BY CHRISTY MESAROS-WINCKLES
Eliza Suggs spent much of her life riding in a baby carriage pushed by family members. Stunted by rickets, she was only 33 inches tall.
Her father, James, was a Free Methodist minister who moved with his wife, Malinda, and their family to Nebraska in 1886 so their daughters could attend Orleans Seminary, a Free Methodist school. Known for its temperance activism, the seminary engaged in a massive prohibition movement in its small community while Eliza Suggs was a student. She actively took part in the campaign through voracious letter writing to the local newspaper.
The family struggled financially. Suggs saw their difficulties as a joyful test of their faith. Many people encouraged the African-American family to put Suggs in one of the freak shows common at that time. Her small stature, childlike features and race could make her family a great deal of money if they put her on display.
Suggs explained, “It has never been a temptation to me to want to go with a show or to be in a museum for money-making purposes. I once went to a museum in Chicago just to see and learn. I was asked by one there why I did not speak to the manager and get a place in the museum, and make lots of money. Oh, no! Such places are not for me. God wants me to live for Him, and I could not do it there. I must keep separated from the world. … Some wonder how I can be happy in my condition. It is the sunlight of God in my soul that makes me happy. It would be hard to live without the Lord.”
Suggs did not see her disabilities as handicaps. She was, as everyone else, a unique creation of God with a specific purpose for His glory.
Read Eliza Suggs’ autobiography, “Shadows and Sunshine,” at fmchr.ch/elizasuggs.0