Women of Purity: Elizabeth Elliot

Women of Purity: Elizabeth Elliot

By Selma Komisky

This article is dedicated to the legacy and memory of the late Elizabeth Elliot – missionary, author, and a woman who made her mark and whose course was finished on June 15th, 2015. Elliot died at the age of 88 years old in Magnolia, Massachusetts at her home. She will be remembered for her mission’s heart and passion for the Word of God as well as family values, marriage and purity.


Elizabeth Howard was born in Brussels, Belgium on December 21, 1926 to her parents Philip and Katharine Howard who were missionaries. Elizabeth (also lovingly known as Betty or Betts by her family) was one of six children (Phil, David, Thomas, Ginny and Jim). She grew up in Germantown, Philadelphia in a Christian household and in 1936 she and her family moved to a bigger home in Moorestown, New Jersey.    

In 1947 Elizabeth attended Wheaton College in Illinois. She met her future husband Jim Elliot through her brother Dave while Jim was visiting their home. He was teammates with her brother on the wrestling team and also attended the same college Elizabeth did.

They became friends and later were attracted to one another’s love and commitment for Christ. After five years of much waiting on the Lord for direction through prayer, they both met in Quito, Ecuador where Jim proposed in January 1953. It was in October of the same year, Jim married Elizabeth.

Elizabeth and Jim separately immersed themselves in missions to Ecuador. During this time they both learned Quichua to start work with the Quichua Indians. Jim Elliot set off to the mission field after much prayer hoping to bring the salvation message to those who had never heard the gospel in Latin America – mainly the primitive jungle tribe of Indians known as the Aucas.

Sadly, Jim along with four other missionaries were martyred on January 8, 1956 when they tried to share Christ with the Auca tribe (read the complete story in the book Through Gates of Splendor). It was during this time that Elizabeth decided to courageously be obedient and answered Gods call in 1958 despite the tragedy and pain of losing her husband. She decided to live with the tribe that had murdered Jim and took along their three-year old daughter Valerie. Elizabeth loved the people there and worked with the community. She continued the missionary work where Jim left off as her passion was to proclaim the gospel to the lost Aucas. About one third gave their lives to Christ.

Looking back at the death of her husband, Elizabeth said: “The fact that Jim loved and died for the Aucas intensified my love for them.”

Elizabeth was a best selling Christian author and wrote numerous books on purity, marriage, dating and being a godly woman. She also had a daily radio program called Gateway to Joy. Additionally, she taught the Word of God, spoke at conferences and seminars to woman all over the world, and was also an adjunct professor at Gordon-Conwell Seminary for four years. Overall, Elizabeth devoted herself to missionary work serving eleven years in Ecuador, South America.

Elizabeth was married three times and understood what being a widow was as she lost two husbands (Jim Elliot was killed by Indians in Eastern, Ecuador In 1956 and Addison Leitch who died after battling cancer in 1969). At the end, she left behind her husband Lars Gren and her daughter Valerie.

In her life, she was known as a godly woman, wife, mother, and faithful servant.

Thank you Elizabeth for your rich legacy, love for God, wisdom, and example you have given us and for being a wonderful godly role model to many. You ran the race well.