Wives of God, Mothers of the Faithful: Edna Rose Baker and Marceline Jones as Mothers Divine

(E. Black is an independent researcher with an interest in Peoples Temple as a new religious movement and social phenomenon. Her particular focus is exploring the relationship between Peoples Temple and an earlier new religious movement, the Peace Mission Movement of Father Divine. Her other article in this edition of the jonestown report is Jonestown and Woodmont: Jim Jones, Mother Divine and the Fulfillment of Father Divine’s intention of a Vanishing Divine City. Her previous articles are here.)

When Rev. Jim Jones rose before the ruling echelons and members of Father Divine’s International Peace Mission Movement at their headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1958 to declare that he had come to “take Father’s place” as their next leader and reincarnated God, he presented them all with a disorienting dilemma.

Not only was Father Divine still very much alive – and presumably, according to the group’s theology, immortal – but Jim Jones couldn’t have been more different than the man he proposed to succeed.[1]

In 1958, Father Divine, the African American head of a 25-year-old movement with millions of dollars in real estate holdings and a declining yet still formidable membership, was nearly 80 years old, twice married and a diabetic in declining health. He was also childless. Jones’ Peoples Temple Full Gospel church, consisting of one small congregation in the US Midwest, in contrast, was not even three years old. Jones himself was White, 27 years old, married and the father of three adopted and multiracial children.[2]

Although Jones was rapidly building a ministry that focused on both spiritual miracles and a fundamental commitment to racial brotherhood and equality in a time of lawful racial segregation in the USA – qualities that would appeal to Peace Mission members – perhaps the biggest logistical impediment to Jones’s church take over proposal, besides the two men’s obvious differences, was that they both had living wives. More to the point, it raised the practical question: If Jim Jones became the next “Father Divine,” what would become of Mother Divine?

The roles of first ladies of both the Peace Mission and Peoples Temple is the subject of this paper.

Women make up the body of God

As politico/religious formations, both the Peace Mission and Peoples Temple were predominantly women’s organizations led by a charismatic man, with women constituting the majority in both membership and leadership positions of each organization. Moreover, commitment to the equality of the sexes characterized both movements.

“God in every person” was a major tenet from the beginnings in the ministry of Samuel Morris in his role as Father Jehovia.[3] His church/commune, known as the Fairmount Street House in Baltimore, Maryland, was the founding group from which the leader of the Peace Mission, Father Divine, emerged. Although not emphasized as much as Father Divine’s anti-racist ministry or the tragic end of Peoples Temple, the end of female oppression and the liberation of women encapsulated in the phrase “God in every person” was at the core of all three groups.[4]

Indeed, it was Father Jehovia’s female convert, evangelist Harriett Snowden, who opened her personal living space to serve as the headquarters and spiritual base for the Father Jehovia cult that the young George Baker Jr. – and future Father Divine – joined at the beginning of the 20th century. This house church setting as well as the communal meals prepared by Ms. Snowden became the template for both Peace Mission and Peoples Temple communal structures.[5]

In addition to assisting Father Jehovia, women formed the nucleus of the evolving ministry of his most famous disciple in his role as the Messenger of God and God in the Sonship degree during his years in the Fairmount Street group. And during his sojourn to southern Georgia after separating from Father Jehovia, it was Black women who fed, clothed and sheltered the young itinerant messenger, who thronged to hear his message, and who supported him up when he was taken to court. These same women stood with George Baker Jr. when he was declared insane and sentenced to a mental institution, it was women who greeted him when the sentence was overturned and he was released on the conditions that he quit the state of Georgia forever.[6]

Father finds a precious Penny

Peninnah Divine

Although Baker had been alone when he came to Georgia in 1912, he left the state a few years later with a small group of Black, predominantly female followers who would serve as the core of his house church/commune at his next stop in New York City. It was likely from among those women recruited in the small towns of rural Georgia that the heavyset, tall, light-skinned Black woman later known in the movement as Peninnah – or “Sister Penny” – came. Drawing additional members from the great migration of southern Blacks to the cities of the northern USA during World War I, Baker’s group officially discouraged both sexual intercourse and marriage for its adherents. Yet, it 1919, Sister Penny became Mrs. Major Jealous Divine, wife of Rev Major Jealous Divine. Later she would be known as “Mother” Penny and finally as “Mother Divine.” Thus she would become the first “wife of God” and the first “Mother of the Faithful.”

Peninnah was known to be older than her husband, although there are no known records which reveal by how much. We also don’t know if she had been previously married, if she already had children or how much of a family she abandoned to join the Messenger’s cult. Yet given the “no marriage and no sex” tenets of the faith she was now a part, it is the very fact of a marriage at all that is key here. We do know that the marriage between Peninnah and George Baker was almost certainly his first.

This was one of the many contradictions that were to crop up throughout the entire history of the movement and would cause many to characterize the Father Divine cult as bizarre. Moreover, its acceptance by the followers was an example of the type of esoteric exegesis common to both the Peace Mission and Peoples Temple. Such contradictions in Peoples Temple would be called Temple logic, and perhaps at this juncture in Peace Mission history, the marriage could accurately be characterized as Divinite logic. Like other seemingly-contradictory reasoning that some groups employ, perhaps the two becoming one flesh, had a deeper, esoteric meaning for the faithful. [7] Perhaps the leader was both making it clear and setting a standard that God was indeed male and Father to all, and his Godliness could and would also be expressed through a woman. If so, then the marriage may have underscored the Jehovia/Divine tenet that God was in “every person” – both males and females – as exemplified in the person by both Father and Mother Divine. It could also be the case that through the mystery of marriage, Father and Mother Divine were attempting to transcend gender divisions altogether, being neither male nor female but a union of both becoming neither.

Finally, Mother Divine, could be seen as the first fruits of the faithful, as Father’s earliest achievement, and as a woman who, in leaving behind all mortality, i.e., sexual intercourse and motherhood, was living her sacrifice for the cause. In other words, Peninnah was setting the standard that Mother Divine represented as God’s wife in the movement. The subsequent experiences of the future Mother Divine would lend credence to this hypothesis.

Soon after the tiny traveling, all-Black cult arrived in New York City, it moved from the crowded inner city and into the all-White suburb of Sayville on Long Island. The communal home that they purchased and that served as Father Divine’s only commune for more than ten years was bought and held in the name of Mrs. Peninnah Divine. [8] Throughout the 1920s, in Sayville she served as the official house mother and hostess of the cult, and her home-cooked meals eventually became the Holy Communion Banquets that characterized the rapidly-expanding Peace Mission. As a huge influx of members overwhelmed the ability of a single person to provide adequate hospitality services, Mother Penny’s role became more of a figurehead in the movement, and her duties as were basically taken over by the all-White, mostly female secretarial staff that developed around the couple.

By 1934, a much younger Black woman, Viola Wilson aka Faithful Mary had risen to be the top female executive secretary and chief aide to Mother Penny. She was also rumored to be Divine’s mistress. Regardless of the veracity of the claim, Mother Penny was stoic and publicly utterly devoted to Father Divine and the cause. Despite her advanced age, she continued to be active throughout the golden years of the Peace Mission and was instrumental in setting up the “Promised Land” in rural upstate New York, where she spent most of her time. Within a few years, however, the vagaries of old age began to catch up with her, and she had to be hospitalized more than once. Although illness was a trial for any individual Divinite, it had the potential of representing a serious threat when it affected the Mother of the Movement.

By 1938, however, she had recovered from what had been diagnosed as terminal heart and kidney failure, and in fact, she was well enough for the next few years to serve as a model and a reminder to the movement’s faithful of the healing power of her husband. She continued to testify to Father’s healing powers and to assist him at banquets in the Promised Land where she sang songs of praise to him for another four years. After a banquet she attended with her husband in 1941 or 1942, though, she simply disappeared. [9]

Peninnah Divine’s second body

Edna Rose Ritchings, the second wife of Father Divine, was born in 1925 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Father Divine was 46 years old at the time.

The daughter of a local florist and his wife, Edna Rose was the oldest of five children and the only one in her family to become a Divinite. Her parents apparently retained their reverence for the God of normative Christianity, but according to Edna’s later testimony, the spirit of Father Divine contacted her when she was as young as seven. That spirit apparently took the form of a small collection of Divine followers and admirers in Vancouver whom Edna overheard. With this contact occurring during the depths of the Great Depression of the early 1930s, and coinciding with increased coverage of Father Divine in the media, it can be reasonably deduced that tales of the spectacle of the “little Negro” claiming to be God Almighty and feeding thousands from his seemingly-bottomless resources of wealth reached all the way to little Edna Rose’s White childhood in western Canada.

