Conceived in Rape: Ethel Waters


A caller this morning alerted me to this story, of a woman conceived in rape who reached great heights in her life and career.

Ethel Waters, famed blues and jazz singer and the second African American ever nominated for an Academy Award, was conceived in rape.

Ethel wrote in her autobiography, His Eye Is on the Sparrow:

So John Waters, my father, came back one day and forced my mother to submit to him. She tried to fight him, but he raped her, holding a knife. She was only twelve and didn’t know what it was all about, but she had to give in to him. And that is how I was conceived. (p. 3-4)

This was in the year 1900, long before abortion would have been considered the “easy” or “compassionate” solution to a pregnancy resulting from rape.

That was fortunate for Ethel, who otherwise would not have lived to become a Grammy award winning singer and Academy Award nominated actress.

If you live in the Elgin, Illinois area, you can attend a performance of Ethel Waters’ songs on March 10 at the Gail Borden Library. The singer, Rise Jones, “will sing songs and narrate the performer’s life using information from Waters’ two autobiographies.”

I hope Jones mentions that, despite the awful way Ethel’s life was conceived, her life was just as valuable as any “planned” or “wanted” pregnancy ever was.

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