knew that she could not escape these words. It took her two years after this to finally decide to go to Bible school, but it only took three months at school before she was asked to teach a class. Before she had even graduated she was asked to join the full-time teaching staff. She noted that “those who voiced this were all men.”
Prairie Board of Directors, 1924
“...up to this point I had been led at each step, not so much by the teaching of Scripture, as by the still small voice of the Spirit."
She explained that “…up to this point I had been led at each step, not so much by the teaching of Scripture, as by the still small voice of the Spirit. All through my Christian service I have had the clear, definite witness of the Spirit that I was in His will as to my service. This has been such a real thing to me that I can never understand people saying that they could not understand how to get the guidance of God. It seems to me that it would be difficult to avoid knowing it.”
At Prairie, Miss Miller taught Bible and doctrine courses, was also the women’s dean and co-edited Prairie’s publication, the Prairie Pastor, with L.E. Maxwell. At various times she also served on the Board of Directors, was the Registrar, and taught Bible, History, Missions, Literature, and Spanish classes. As if she wasn’t busy enough, she also wrote A Handbook of Ancient History in Bible Light, which was published in 1937. In her spare time she was well-known for writing letters of support to women on the foreign mission field.
She continuously strove to be in constant communion with the Spirit and relied on God for everything in her life. This dependence extended all the way to her finances. For example, for a period of her life she had only 10 cents to her name. At the time Prairie did not offer a salary to staff, all expenses had to come from donations. She continuously leaned on the Lord for support, knowing she would always have enough for what she needed.
She continuously strove to be in constant communion with the Spirit and relied on God for everything in her life.
Miss Miller became sick with an aggressive cancer and died February 22, 1944 at 71 years of age. Although she instructed L.E. and the Board to not mourn for her death, she was greatly missed among the staff and students. At her memorial, L.E. gave a sermon on Judges 4 and 5. This particular passage was on Deborah. L.E. explained that Deborah was the judge of Israel at this time, and the Israelites went to her to mediate and judge their disputes. One day she sent for a man named Barak and told him that God would help him and his 10,000 men win a battle. Barak agreed that he would do it, but only if Deborah came along. L.E. used this Scripture to relate himself to Barak, and Miss Miller to Deborah. Barak recognized Deborah’s wisdom and wanted her with him. The same was true of L.E. and Miss Miller. L.E. used to say that “the only wisdom I’ve ever had is to recognize wisdom where I find it”. Of Deborah and Barak, L.E. said, “Deborah’s presence, Barak knew, meant that God’s will and work would be with him. There would be times when divine direction would be needed and she would be consulted. Thus Barak simply had the wisdom to seek wisdom where it is found.”
“How much poorer we would have been as a people if we hadn't been willing to sit at the feet of Deborah the prophetess, and listened to Miss Miller?"
Some people criticised LE for choosing to put Miss Miller at the pulpit, and listening to her advice and direction. But he marvelled: “How much poorer we would have been as a people if we hadn’t been willing to sit at the feet of Deborah the prophetess, and listened to Miss Miller? Suppose we had been so ultra scriptural that we did not listen. It would be to our eternal shame, if we had never received God’s word through that woman of God. It would have been too bad for our stupidity and stubbornness.”
“We men must admit it to be a severe temptation to be jealous of such women. We may not mind giving a woman some recognition, even of place and position, but when she can outdo or outshine or outthink us – well, who of us can stand before jealousy? We suddenly become extra-Scriptural in putting the woman in her place.” LE says that this is how Barak got into the faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11:32; he listened to and trusted Deborah and God’s ability to work through her…and was willing to be second and let Deborah get the credit for the victory.
In Jesus’s ministry we see how he saw different women, spoke to them, healed them, and allowed them to hear who he truly was as Messiah and proclaim it. It was women who were there at the crucifixion and it was revealed to a woman that Jesus had risen and was able to share it with the disciples. Many scholars will use Pentecost as another case for how God uses women in ministry – Acts 1:14 shares how the disciples along with the women gathered to pray together after Jesus’ ascension and it is in this gathering that all are filled with the Holy Spirit. They were all called to minister. Further in Acts we see the development of the early church and how Paul gives credit to different women’s involvement in establishing churches, serving, and discipling others.
“If the Lord Himself on occasion employed an Esther or a Deborah, may we not expect Him in sovereign wisdom to do the same today?”
Prairie Faculty Photo, 1940
LE asks the question after reflecting on these [Biblical] women, “If the Lord Himself on occasion employed an Esther or a Deborah, may we not expect Him in sovereign wisdom to do the same today?” LE continued: “I don’t want to see our young women to feel that there’s no use in returning to Bible school, no use in going on to the mission field because they haven’t any rights. That is not the spirit, as I understand it, of the Gospel. I believe God puts his hand on some of these young women just like he does the men. God is not a compromiser; who do you want to make God out to be? He said ‘I will pour out my spirit on the young men and maidens!’ God didn’t put a footnote there to say that these maidens should speak only to girls! At least not in my bible, and I’m glad there isn’t.”
It is clear that LE did not see the few verses which forbade women to preach as being consistent with the rest of Scripture. He desired that women be free from the unscriptural restrictions that have been preserved by a male-centric worldview and tradition, started, he said, with rabbinic teaching.
Reading Miss Miller’s diaries brings on a whole new level of appreciation for her. By taking a glimpse at Miss Miller’s life it makes her seem intimidatingly godly and accomplished. But in reading Miss Miller’s diaries one realizes that she had very human moments and struggled with her own feelings of inadequacy. Not many of us will accomplish as much as she did, but her story reminds us that we all have time to mature in our Christian walk.
Stay tuned for part 3 of Women of Influence at Prairie!