According to Edna, she began a regular pen pal relationship with Father Divine at his Harlem headquarters soon afterwards. And as she turned into a teenager, her curiosity about the movement and its leader turned into fascination. As the correspondence matured – by this time, Father Divine had a battery of secretaries that received and answered his personal correspondences under his guidance – the young Edna Rose began subscribe to the Peace Mission periodical The New Day. [10]

It was during this period that the first Mother Divine, Peninnah, began to show the effects of advanced age and, embarrassingly for the Peace Mission Movement, had to undergo the first of many hospitalizations which undercut claims of Father Divine’s healing ministry. It didn’t help either that his movement also suffered a series of scandals in the mid 1930s that implied that Father Divine and his upper echelon followers were not as celibate as they claimed to be, either. [11]

Yet, apparently, none of these scandals dissuaded the blonde 17-year-old high school student, Edna Rose Ritchings, from moving from Vancouver to Montreal, and landing a job as a stenographer in a jewelry firm so as to join a Peace Mission extension there in 1941. The tiny family Peace Mission hub consisted of a mother, her two daughters, a few other Peace Mission sympathizers in the area, and Edna Rose. [12] Eventually the small group elected Edna Rose as Peace Mission extension president.

The gender and racial composition of this small, international Peace Mission extension, illustrates the practical and actual scope of the movement in action. It also underscored the importance of the role of women in the Peace Mission generally and highlighted the phenomenon of White women in the Black cult in particular. Although perceived by some sectors of the public as a bizarre and all-Negro cult led by a self aggrandizing and delusional madman who thought of himself as God, the all-White, largely female Montreal extension shows that Father Divine’s movement provided a unique experience for females of various ages and different races, to participate in all levels of activity in an international organization, even assuming leadership roles often frustrated or denied women outside of the Peace Mission. The experience also allowed Whites of both genders the opportunity to shed the almost universally-perceived notion of White racism that pervaded western culture at that time, in startling ways, by openly joining a Black cult with a Black God as leader, thus, in effect, allowing such individuals to detach themselves from Whiteness and its alleged, perceived and actual privileges. [13]

While Edna Rose was experiencing her first adult years as a bona fide Divinite in Canada, her correspondent and God, Father Divine, relocated to Philadelphia from New York City, and the elderly Peninnah Divine, sequestered away in isolation in the Promised Land properties, quietly died.

Sister Penny was buried in an unmarked grave. Her 1943 passing was known only to Father Divine and one or two trusted top level, inner circle Divinites. To the general Peace Mission membership and to the world at large, Mother Divine simply disappeared from the pages of the movement’s press, the communal banquets, and eventually as a person. [14]

Elderly Father Divine’s young sweet angel

06-16a2-sweet angel
Sweet Angel Divine

Sometime in early 1946, the president and vice president of the Montreal Peace Mission extension decided – or were requested – to make an upgrade. Both young ladies, barely out of their teens, went to the world headquarters of the international Peace Mission movement in Philadelphia, where the widowed 67-year-old Father Divine was accepting new additions – preferably young and female – to his secretarial staff.

Among Peace Mission apostates and dissidents, the movement’s secretarial staff was known as Father Divine’s harem from which the allegedly celibate elderly Black God choose his clandestine mistresses and sex partners, a practice, they alleged, that dated back from the 1930s as the health of the aging Mother Divine, began to decline. [15]

Whatever the roles and duties of the secretarial staff of Father Divine were, both Edna Rose and her best friend from Montreal were accepted into it and given “Holy names” almost upon arrival in Philadelphia. Edna Rose shed her previous identity and was given the name “Sweet Angel;” her best friend became known as “Sweet Heart.”

God’s New Wife

In July 1946, a New Jersey police officer pulled over a shiny, speeding Cadillac, an automobile likely costing more than the officer made in a year. Inside the car the officer made a startling discovery. Besides the chauffer, a small, squat, finely-dressed Black man of senior years sat in the back seat with several younger women, Black and White, most in their 30s. One White female in particular, obviously younger than the rest, sat next to the short elderly man.

Breaking the awkward and pregnant silence, the elderly man began to stammer, “Officer, Mrs. Divine and I–” But the officer cut him off and proceeded to write God a speeding ticket.

The other occupants of the car were perplexed. Father Divine had spoken of a “Mrs. Divine” as being present with them but only they were in the car and Peninnah Divine hadn’t been seen anywhere in many years. One secretary openly proclaimed to another “Either Father must be married again or Mother must be reincarnated!” In an unguarded moment, Father Divine had let it be known something that only four other people besides he and young Sweet Angel knew: the Mother Peninnah Divine was long deceased, and that he had married his new young secretary. [16]

The news hit everyone following the Divine movement, supporters, opponents and the simply intrigued, curious or amused alike: God had taken a new young (White) bride! Many outside the movement who never really believed in the alleged celibacy of those in the Divine ranks, particularly of Father Divine himself, were more convinced than ever that Father Divine was simply running a White slavery sex racket under the guise of a church. At the same time, many Divinites, challenged by trying to live up to God’s righteous tenets of “no sex, no marriage,” bolted the movement. After all, since God didn’t follow his own standards, why should they?

The press had a field day with the drama of it all. Father Divine, both in the mainstream press as well as in his own Peace Mission publicity organs, reiterated his pure and celibate position and declared that the marriage was spiritual, not carnal, and that he and the new Mrs. Divine were to continue to live in separate quarters and be as celibate as he had been with the previous one. He also declared the young, White, vibrant Sweet Angel to be the reincarnation of the deceased Black Peninnah. [17] The Peace Mission movement presented news of the marriage of Father Divine and Sweet Angel in glowing, biblical, even cosmic terms. More than 60 years later and under the control of Sweet Angel Divine and her surrogates, it stills does. [18]

Sweet Angel: From Nothingness to Allness inside the Peace Mission Movement

After the golden years of the 1930s, the Peace Mission movement entered into a long, gradual decline. Only the news of the elderly Father Divine’s intergenerational, interracial marriage to his young secretary provided a splash of publicity for the movement, reminding all that it still existed, still as bizarre and controversial as ever.

Father and Mother Divine presided over the Peace Mission from its headquarters in the Divine Lorraine Hotel in Philadelphia from the late 1940s onwards, with Sweet Angel becoming the new face of the aging and increasingly irrelevant Black cult. The Black press played up this novelty, and stories about the Peace Mission always displayed pictures of the second Mrs. Divine alone or alongside her elderly husband, as if to underscore her as his contrast. [19]

Sweet Angel’s new regency in the declining Peace Mission movement portended change. Whereas most petitions in the movement had been made to God, Father Divine, after her arrival – and with Father’s full blessing and encouragement – they were now made to God, Father and Mother Divine. Along with her new position, the doctrine of reincarnation was introduced in a new way into the theological world of the Peace Mission.

Almost immediately after the marriage became public knowledge, Sweet Angel began to preside alongside Father Divine at the movement’s signature communal meals. This combined with the marriage – as well as the peculiar theological edifice concocted to explain and justify it inside the movement – to lead to another, defining, Peace Mission innovation: the annual wedding anniversary celebration of the Lamb and his wife, based on Father Divine’s novel interpretation of the marriage feast of the Lamb and his bride in the book of Revelation.

This new Peace Mission Holiday, or High Holy Day ­– in actuality a commemoration of the introduction of Sweet Angel as the new, reincarnated Mother Divine – has taken on the trappings over the years as the movement’s paramount celebration. With no birthdays or deaths commemorated or even acknowledged to compete or contrast with it, the annual wedding anniversary celebration became even more central following the death of Father Divine and the official ascension of Sweet Angel as sole leader of the Peace Mission.

The institutionalization of the 1946 remarriage celebrations, a new doctrine of reincarnation, and the biblical justification and explanation for these beliefs within the Peace Mission press turned Sweet Angel into the principal power within the group. It was a power the scope of which contemporary press accounts about her failed to see. It was also a power that Jim Jones, in his two-decade-long attempt to have his own wife replace her as the new and true Mother Divine, consistently ignored and misjudged. This miscalculation would lead to the ultimate frustration of Jones’ carefully laid plans to take over leadership of the Peace Mission movement. [20]

Marceline Jones


When Jim Jones offered himself as the second Father Divine – to succeed a man who was still living – he was accompanied by his wife of nine years, Marceline Baldwin Jones. Unlike either of the previous Mother Divines, Marceline Jones had not been born of either enslaved African parentage or while yet still a little girl enthralled by an enigmatic cult leader some 3000 miles away. Also unlike young Edna Rose, the young Marcie Baldwin had happily worshipped the normative Christian God throughout her childhood and youth.

