Born 21 December 1926, Brussels, Belgium
Daughter of Philip E. and Katharine Dillingham Howard; married James Elliot, 1953 (died); Addison Leitch, 1969 (died); Lars Gren, 1977
Born of American missionary parents in Belgium, Elisabeth Elliot graduated from Wheaton College, Illinois, in 1948. After attending Prairie Bible Institute, she went as a missionary to Ecuador in 1952. Her first husband was also a graduate of Wheaton College and a missionary in Ecuador. When he and four of his colleagues were killed by the Auca Indians, Elliot decided to follow her call and to carry out her husband's unfinished mission to pacify the Aucas. With her baby daughter Valerie and sister of one of the slain men, she entered the Aucas' village in 1958, the first white person to do so. She kept meticulous notes of her observations of the Aucas' lifestyle and recorded their language.
Since her return to the U.S. in 1963, Elliot devoted her life to writing, lecturing, and teaching. After losing her second husband in the early 1970s, she became visiting professor at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Massachusetts. The Savage My Kinsman (1961, reprinted in 1981 and a 45th anniversary edition in 1996) is an oversize book, with photographs by Elliot and Cornell Capa. It is a verbal and pictorial record of her day-by-day life among the Aucas. Here the 20th century met head-on with the stone age, the process observed and interpreted by a sensitive and perceptive woman. While Elliot was impressed by the skills of the Aucas in filling the needs of their daily lives, they in turn were puzzled by her lack of them. She did not know how to make fishnets or pots, or how to plant manioc. She could not even snare a bumblebee for the children to fly on a palm fiber. Elliot's sharp perception for the slightest nuances in the natives' behavioral patterns opened unknown vistas into the psyche of primitives. She comprehended and was capable of communicating the divergencies between their concepts and those of the civilized world. While telling the Aucas about Christ, she also established a written form for their writing.
Among Elliot's evangelical writings, Let Me Be a Woman—Notes on Womanhood for Valerie (1976) stands out as a crisply written, down-to-earth bouquet of advice not only to her daughter, but to all young Christian women. Elliot analyzes the male-female relationship from several angles, examining discipline and submission in marriage. Her ever-present logic and her faith do not seem to clash in her credo: "You can't make proper use of a thing unless you know what it was made for, whether it is a safety pin or a sailboat. To me it is a wonderful thing to be a woman under God—to know…that we were made for something." Let Me Be A Woman is a conscious analysis of Christian womanhood. Elliot firmly adheres to the intellectual and spiritual equality of the sexes except in marriage, where women must carry out their predestined fate; only one partner leads in the dance. This type of submission Elliot does not see as a weakness, but as obedience to the voice of God.
For her missionary activities, Elliot gained world fame of a sensational nature. As an evangelical writer, she has a wide audience of readers. Several of her books have been translated into foreign languages. They are both inspiring and provocative, in an easy flowing style, and always testifying to her "mature bedrock of faith." Elliot has a felicitous gift of blending the factual with the spiritual, matters of the mind with those of the soul, not missing the quaintness and humor of a situation. She can detect as few others, the bond between all creatures of God. Where a lesser believer would acknowledge only a common denominator of birth, joy, sorrow, and death, Elliot sees with the eyes of a true believer that "all of us…were created by the same God, all of us were broken by the same Fall, and all of us might be redeemed by the same Grace."
Through Gates of Splendor (1957, 1996). Shadow of the Almighty (1958). No Graven Image (1966). Who Shall Ascend (1968). Furnace of the Lord (1968). The Liberty of Obedience (1968). A Slow and Certain Light (1973). These Strange Ashes (1975). Twelve Baskets of Crumbs (1976). Discipline: The Glad Surrender (1983, 1998). Loneliness: It Can Be a Wilderness, It Can Be a Pathway to God (1988). On Asking God Why: Trusting God in a Twisted World (1989, 1997). A Path Through Suffering (1990, 1997). Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ's Control (1994). Keep a Quiet Heart (1996). Quest for Love (1996). Gateway to Joy: Reflections That Draw Us Nearer to God (1998). The Stay-at-Home Mom (1995).
Other: A Balanced Family (audiocassette, 1995). A Peaceful Home (video, 1994). Family Management (audiocassette, 1995). Forget Me Not: A Grandmother's Influence (video, 1992). Glenda's Story (audiocassette, 1995). Growing Through Loneliness (audiocassette, 1999). Obedience (audiocassette, 1998). Spiritual Opposition (audiocassette, 1994). Suffering Is Not for Nothing (audiocassette, 1988). Teaching Your Child Self-Discipline (1995). The Shaping of a Christian Family (audiocassette, 1958, 1995).
Chicago Sunday Tribune (3 Dec. 1961). Christian Century (21 May 1969). LJ (1 May 1961, 15 May 1969). NYHTB (23 July 1961).