- Abdu’l-Baha was the eldest son of Baha’u’llah. When Abdu’l-Baha passed away on 28 November 1921, He was eulogized as One who led humanity to the “Way of Truth,” as a “pillar of peace” and the embodiment of “glory and greatness.”
There is a wealth of inspiration that we can derive from the stories of our spiritual ancestors, those brave and courageous souls willing to share the Baha’i teachings, no matter the personal difficulties they faced.
I am delighted that the life of Hand of the Cause Agnes Alexander is now in print to be read and treasured.
This book, titled Agnes Baldwin Alexander: Hand of the Cause of God, is the result of collaboration between Duane Troxel and Earl Redman and it is a pleasure to hear from both of them about this new biography:
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My Baha’i life began in 1963 in Hawai’i where I was then stationed in the Navy. It was there I met and married my wife. After my discharge we moved back to my home state of Minnesota. In 1967 we went on a Baha’i pilgrimage to Israel and from there we pioneered to Nigeria which exploded in civil war three months later. We homefront pioneered on the Big Island of Hawai’i and returned to pioneer in Nigeria after I earned my doctorate at Temple University. Stephanie is a Moghegan Indian and has an M.A. from M.I.T. She is the first to have published a dictionary of the Mohegan people. Stephanie and I had three lovely children and have five wonderful grandchildren. We presently live in an assisted living facility in Connecticut.
I’ve already described how I came to write books about Baha’i history, so won’t repeat that again. But writing this book came about much more differently that my previous books. It began when Erica Toussaint-Brock asked me to write about Howard Colby Ives, the author of Portals to Freedom and her great grandfather. Not having written a biography before, it felt like a challenge too great–until I saw all the materials she had collected about him and his wife Mabel and began to visualize their amazing lives of dedication. Writing that book became the warm-up to writing about Agnes Alexander (the book about Howard and Mabel is currently being edited for publication by George Ronald).
What inspired you to write a book about Agnes Baldwin Alexander?
From my earliest days as a Baha’i I was acutely aware that I was living in the earliest days of the Baha’i Faith. It was as though we where living in the early days of Christ. As part of my love of history I wanted to know as much as I could about my new Faith and its heroes and heroines. Nearly 50 years ago I acquired a spiral-bound copy of Agnes Alexander’s account of the history of the Faith in Hawai’i. I was spellbound by it and even wrote an article about her for publication in 1974.
In 1979 I was allowed to work in Hawai’i’s Baha’i National Archives. It was from that time to about 2019 that I continued to collect material on Ms Alexander.
In about 2016 I approached Earl Redman—who already had about five outstanding Baha’i books in print—proposing that he turn the research into a biography. To my delight he agreed. That my name appears as co-author is his decision because he is the principal author.
Duane was the inspiration for the book. He had collected a huge amount of information about Agnes, including 13 Tablets from Abdu’l-Baha and 94 letters from Shoghi Effendi. These, plus the fact that Abdu’l-Baha mentioned her twice in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, made her irresistibly interesting to me. When I started looking through the amazing trove of correspondence Duane had collected, the life of deep spiritual connection emerged. After having been raised with unconscious racism, she rose above it and spent her life teaching the Faith of Baha’u’llah to the Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Filipinos and many others.
Can you tell us about your book and what it is?
Agnes Baldwin Alexander is a biography about Hawai’i’s first Baha’i and her efforts to teach her new Faith in Hawai’i, Japan, Korea and China. But more than that is a testimony of one who put her complete reliance on God’s guidance in every situation in which she she found herself. To my knowledge she is the only soul to have a letter from Abdu’l-Baha that said He was answering her letter before it was received.
Agnes was so connected to both Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi that she commonly had strong feelings about what she should do and would act on them. After acting on those feelings, she would receive a Tablet or letter telling her to do what she had already done. It should be no surprise to anyone reading the book that Shoghi Effendi appointed her a Hand of the Cause.
What can we learn from the story of Agnes Alexander’s life about the unity of mankind?
That human strivings for love, understanding and purpose are universal. Like unto a hollow reed—if the pith of self can be blown—as was the case with Agnes, then God’s purpose can work through us. I once heard her say (and I paraphrase): “If God has used me in His Cause it is because I am nothing. If you are something He can’t use you, you know.”
Agnes’s philosophy was that everything that happened was a God-given opportunity. When she couldn’t find a place to live in Japan, she just assumed that there was a reason for it. When she was named a Hand of the Cause, she simply accepted it because the Guardian was divinely inspired in his guidance of the Faith. She completely subsumed her life to the will of God.
What is something you learned in the process of putting this book together?
Agnes relied on divine assistance from the moment she became a Baha’i. There are many stories in the book about when she faced some apparently unsolvable dilemma, but which were mysteriously resolved so that she could advance the Cause of Baha’u’llah.
Thank you, Duane and Earl, for taking the time to tell us about this wonderful new biography.
You can purchase Agnes Baldwin Alexander: Hand of the Cause of God from a variety of book retailers including Bahaibooks.com.au in Australia.
Leave a Reply
"*" indicates required fields
The arts and media have a critical role in how we share our community experiences. We’ve got resources, projects and more to help you get involved.
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia.
We recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.