Mrs. Jim Jones was slim, tall and blonde, visually much more like the Mother Divine in the second body, Sweet Angel. Although Edna Rose and Marceline were in similarly-themed new religious movements headed by similarly-thinking husbands and were only two years apart in age, the two women had many differences.

Marceline Baldwin was born on January 8, 1927 into a White middle class family, one of three daughters of Walter and Charlotte Baldwin of Indiana. A member of the Republican Party in the 1940s, her father served on the Richmond city council. After an unremarkable, conventional childhood, Marceline decided on a career in the medical field as a nurse. [21]

It was while serving as a nurse at Reid Memorial Hospital in Richmond, Indiana that she met, fell in love with, and thereafter married the 18-year-old, unusually intense, dark-haired nurse’s orderly, James W. Jones from the small town of Lynn, Indiana. The two seemed ill-matched in temperament as well as in ideas: whereas he was religiously and atheistically conflicted when they met, she was a traditional Protestant. Their common interest was in the healing profession, and both shared an empathy with the ill, sick, aged and socially disadvantaged. [22]

They also challenged the mores of the White society that they had been born into, a characteristic shared by White members of the Peace Mission, including the second wife of the Father Divine. Although they would eventually conflict on the particulars, this conflict with Whiteness led all three to dedicate their young lives to the cause of radical social justice and anti-racism in similar religious ways.

Despite their surface differences, the deeper beliefs that Marceline and Jim shared would go on to provide a glue of understanding, a fundamental premise from which they would both cooperate throughout their lives together, binding the two together through both the highs and lows of a 30-year marriage and – more significantly – the 25 years of the Peoples Temple experience. It would provide the core of the life they would build together, as they produced a historic and unique multiracial family, as well as build a social experiment. Both of these – the family and the experiment – they would end, together, in the final hours of Jonestown. [23]

Mother of her Rainbow family and the sweet angel of Peoples Temple

Marceline Jones kept her day job as a nurse as her ambitious young husband transitioned from healing the body through the medical field, to healing of the body through the spiritual field. Her work didn’t prevent her from serving as a pastor’s wife as Jim went from being a Methodist minister (Marcie’s family denomination) to traversing a series of Holiness, Pentecostal and healing ministries and denominations, until founding his own church which he named Peoples Temple.

For her husband, building the spiritual vehicle – the church – was simply one aspect, part and parcel of a totalistic effort of service towards those who came with in his orbit as clients. Through their combined efforts as a miracle-working minister and a medical nurse, the Joneses were a team that offered services combining spiritual and metaphysical care under the familiar rubric of the charismatic Christian church, with the more practical care of and for the elderly and indigent in the form of nursing homes, food programs, care for foster children, and facilities for the mentally retarded. Within a few years of their marriage, Jim and Marceline’s homes had developed all of the characteristics of a house commune of service in the tradition of the Father Jehovia commune, based in the Baltimore home of Harriet Snowden, from which the young George Baker Jr. emerged to develop of a house commune of his own known as the Peace Mission and with himself as Father Divine. [24]

The Joneses had been married and childless for four years when they adopted a nine-year-old White girl in 1953. The young couple would eventually adopt three more Korean children, a boy and two girls, one of whom would later die in a car accident. They also adopted a Black boy, and in so doing became the first White couple in Indiana to do so. They also had a son through natural means. It was while building this rainbow family and with a Christian charismatic ministry focused on both banishing racism and offering increasingly comprehensive social services that Jim and Marceline Jones went to see – and to impress – Father Divine. [25]

The Joneses went to the Divine’s Philadelphia headquarters every year for three years before Jones got to the point: He had come to take Father’s place as leader of the Peace Mission movement. While the increasingly elderly and infirm Father Divine himself seemed amenable to the idea that his mind would transfer to the vibrant young White minister who was following his teachings, Mother Divine was unimpressed and likely threatened by the possible reality of such a prospect. [26]

While the two men developed a relationship, Mother Divine was doing some interviewing and investigating of her own. The instrument of her research on her husband’s would-be interloper was her own potential replacement, Marcie Jones. [27]

The upshot of these series of meetings and interviews seems to be that the Divines were both impressed and affected by Jones’ rainbow family, but in different ways. While the physically declining and aged Father Divine seemingly mulled over the prospects and implications of Jones’ proposal, Mother Divine seemingly felt threatened by her husband’s warm reaction towards the Temple leader. Moreover, the fact that the Jones family included numerous children, any of whom could succeed their father, was as much a threat to her future prospects in the Peace Mission as Jones himself was.

Possibly in a move to both allay her elderly husband’s concerns about succession and to thwart the possibility of Jones’ ascent to Peace Mission leadership that would by definition exclude her, Mother Divine moved shortly afterwards to informally adopt a mixed-race child as their own. [28]

Jim and Marceline Jones were also impressed by what they saw in the Peace Mission, but – like the Divines themselves – for their own reasons. They learned from the group’s structure and socio-political culture, and admired its international scope. In the late 1950s, the Peace Mission movement still featured overseas extensions in such faraway places as Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Panama and, interestingly, Guyana. While it seems apparent by his subsequent actions that Jones was building his own infrastructure to parallel, succeed and eventually merge the larger, older and aging Peace Mission into his own, he thought of his own endeavors as a higher stage of what the Peace Mission had already achieved. [29]

In the early 1960s, the Joneses traveled to Brazil, where Jim continued to hone his ministerial skills. Marceline had her own responsibilities, raising the five children of her own and feeding the indigent street children that seemed to be everywhere. She had herself turned into a literal sweet angel. [30]

Meanwhile, the mother church back in Indianapolis was faltering under the impact of an inept increasingly-rudderless collective leadership that was without the direct presence of Jim and Marceline Jones to guide it. The couple returned in 1964 to nurse the Temple back to health, but soon afterward they uprooted the church in toto and transplanted it in Mendocino County in rural northern California. [31]

Shortly after the Temple completed its cross-country move, Father Divine died at his palatial estate in suburban Philadelphia. Jones immediately contacted Mother Divine to inform her that it was time for her to place the Peace Mission children under his care. Whatever ambivalence or encouragement Father Divine may have given the prospect while he was alive, the now-widowed Sweet Angel Divine quickly let Jones know that she was not interested. Although Father had indeed taught in his theology – which Jones both understood and accepted – that he should and would reincarnate, as she was concerned, there would only be one reincarnation of Mother Penny Divine, not two. [32]

Even as Mrs. Divine’s refused to accept Jones as her husband’s reincarnation and successor, the Temple forged ahead. Marceline Jones put her nursing résumé and skills to practical use, finding work as an employee of the Mendocino mental institute and a licensed state inspector of nursing homes. [33]

Marceline also faced another challenge, similar to those that her counterpart in the Peace Mission had. From the late 1960s onwards, her husband was expanding his circle of aides to include thin, young dedicated White women – much as she had been 20 years earlier – and converting them from his secretarial staff into his lovers.

One of these women – Carolyn Moore Layton – became Jones’ main partner over the remaining years of the Jones marriage and the Temple’s existence. She would not only eventually bear Jones a child, but also be periodically pushed to the sidelines herself during Father’s other intimate encounters. If the tales of the Peace Mission’s apostates about Father Divine’s sexual exploits are to be believed, then Father Jones was emulating his mentor in much more than just theology and organization. [34] Also if these tales are true, then Marcie Jones also emulated the same pattern of behavior that the elderly and ailing Peninnah Divine had displayed some 40 years earlier. The first Mother Divine of the Peace Mission and the only mother of Peoples Temple acted under strikingly similar personal circumstances in a strikingly similar fashion. Both showed outward stoic loyalty to the cause, complete with an uninterrupted public representation as God’s wife and an unfailing devotion to their duties both inside and outside of the movement, while inwardly facing a personal struggle characterized by private acts of despair and depression, culminating in an acceptance of the realities of her marital situation. [35]

As with Penny Divine before her, Marcie Jones would be seen by both movement dissident and loyalist alike as an unfailingly sweet, kind and motherly figure to all. Mother Jones at the height of Peoples Temple in the 1970s, like Mother Peninnah Divine at the height of the Peace Mission of the 1930s, was a more sympathetic, softer and personable authority figure than were their respective husbands. Like Penny Divine in the 1930s, and like Sweet Angel Divine who succeeded her, Marcie Jones in the Temple’s final decade of existence was to keep faithful to her husband and to the cause he led, despite everything she had endured, to the very end. Finally – although coincidentally – both Penny Divine and Marcie Jones met their mortal ends in their respective groups’ Promised Lands, Penny Divine in total obscurity in rural Ulster County in upstate New York, and Marcie Jones amongst her fellow Templars near her husband’s throne and body in the mass deaths in Jonestown, Guyana. [36]

The attempted seduction that sank a union: Mother Divine Excommunicates Jim – and Marceline – Jones from the Movement

After her husband’s death in 1965, Sweet Angel Divine ascended to the head of the Peace Mission movement by default. She claimed no miracles nor did she proclaim any further reincarnations. Instead she continued her duties as caretaker and manager of the declining Peace Mission movement. She was just without her aged husband at the helm of it.

As she reorganized the internal administrative personnel to suit her management style, she also directed the building of a monumental crypt to house the corpse of God. [37]

Jim Jones rolled back into Mother Divine’s Philadelphia headquarters to claim his Peace Mission children. Unlike in 1958 and 1959, when Jones was accompanied only by his immediate family and selected staff, this time he would have an entire congregation 200 strong of dedicated and devoted people in tow to reinforce his claim to succession.

Mother Divine welcomed her Temple guests with the customary Peace Mission hospitality and kindly fellowship they had expected and received on previous visits. While touring the newly-built ornate and highly expensive crypt and mausoleum that Mother Divine had built to house the body of her late husband, Jones, who was well known for his almost ascetic personal style, let Sweet Angel Divine know that he was not impressed. He remonstrated that she had made a serious mistake and wasted a colossal amount of the people’s money to house a corpse, especially since Father Divine was alive and present, right then and there, standing before her and talking to her.

Mother Divine’s reply was a study in an attempt at non-confrontational diversion. While acknowledging her dead husband’s teaching that “God was in all of us,” she softly asserted that Jim Jones was no better than anyone else in the movement and that they all were trying to incarnate Father’s teachings.

Jones was undeterred. He was on a mission to rescue his Peace Mission children from the evil clutches of the widowed Edna Rose Baker, who in his eyes was now devoid of her husband’s spirit and protection, and thus no more than a middle-aged, selfish, White woman acclimated to her wealthy privileged lifestyle, maintained by having Black women and men toil for her for free on her palatial estate. From the Temple’s perspective, without acknowledging and accepting the spirit and mind of Father Divine now in Jones, the Black followers of Father Divine were now in a relationship reminiscent of the slavery days of the pre-Civil War USA south.

At the communal meal later in the evening, followers of the two rivals stood to testify to the miracles wrought by the respective Fathers. Peace Mission members gave ecstatic testimonies of healing, health and happiness to Father Divine’s empty chair, while Peoples Temple members shared their similar and even greater testimonies of healing, health and happiness while rapturously staring at Father in the second body in the person of Jim Jones.

Sweet Angel was in a quandary. Although Father Divine had proclaimed to the world that she was Mother Penny returned, her alleged reincarnation status carried with it no claims to any of the vaunted supernatural powers of her deceased husband, nor were any of those powers ever attributed to her either by Peace Mission theology and/or praxis.

To compound her dilemma, what Jim Jones and Temple members were saying was in total agreement with the spirit of what the Peace Mission taught, advocated and believed. If they accepted the premise that Father Divine would reincarnate, and if there were hundreds at his communal table testifying that indeed he did indeed reincarnate, any acceptance of Jim Jones would be relatively simple. After all, just as elderly Black Penny Divine had reincarnated into the young, White body of Edna Rose/Sweet Angel, so could the elderly Black Father Divine reincarnate into the young, White body of Jim Jones. Moreover, any attempt by Sweet Angel to simply flat out deny that it was impossible for Father Divine to have reincarnated as Jim Jones, would have undermined her own legitimacy as Mother Divine in the second body.

Startled by the brazenness and obnoxiousness of it all, and outmaneuvered in her own spiritual center, Sweet Angel and her top aides abruptly left the dining area and reconvened an emergency council in her private suite. Shortly afterward, Jones and his followers were asked to vacate the premises. They did leave, but not without an invitation to as many Peace Mission members who recognized their beloved and returned Father Divine in the person of Jones that they were welcome to leave with them. Some joined Jones on the spot, while others let the Temple know of their intention to do so soon. Eventually, more that 40 followers of Father Divine members left the Peace Mission over the next six months, for greener pastures in Peoples Temple. [38]

But this was not the last that Mother Divine would see of Jim Jones. The very next year, Jones came back with yet another contingent of Peoples Temple members, at the Peace Mission’s Philadelphia headquarters. In the interim there had been a steady and sometimes heated exchange between the competing factions of the same movement and debate over who was the true leader of it. Was it Mother Divine as Father Divine’s widow? Or was it Jones with his miracles, racial rainbow family and rapidly expanding social service oriented ministry as the reincarnation of Father Divine? [39]

Unlike previous visits, this encounter did not include a prepackaged tour of Peace Mission sites, joint religious ceremonies, or a cordial communal meal at the end of the day. This time Jim Jones and Sweet Angel Divine went directly into a meeting with no aides present. What exactly happened between the two rivals is factually unknown, and what was asserted afterwards by both was predictable. And the outcome was in no way ambiguous. Jim Jones accused Mother Divine of trying to sexually seduce him. Mother Divine took umbrage at this brazen insult to her spotless virginity and claimed that Jones was lying. Both assertions have their pros and cons. [40]

Using the Peace Mission press to convey her message, Mother Divine issued an “Ultimatum” to Jim Jones, his followers and anyone who left the Peace Mission for the Temple as having acknowledged and accepted Jim Jones as Father in the second body, and by extension accepting Marceline Jones as the true Mother of the Divine movement.

The ultimatum put Jones and his Temple followers on official notice that they would never again be welcomes at Peace Mission headquarters as they had been over the previous 16 years. To Mary Love, the former Peace Mission co-worker who had defected from the top leadership of the secretarial staff, and all the others who had decided to go with Jim and Marceline as the true Father and Mother of the Divine Movement, Mother Divine said, “If you are not satisfied, get something that satisfies”! From that point forward and forevermore they were no longer welcome anywhere, anytime or anyplace in the movement where she held jurisdiction. [41]

Although the Divine movement had suffered schisms, defectors and apostates before in its long history, the ultimatum was the only time that the leadership of the Peace Mission ever took such a drastic and formal action against any one person or any one group. It was, to be sure, a formal excommunication.

As far as Mother Divine was concerned, this ended the threat that Jim Jones and his blonde wife had posed to her own leadership of the Peace Mission. Yet even after this vigorous challenge, Mother Divine still claimed no miracles of her own, nor did she proclaim or suggest any other possible reincarnations of her late husband. Instead she continued on with her duties as before, as caretaker and manager of the declining Peace Mission. She could now do so without the cloud of Jim Jones over her head.

Over the next six years, the occasional call, letter, tract or visit from a determined Temple member would come to her headquarters. They would all be rebuffed. When independent-minded local Peace Mission outposts ignored her admonitions and received Jones and his followers on their premises, she ignored it.

And then, around 1977, all the unwanted overtures from Peoples Temple suddenly stopped. Unknown to Mother Divine at the time, the Temple was completely preoccupied with transplanting itself from the USA to Jonestown.

Jonestown Game Changer

When the news of November 18, 1978 arrived at Peace Mission headquarters, Mother Divine did not speak of the dozen or so of her own former followers who had died in Jonestown. The single formal statement that the Peace Mission ever issued on the tragedy speaks only of what she called a death pact. But the relief and poorly-suppressed jubilation expressed in the Peace Mission’s official press was palatable.

For Mother Divine, more than twenty years of what she considered to be blatant lies and misrepresentations, the infringement of the private rights of citizens, the influx of unwanted correspondences and the evil attempts to defame her “holy and virginal” character had finally come to an end. [42] The multi-year attempt to replace her and her legacy as widow and leader of the Peace Mission with Jim Jones and his wife was also over.

Mother Divine was well aware that, had the Temple succeeded and Jim and Marceline Jones, along with their rainbow family of potential heirs had taken over the Peace Mission, the place of honor that she had had inside of it since 1946 would have been perpetually threatened with a profound downgrade. That prospect that Jones would relegate the memory of Sweet Angel to the status of potentially eternal nothingness had haunted her for 20 years. But now, with the horrific Jonestown debacle, she was forever safe.

Mother Jones Lays Down Her Life With her many Children for the cause

Marceline Jones’ death by cyanide poisoning in Jonestown sealed her loyalty, eternally, to the community and the cause that she had helped to birth and co-parent. In the face of threats to her own status of God’s wife, represented by any one of several young women who would have gladly taken her place, Marceline had continued to be the devoted helpmate to Jim Jones, the pleasant smiling hostess to the public for Peoples Temple, the periodic stateside spokeswoman for the man who had sexually and emotionally betrayed her. She passed through the fiery test of revolutionary suicide, comforting those dying around her during the terminal event as she did so.

Privately, before Jonestown’s final day, Marceline had accepted the prospect – the probability – of her own end, even as she lobbied her husband and others in the Temple’s leadership to spare the children of Jonestown. When she realized that it would not be so, she loyally submitted her will, like the vast majority of her fellow communards, to the cause. Unlike her Peace Mission counterpart, who under different circumstances oversaw the death of her allegedly-immortal husband and survived to interpret the contradiction of “How God Could Die” and then bask in the glow of his memory and achievements, Marceline was unwilling to survive the death of her husband, her children, and her community. Like her captain, she would go down with the ship.

Yet unlike either Mother Divine # 1 or # 2, Marcie remained on good contacts with her biological parents. She had known and had a good relationship with her mother-in-law, the aged yet dynamic, Lynetta Jones, before Lynetta’s death in December 1977. [43] Also unlike either Mother Divine, she had a warm, loving and ongoing relationship with her children and grandchildren, most of whom died with her at Jonestown. Those that survived the tragedy to live on still, decades later, revere her memory.

Edna Rose Baker and her faithful fading few

The widowed Mother Divine of the Peace Mission Movement is not dead. In her 80s, Sweet Angel Divine continues at the helm of her late husband’s dwindling empire.

Once global, the Peace Mission has contracted into a small handful of real estate holdings in Philadelphia and its suburbs, and the original communal home in Sayville, New York. Long gone are the iconic multi-storied hotels and businesses that once characterized the vitality and success of the 1930s and 1940s Peace Mission, when Father Divine along with the throngs of obedient worshipful followers, operated and lived in them. [44]

Although there are only a handful of them left to carry it out, the latest Peace Mission project that Mother Divine’s aides are overseeing in her name is the construction of an nearly- completed Father Divine Library to serve as a store house/museum of all the accumulated Father and Mother Divine books, papers and paraphernalia for the curious and researchers of generations to come see, experience and evaluate. [45]

In the meantime, Mother Divine is rarely seen around her palatial estate and interviewed even less. The few routine tours of her property are now often conducted by younger aides, and she is often missing from the weekly, sparsely-attended communal meals of the Peace Mission held in her palatial castle. When she does attend, she often does not speak. In this regard, she is like her late husband in his final years at a similar age. [46]

Unlike her husband, though, she has no heir apparent to replace her.

Conclusions: Assessments like Beauty are in the eyes of the beholder

The final assessments of the lives and profiles of the two women in this study are tied up in the subjective assessment of the church/communities they were members of and of the men that they were married to.

For those with a negative view of either cult leader or/and the totalist, high intensity groups that they founded, both women were enablers, if not high level co-conspirators of all the various bizarre inconsistencies, and weird, often sinister trappings that made the groups so dangerous.

For those with negative views of either leader but more complex or nuanced views of the communities that they led, both women are seen as combinations of victims of their respective husbands’ insanity, victims of the extreme social experiments that they produced, unwitting or/and somewhat clueless women blinded by loyalty, and/or co-implementers of the policies of the respective groups.

Since the tragic end of Jonestown, many things relative to objectively assessing both the Peace Mission and Peoples Temple have changed and continue to do so. Prominent among them and central for assessing the topic of this paper was the negative racial climate in the USA culture that had produced, among many things, the marginal yet extreme response movement that expressed itself in the church/ communities led by Father Jehovia,Father Divine and Jim Jones. [47]

Because of positive changes in US racial relations in the decades since he opened his first communal home, Father Divine and his movement are seen as a fading curiosity, a quaint novelty of a racially-disturbing past, on the edges of the collective American historical memory. For some researchers, despite the overwhelmingly negative and dismissive press that the Peace Mission endured in its heyday of the 1930s, Divine is still seen as a prescient prophet of racial equality and his Peace Mission movement a precursor to the Civil Rights Movement. [48] For them, Father’s widow is a much-neglected but still honorable focus of study and attention.

For the American society at large, there has been no such comparative core revisionism or reassessments that such revisionism often brings in regards to the memory and legacy of Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple. Because of its universally-condemned ending at Jonestown, the legacy and memory of the Temple continues to be seemingly permanently wrapped in an interlocked web of almost visceral hatred, recrimination, derision, condemnation and cultural censure. [49] This censure continues to deny the rise of an emotionally-neutral evaluative space that is often required to adequately assess a subject matter.

Thus nuanced and layered reflections and assessments of the individual lives and memories of Peoples Temple participants, including of the person of Marceline Jones as God’s wife and First Lady and the Mother of the movement’s faithful, will remain few and far between.


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[1] Jill Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995, p. 5), gives May 1879 as the birthdate of George Baker Jr. making Father Divine, a 79-year-old, 5 foot 2 inch tall portly Black man, and Rev. James Warren Jones, born May 13, 1931, a 27-year-old, 5 foot 8 inch tall White man, when the latter declared himself to be Divine’s successor as leader of the Peace Mission movement.

Below is an assessment of Jim Jones’ apparent rationale to become the next leader of the Peace Mission movement.

Technically, Jones was an orthodox charismatic, evangelical ordained Minister in the Independent Assemblies of God Church with a completely autonomous congregation when he began his association with the heretical Peace Mission cult. See Ordination Certificate of Jim Jones into Independent Assemblies of God.

He personally visited Father Divine at least once each year between 1956 (George Klineman with David Conn and Sherman Butler, The Cult that Died: The Tragedy of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple (New York: Putnam, 1980), 51) or 1957 (Carlton Mabee, Promised Land: Father Divine’s Interracial Communities in Ulster County, New York (Fleischmanns, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 2008, 213) and 1959, when he wrote that he pledged to give his life to save and protect the Peace Mission from all threats and enemies. He made this statement soon after declaring himself to be the successor to the aging and increasingly-infirm Father Divine. See Pastor Jones Meets Rev. M. J. Divine – Better known as Father Divine, 3, 7-8 and 25; and the Peace Mission periodical, The New Day, July 26, 1958, pp. 16-17; August 2, 1958 pp. 18-21; and August 30, 1958.

The statements led to accusations from his pastoral colleagues and detractors both from the broader evangelical, Pentecostal Christian movement and from inside his own small church, that through his association with and advocacy on behalf of the Peace Mission, he and his Peoples Temple had become shills for the unorthodox and Black cult leader. Jones replied that he was not a follower of the Peace Mission or any of its affiliates. Pastor Jones, 3.

In the same writing, however, Jones went on to answer his detractors with a point-by-point affirmation of the correctness and benefits of the teachings and principles of the Peace Mission and how they made him “more consecrated to Jesus Christ” in practice, as opposed to the “incongruities in the practices” of his “orthodox Christian” critics. He ended his pro-Peace Mission apologia with an affirmation of his bounds of love and friendship with them and put the orthodox church and the anti-Divinite factions inside his Peoples Temple on notice that, despite opposition to Peace Mission views on the concept of God and the immortality in the flesh of the living believer, his union with the Peace Mission was permanent. Pastor Jones, 25-26.

The Peace Mission kept no membership rolls. Rather, it viewed individuals as members those who either lived “the teachings in an isolated part of the world” in their “own home”; who “come to Philadelphia from a foreign country to unite with other believers”; or who “believe the teachings and principles of the Peace Mission” – as Jones testified at Peace Mission services and reaffirmed in writing that he by and large did – and who then pattern their lives after their beliefs. Including those who may have never even heard the name of Father Divine or didn’t even embrace Christianity, according to the Peace Mission movement. Mother Divine, The Peace Mission Movement. New York: Anno Domini Father Divine Publications, 1982, 46.

Given this loose and subjective internal criteria for membership in the Peace Mission – one which was shared by Peoples Temple itself (see Rebecca Moore, Anthony B. Pinn, Mary R. Sawyer, eds., Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2004, 190 n. 4) – Jones’ attendance at the gatherings and worship services of the Peace Mission and the testimony of some of the Peace Mission co-worker leadership on his behalf led to the assumption that Jones was a member of the Peace Mission at large and perhaps even that he had more formally joined the group.

However, Jones wasn’t looking to simply follow the Peace Mission, but rather to become its leader and have it follow him. He saw himself as the next incarnation of the Divine Mind that was in Father Divine. The New Day, July 26, 1958, pp. 16-17; August 2, 1958, pp. 18-21; and August 30, 1958.

The above was borne out by the fact that Jones’ 1958 offer to be the upcoming replacement and reincarnation as leader and Father of the Peace Mission in Divine’s stead after his death was one that no one else claimed. Nor was the offer or its premise refuted at the time by Father Divine. Mother Divine, The Peace Mission Movement, 137-138.

That he was eventually accepted as the reincarnation of Father Divine by a minority of longtime followers in the Peace Mission, most of whom eventually left the Peace Mission when it fell under the leadership of Mother Divine, including one top level Angel, for Peoples Temple, further underscores the point, as does Mother Divine’s reactive ultimatum and excommunication of Jones, Peoples Temple and those former followers of hers that supported them from the Peace Mission in 1971/1972. Mother Divine, The Peace Mission Movement, 140.

For more on how and why Jim Jones became the very same God Father Divine had been and how the Jones’ succession challenge to the leadership of the Peace Mission played out over time, see E. Black, “The Reincarnations Of God: George Baker Jr. and Jim Jones as Fathers’ Divine“; and E. Black, “Ever Faithful”: The contest between Mother Divine, Jim Jones and their followers for supremacy in faithfulness to the Cause.”
For a retrospective pictorial look at the Peace Mission in 1958/1959 when Jones presented his credentials and made his case for the eventual succession for leadership of it, see “Pictures of some of the Churches of the Peace Mission Movement 1959”.
[2] In the 1950s, the Peace Mission movement of Father Divine was operative in a number of countries beyond the United States, including Australia, Austria, Canada, West Germany, British Guiana (Guyana), Jamaica, Panama, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The New Day, April 29, 1955; and Kenneth E. Burnham, God Comes To America (Boston: Lambeth Press, 1979), 148-149.

In 1958 Jim and Marceline Jones were parents to 15-year-old Agnes Pauline, whom they adopted in 1953; and four-year-old Suzanne and two-year-old Lew Eric, Korean orphans adopted in 1958. ReligionNewsBlog.com, Jim Jones Timeline.

[3] For discussion on the importance of the role of women in the Peace Mission, see Cornel West and Eddie S. Glaude Jr., African American Religious Thought: An Anthology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 581-587.

For discussion on the importance of the role of women in Peoples Temple, see Mary McCormick Maaga, Hearing the Voices of Jonestown (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1998); Laura Johnston Kohl, Peoples Temple and Synanon – Modern Communities: The Role of Women, 2012; and Rebecca Moore, “The Demographics of Jonestown.”

[4] For more discussion of the implications of the founding teaching of the movement: God in every person as a major tenet of Father Jehovia’s Fairmount Street House church/commune, see Sara Harris, Father Divine: Holy Husband (New York: Doubleday Publishing Company, 1953), 15-20; and Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A, 26-29.

[5] On Harriett Snowden, see Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A., 26-27 and 191 n 33.

[6] For more on George Baker Jr.’s ministry in Georgia, see Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A, 32-48.

[7] Other obvious Peace Mission Movement contradictions were a man leading a woman’s group, a man who proclaimed “no undue mixing of the sexes” constantly seen, photographed and traveling with an entourage of women, a Black man who claimed not to be of the Negro or colored race, an obviously wealthy man who claimed to have no money, etc.

Divinite and Temple logic were at one and the same set of in-group approaches to reasoning and circular rationality, rooted in the same exegesis that characterized both the Peace Mission and Peoples Temple and further evidences both groups as being separate formations in one sociological and cultural phenomenon, meaning that for all intents and purposes, core members of both groups spoke the same language, and understood and rationalized facts and events in a similar way.

For more on the labyrinth of contradictory rationalizations that characterize Divinite logic, see Harris, Father Divine, 301-309. The roots of both Divinite and Temple logic are in how both groups used and assimilated the core precepts and axioms of New Thought and indigenized them as the original thought and expression of their respective groups leader, teacher and ultimate personified mind or God.

Both the Peace Mission and Peoples Temple, among their other appellations, can be understood and seen as marginal and extremist cults or subsects of the New Thought Movement.

[8] For more on Peninnah Divine, see Harris, Father Divine, 78-79, and 243-245; Mabee, Promised Land, 14-15, 20-21, 27, 45, 49, 56, 60, 66, 99, 101, 111, 116-117 and 119; Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A, 45-46, 98-99, 151-152, 157, and 167; and Wikipedia, Father Divine.

The name and character Peninnah is taken from the Old Testament (1 Samuel 1: 2, 4), the word meaning “Pearl” and /or “Red Coral” stone, from the Hebrew word Peninim, according to the entry for the name in Women in Scripture: A Dictionary of Named and Unnamed Women in the Hebrew Bible, the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books and New Testament, Carol L. Meyers, Toni Craven, Ross Kraemer, eds. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000). This origin may signify that the name Peninnah may have been bestowed upon her or taken up by her as a movement name. and that it was not her actual birth name.

Nevertheless, there are various spellings of Mother Divine’s original name: Pinninnah (Weisbrot, Father Divine), Peninah (Harris, Father Divine), Peninnah (Mabee, Promised Land), and Peninniah (Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A). Mabee’s version is supported by the King James and other English version of the Holy Bible and is the one used in Peace Mission literature as well as in this paper.

Movement names were taken up by movement adherents early on, as the titles “Father Jehovia” and “Father Divine”/”Major Jealous Divine” as movement names for the leaders, Samuel Morris and George Baker Jr. respectively, shows. If Peninnah is her movement name, then not only are other biographical details her life such as her date of birth, her family history, previous marriages and children, unknown, but so is her very name.

As her birth date is unknown, her date of marriage to George Baker Jr. on June 6, 1882 as cited in Peace Movement literature, may reflect the year that she was born again in Joseph Gabriel’s Methodist Church, or that she had some other significant religious experience at that time, such as a baptism. (Baker would have been only three years old at the time.)

According to some sources, the first Mother Divine may have been a middle-aged women disabled with rheumatism who was an ardent member of a small Methodist Church led by a Rev. Joseph Gabriel, when the youthful messenger from Baltimore passed through town on his missionary tour in early 1914 and miraculously cured her of her debilitation.

Both Rev. Gabriel and the woman later known as Peninnah were to become among the earliest followers of George Baker Jr., and both would remain faithful to him to the end of their lives.

[9] For more on Peninnah Divine’s career after 1920, see Mabee, Promised Land, 20-21, 27, 45, 49, 56, 60, 66, 99, and 101; and Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A, 76, 78, 98-99, and 135. On her illness, see Mabee, Promised Land, 116-117; and Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A, 151-152.

On possible scandals surrounding Father Divine’s alleged adulterous behavior with his young female aides and secretaries, see Faithful Mary, “God”: He’s Just a Natural Man (Philadelphia: Universal Light, 1937); and Harris, Father Divine, 79.

[10] For more on Edna Rose Ritchings / Mother Divine, see Harris, Father Divine, 243-262; Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A, 167-169, 172-177 and 195 n 6; Mabee, Promised Land, 92,117-120, 156, 210-214, 216-217, 222; Katharine Seelye, “Mother Divine: Keeping The Flame Alive,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 31, 1986; and Wikipedia, Edna Rose Ritchings.

[11] On the scandals that plagued the Peace Mission in the 1930s, see Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A, 144-166; Mabee, Promised Land, 26-28, 123-133; and Robert Allerton Parker, The Incredible Messiah: The Deification of Father Divine (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1937), 60-77 and 262-283.

[12] See note 11 above.

[13] For more on the sociological impact of the Peace Mission’s praxis on its White members, see the works of Harris, Father Divine; Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A; and Mabee, Promised Land.

[14] For more on the initially-hidden death of Peninnah Divine, its eventual exposure to public years later, the subsequent implications and impact on the Peace Mission that caused its reinterpretation of its dogmas on life, death and reincarnation, and the implications of this on the emerging and new status of Edna Rose Ritchings, see Harris, Father Divine, 243-246; Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A, 168, 169; Mabee, Promised Land, 118-120; and Wikipedia, International Peace Mission movement.

[15] For the self-proclaimed celibate Father Divine’s secretarial staff as his harem from which he picked his sexual mistresses, see Harris, Father Divine, 227-242.

[16] Harris, Father Divine, 250-252.

[17] For the marriage between Father Divine to his 21-year-old secretary and the reaction to it, see Harris, Father Divine, 253-248; Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A, 168-169; and Mabee, Promised Land, 117-120.

Besides the major theological and philosophical focus and shift that took place in the Peace Mission as a result of the revelation of the marriage and the subsequent ascension of Sweet Angel as paramount female leader of the movement, several major high level defections from among the movement’s longtime and upper tier White leadership core also occurred. Among them:

• John Maynard Matthews aka “John Lamb” – A wealthy businessman before joining the Peace Mission in 1929 and Father Divine’s paramount male aide and Peace Mission executive secretary #1 from 1929-1946.

• John Hunt aka “John the Revelatore” aka “God in the sonship degree” aka “Jesus” and “The Prodigal Son” – A scion of the very wealthy and powerful Hunt family which formed the financial base of the Peace Mission and a powerful inner core member in his own right from 1934-1946.

• Rita Delap aka Quiet Devotion – Boston University graduate. Father Divine’s female executive secretary #1 from 1936-1946. She served as primary personal aide to Father Divine’s wife, Mother Peninnah Divine, as well as his alleged paramount lover and mistress.

• Carol Sweet aka Ruth Boaz – Father Divine’s secretary in charge of the Peace Mission’s female youth auxiliary, the Rosebuds, from 1942 to 1946 and his alleged lover and mistress in rivalry to Rita Delap.

Carol Sweet allegedly threw a fit of rage inside the Divine headquarters after Father’s marriage to Sweet Angel was announced. She later married John Hunt, and the two apostates carried on an exposé campaign against Father Divine and the Peace Mission for years after defecting.

[18] For examples of the initial and continuing Peace Mission hagiological propaganda campaign around the marriage, see Libertynet.org, “Come up higher…”; Libertynet.org, “Christ Died That You Might Live!”; and Libertynet.org, “All the World Rejoices in the Marriage Feast Of the Lamb and the Bride.” Also YouTube, FDIPMM, and Youtube, “The Marriage of Father and Mother Divine”.

[19] The phrase “From Nothingness to Allness” is a play on words using a reversal of the familiar and signature phrase “Allness and nothingness” in the Peace Mission, which Mother Divine used to describe herself and her role (and that of the followers) of total submission to the will and significance of Father Divine. See Mother Divine, The Peace Mission Movement, 54.

On the phrase’s origins and use in New Thought, see Ronald M. White, “New Thought Influences On Father Divine,” Master’s Thesis, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio (1980), and R. Marie Griffith, “Body Salvation: New Thought, Father Divine, and the Feast of Material Pleasures” (Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation. Vol. 11, Issue 2, Summer 2001), 119-153.

Interestingly, the same phraseology, Father’s “Allness” and his followers’ “Nothingness” can and does ultimately sum up the lived reality of Marceline Jones and her role (and that of the followers in Peoples Temple) and the complete submission of the followers’ will to that of Jim Jones throughout the history of the Temple and particularly its collective end at Jonestown.

Submission to the will of God is also a core concept of many faith expressions besides the Peace Mission and Peoples Temple. Islam is one of these. In Islam, the word “Muslim” denotes “one who entirely submits his will to the will of Allah (God).”

On Sweet Angel as a Father Divine contrast and an image in the Black press, see the December 1950 Ebony Magazine cover and article; and “Father and Mother Divine Celebrate 12 Years,” Jet Magazine, May 22, 1958. A photo also appears on Flickr.

[20] On the ministry of Sweet Angel as head of the Peace Mission, see Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A, 173-178. For Mother Divine speaking as head of the Peace Mission in the 1990s, see YouTube, “Mother Divine”.

[21] On Marceline Baldwin, see Tim Reiterman with John Jacobs, Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1982), 28-43; Rebecca Moore, Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2009), 12-19 and 35-36; John R. Hall, Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1987; reprint 2004), 16-17, 24, 28, 41, 43, 45-46, 48, 65, and 81; findagrave.com, Marceline Baldwin Jones; and People Magazine, “The Legacy of Jonestown: a Year of Nightmares and Unanswered Questions,” November 29, 1979.

On Marceline Jones as the Mother Divine of the movement led by Father Jones and as God’s Wife, see David Chidester, Salvation and Suicide: An Interpretation of Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple and Jonestown (Bloomington and Indianapolis: University of Indiana Press, 1988), 101; and Jim Jones, “Letter to God’s Wife.”

On Mother (Marceline) Jones as a loyal follower of Father Jones, see Denice Stephenson, ed., Dear People: Remembering Jonestown (San Francisco: California Historical Society Press, 2005)10, 12, 58, and 60.

[22] On Marceline Baldwin meeting and marrying Jim Jones, see Reiterman, Raven, 30-31, 33-35; Moore, Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple, 12; and Hall, Gone from the Promised Land, 16.

[23] For more on the concept of Whiteness Theory and the conflictedness around issues of Whiteness, see Audrey Thompson, “Whiteness Theory and Education,” and Wikipedia, Whiteness studies.

Although some fine work can be found on this subject on this website, an in-depth discussion on this angle is beyond the scope of this paper.

[24] For more on Jim and Marceline Jones initiating and building Peoples Temple in its early years, see Reiterman, Raven, 43, 44, 45, 49 and 56; Hall, Gone from the Promised Land, 24-25, 28 and 46; Moore, Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple, 13; and Mary McCormick Maaga,“Three Groups in One.”

[25] Jim and Marceline’s children were Agnes (White), Stephanie (Asian), Lew Eric (Asian), Suzanne (Asian), Stephen (White), Jim Jones Jr. (Black), Timothy Tupper (White), John Moss (Black).

[26] For more on the Father Divine and Jones meetings and their significance, see note 1 above and Klineman, The Cult that Died, 51-55.

[27] For more on Mother Divine and Marceline Jones meeting in the shadow of their husbands’ ongoing discusions and its significance, see Reiterman, Raven, 65.

[28] This was done in 1962, two years after Divine’s major health scare in 1960, three years after Jones had presented the Divines with his fait acompli family of children that included a natural born son, and one year after the Joneses expanded their rainbow family to include a Black adopted son. Any one of whom, along with Marceline Jones, theoretically could and would have permanently replaced any continuing legacy that Edna Rose Ritchings/Baker would have had in a Peace Mission that accepted Jones as leader. For more on the upshot of the Divine/Jones meetings on the Divines’ culminating in the informal common law adoption of a mixed-race boy named Tommy (Divine) Garcia, aka Master Tommy, see YouTube, KESQ-TV: Father Divine. Written accounts on the matter include “The Father Divine Movement” in Richard T. Schaefer and William W. Zellner. Extraordinary Groups: An Examination of Unconventional Lifestyles (New York: Worth Publishers, 2010). See also, tommygarcia.com; Pirro, J.F., From the Archives: The 80-Year Saga of Gladwyne’s Peace Mission, originally published as Prodigal Son (Part 1), Mainline Today.; E. Black, The Three Virtual Intentional Communities Of God In A Body In Real Time (1868-2008); and E. Black, Reincarnations.

For Mother Divine, adding urgency to her self-imposed task of warding off Jones’ aggressive take over bid and countering his threat to provide the Peace Mission with an instant Rainbow Family leadership, was the rapidly declining health of her husband, Father Divine, who since 1955 had increasingly shown the effects of his advanced age, including his hospitalization after suffering a diabetic coma at the age of 81 in 1960. See Robert Weisbrot, Father Divine: The Utopian Evangelist of the Depression Era who became an American Legend (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984), 220 and 223 n 29; and Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A, 173.

[29] For more on the upshot of the Divine/Jones meetings and impact on the Jones’ culminating in lasting structural, organizational and philosophical outlook and practice within and of Peoples Temple, see Pastor Jones Meets Rev. M. J. Divine; Reiterman, Raven, 59, 61, and 65-66; Hall, Gone from the Promised Land, 51-52 and 69-70; and Moore, Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple, 15-17.

On Jones’ subjective view that his was the improved form of Divinism, see Black, “Ever Faithful”, note 9.

[30] For more on Marceline and Jim Jones missionary ministry in early 1960s Brazil, see Reiterman, Raven, 78-86; Hall, Gone from the Promised Land, 59-61; and Moore, Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple, 18-21, 23 and 127.

[31] For more on Marceline and Jim Jones’ return to the USA and moving Peoples Temple headquarters from Indiana to northern California, see Reiterman, Raven, 91-119; Hall, Gone from the Promised Land, 61-74; and Moore, Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple, 22-26.

[32] For more on Jones’ overtures to Mother Divine and the Peace Mission after the 1965 death of Father Divine, see Klineman, The Cult that Died, 106; and Mother Divine, The Peace Mission Movement, 138.

[33] For more on Marceline Jones’ 1960s and 1970s career in California, see Reiterman, Raven, 98, 103, 310, and 461-462; and Hall, Gone from the Promised Land, 61-74.

For a less benign look at Marceline Jones’ nursing career at Mendocino State Hospital, see “Peoples Temple LSD Experiments: Mendocino State Hospital Lost Stories,” The Mendo News (Ft. Bragg, California), January 10, 2010.

[34] For more on Marceline and Jim Jones’ marital issues in the 1960s and 1970s, and their impact on the internal workings of Peoples Temple, see Reiterman, Raven, 83, 121, 171-172, 176-180, 196-197, 222 and 452-454; Hall, Gone from the Promised Land, 60, 66, 127, and 218; Maaga, Hearing The Voices Of Jonestown, 42, 47-49, 60, 66, 72-73 and 79-80; and Moore, Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple, 35.

Although Peoples Temple and the Peace Mission’s stated moral guidelines were the same and neither tolerated nor advocated, publicly or in their writings anything other than standard Christian morals and ethics – even Jones included a “no sex” rhetoric along the lines of the Peace Mission – it is clear in retrospect that he had several mistresses. They included Carolyn Moore Layton, Grace Grech Stoen, Deborah Layton and Maria Katsaris.

Interestingly Jones’ duplicity in the area of his personal intimate relations is linked with the alleged duplicity in the same area as his mentor, the supposedly celibate Father Divine. For more on Peoples Temple and its interaction with the Peace Mission on the question of Jones sexual politics, see Jason Pangiarella, “The secret life of a white trash smack addict or: Jim Jones in the movie The Jonestown Tragedy”, which includes the following: “In the movie [Guyana Tragedy}, Jim Jones travels to visit the famous Father Divine, who has made a commune work and function without any kind of financial difficulties. Once the visit is over, Jim Jones is convinced that by following Father Divine’s example, he … should indulge adulterous affairs with any and all willing women of the church.” See also, Jonestown, Guyana Mass Suicide, Massacre, and Jim Jones Cult/ Jonestown Modeled after Sayville Heaven.

“A turning point in Jim Jones’ career was his meeting with Father Divine… Jim Jones had learned from Father Divine the importance of himself becoming the object of sexual desire of the whole congregation.” Maurice Brinton, Suicide for Socialism?, n. 11.

For more on Father Divine’s sexual politics and the Peace Mission, see Harris, Father Divine, 74-83, 96-115 and 227-262; and note 34.

For more on Jones’ sexual politics and Peoples Temple, see Chidester, Salvation and Suicide, 97-104; Maaga, Hearing The Voices Of Jonestown, 42-44, 50-51, and 72-73; and Moore, Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple, 34-35.

[35] For more on Peninnah and Father Divine’s alleged marital issues of the 1930s and 1940s, and their impact on the internal workings of the Peace Mission, see Harris, Father Divine, 78-79, 227-242.

Although Father Divine always insisted that he was celibate and that neither of his marriages were consummated – and the Peace Mission continues to stands by this assertion, as it does that Father Divine is God, whether alive or dead – several alleged mistresses have been named in various sources. These include Faithful Mary, Quiet Devotion, Anita Daire, Carol Sweet, Sweet Heart, and Sweet Angel before her marriage to Father Divine.

The explanation that Father Divine married Sweet Angel to save her from deportation is interesting. But as her friend Sweet Heart and others were also immigrants at the time and were not extended similar action or/and the extreme secrecy initially surrounding the marriage, even among the higher-ups in the Peace Mission, hints at other reasons for marriage, as does the negative reaction of those same aides who left the Peace Mission because of it.

Apostate accounts by ex-Peace Mission members like Faithful Mary, Mr. and Mrs. John W. Hunt, along with later Peace Mission apostates turned Peoples Templars Valerie St Valor and Heavenly Love all allege that Father Divine was secretly and prolifically sexual with many Peace Mission members, and that they knew this was true from first-person experience.

Faithful Mary, who became female Peace Mission Secretary #1 in 1934 before defecting in 1937, alleges in her later book God: He’s Just a Natural Man that, although Divine was sexual with her and many other female Peace Mission members, he was indeed celibate with his wife, Sister Penny. Whether this was due to Mother Divine’s advanced age, or because of Father’s principles is left up to the reader. As Faithful Mary’s written account was an exposé of Father Divine, alleging hypocrisy on his part in regards to his no-sex policy, it would seem that it was the former rather than the latter.

[36] For positive reflections on Mother Peninnah Divine by dissidents, loyalist and researchers of the Peace Mission movement, see Harris, Father Divine, 78-79); Mabee, Promised Land, 111,116-117,119; Weisbrot, Father Divine, 50, 78; Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A, 98-99, 135, 151-152 and 157.

Both The Broken God by Temple apostate turned born again Christian Bonnie Thielmann (Elgin, IL: David C. Cook, 1979) and Snake Dance: Unraveling the Mysteries of Jonestown by Temple loyalist Laurie Kahalas (New York: Red Robin Press, 1998) have positive reflections of Marceline Jones. For positive reflections on Mother Marceline Jones by her surviving children and more nuanced views by Peoples Temple researchers, see Stephan Jones, “Marceline/Mom“; Reiterman, Raven, 64, 124, 183, 310-311, 341, 399-402, 456 and 474-475; Maaga, Hearing The Voices Of Jonestown, 90; and Moore, Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple, 12-19.

[37] For more on the Father Divine Woodmont estate Mausoleum/crypt created and crafted under the direction of Mother Divine, see Libertynet.org, The Shrine to Life at Woodmont; the Lower Merion Historical Society, “Father Divine’s Shrine to Life, Gladwyne,” and YouTube, “Father Divine Shrine at Woodmont in Gladwyne, PA.”

[38] For Jones 1971 confrontational visit to the Peace Mission, see Reiterman, Raven, 139-140.

[39] For the debate between the Peace Mission and Peoples Temple about who was the legitimate leader of the cause and movement that included both, see Black, Three Virtual Intentional Communities; and Reiterman, Raven, 140-141.

[40] For more on the pros and cons of both sides of the Jim Jones/Mother Divine seduction charge, see Black, “Ever Faithful”, note 24.

[41] For Mother Divine’s 1972 ultimatum disfellowshipping and excommunicating the Jones’, their followers and Peoples Temple supporters within the Peace Mission, and for the Peace Mission’s public response to the tragic end of Peoples Temple, see Libertynet.org, “Rev. Jim Jones Once Sought Control of Peace Mission Movement.”

Sweet Angel Divine was posited as the reincarnation of Peninnah Divine and Jim Jones claimed to be the reincarnation of Father Divine.

[42] For the significance of the idea of retribution in the Peace Mission, see Harris, Father Divine, 162-180.

For the significance of the idea of retribution in Peoples Temple, see “Peoples Temple in the News“ (2006) regarding Jones’ reactions towards the apostate Mills couple, Tape Q 981 in regards to David Conn and other enemies of the Temple; and Timothy P. Lisagor, “The Art of Attrition: The Erosion of Peoples Temple and Jim Jones.”

[43] For the role and activities of Marceline Jones in the later years of Peoples Temple, including at Jonestown, see Chidester, Salvation and Suicide, 153; Hall, Gone from the Promised Land, 253, 269-270, 272, 279 and 286; Moore, Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple, 74 and 92-93; Reiterman, Raven, 346, 400-402, 419, 449, 467-468 and 470; and Stephenson, Dear People, 79 and 103.

[44] On the programmed and managed decline of the Peace Mission, see Seelye, “Mother Divine: Keeping The Flame Alive”; “Father Divine’s Movement Slowly Fades; and Kathy Boccella, “At Gladwyne mansion, memories of Father Divine live on,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 17, 2011. For a 2005 overview of the declining Peace Mission under the leadership of the then-80-year-old Mother Divine, see “The Father Divine Movement” in Schaefer and Zellner, Extraordinary Groups.

[45] On the Father Divine Memorial Library, see Libertynet.org, “The Ground Breaking Ceremony for FATHER DIVINE’S Library Took Place at the Liberty Plaza.”

[46] On Mother Divine in her twilight years, see Kathy Boccella, “Only a handful of followers left to carry on Father Divine’s mission.”

[47] A total review of more than 200 years of the often-checkered history of race relations in the USA is beyond the scope of this paper. Yet it requires, at the very least, a cursory familiarity with that history to understand the context from which the phenomenon that produced the marginal yet extreme movement that manifested itself as the Fairmount St Cult of Father Jehovia and then successively as the Peace Mission of Father Divine and as Peoples Temple, sprang.

[48] Works that covered Father Divine and the Peace Mission Movement during its heyday include John Hoshor, God In A Rolls Royce (New York: Hillman-Curl, Inc., 1936) and Parker, The Incredible Messiah.

Major post-November 18, 1978 revisionist works on Father Divine and the Peace Mission Movement include Robert Weisbrot, Father Divine: The Utopian Evangelist of the Depression Era who became an American Legend (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984), and Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A.

[49] See Jim Hougan, Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple Parts 1-3; Jynona Norwood, Jones-town.org; and E. Black, Laying The Body Down: Total Commitment and Sacrifice to The Cause in the Peace Mission and Peoples Temple (2012), note 4.