Hand of the Cause of God Agnes Baldwin Alexander (1875-1971). Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.
In this article, I’d like to share a little of what I’ve learned about Hand of the Cause of God Agnes Alexander from when she first heard about the Baha’i Faith, to her efforts to deepen herself in its teachings, to how she established a Baha’i community in Japan. I’d like to share some lessons I’ve learned from her life.
Agnes was born in Hawaii in 1875. Her parents were Christian missionaries who moved to Hawaii from the mainland United States. Although her family was not wealthy, she was able to travel and studied at Berkeley in the United States in the 1890s.
In 1900 Agnes visited Europe and while staying with an aunt in Rome she met an American Baha’i, Charlotte Dixon, who had recently been on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. She gave Agnes a prayer, but did not actually mention the Baha’i Faith, as many Baha’is in those days did not feel comfortable talking about the Baha’i Faith without knowing if someone was genuinely interested. After having a spiritual dream Agnes asked her for more information, and after discussing it together, she came to believe in the teachings and principles of the Baha’i Faith. As was the custom at the time, she sent a letter to Abdu’l-Baha to declare her belief and received a Tablet in reply which encouraged her to establish the Baha’i Faith in Hawaii. Here is an excerpt:
Be, therefore a divine bird, proceed to thy native country, spread the wings of sanctity over those spots and sing and chant and celebrate the name of thy Lord, that thou mayest gladden the Supreme Concourse and make the seeking souls hasten unto thee as moths hasten to the lamp and thus illumine that distant country by the Light of God.
Early Australian Baha'i Ethel Dawe (1902-1954) Photo courtesy of the the Australian National Baha'i Archives.
The first generation of Australian and New Zealand Baha’is included a number of extremely capable women, who excelled at sharing the teachings of the Baha’i Faith through public speaking and writing, and who also learnt about the administration of the Baha’i Faith by serving on and establishing Spiritual Assemblies and committees, from local to national levels. They included Hilda Brooks, Margaret Dixson, Emily Axford, Maysie Almond, Dulcie Dive, Thelma Perks, and Gretta Lamprill. In celebration of the centenary of the Baha’i Faith in Australia, this essay reviews the life of yet another of these early heroines, Ethel Dawe.
Ms Dawe was born in Kadina, South Australia on October 17, 1902. She was educated at the Methodist Ladies College, was an accomplished pianist and singer, and her recitations, as well as her participation in Adelaide society, was regularly mentioned in the newspapers’ social columns. In 1931 Ethel heard of the Baha’i teachings from her mother’s aunt, Maysie Almond – who together with her husband Perce had been the first South Australians to accept the Baha’i Faith after hearing Hyde Dunn speak in Adelaide in 1924. Continue reading
Hand of the Cause of God Martha Root sitting front and center, with a group of women in Melbourne, Australia, c. 1924. Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community
A century ago, on July 22, 1919, Martha Root embarked on a 20-year journey to destinations in Europe, Australia, Asia, the Americas, and Africa. These travels were motivated by a desire to share Baha’u’llah’s teachings with diverse audiences through public speaking and writing. Before setting out, she had honed her rhetorical skills during her career as a journalist, performer, and teacher. You can learn more about Root’s purpose-driven life from this earlier Baha’i Blog article.
Root is a role model for participating in the discourses of society; she wrote countless articles and speeches applying Baha’i teachings to a host of issues, including new media (radio), intercultural communication, women’s rights, international relations, and economic inequality. For a research project, I studied 25 of her speeches. I was particularly struck by “Culture and World Peace” (also titled “What Is Culture?”), which she delivered during her final trip around the world. Between 1938 and 1939, Root gave this talk to audiences including college students in India and women’s organizations in Australia. When you read the speech (below), you will observe that she appealed to these audiences by discussing women’s role in society and higher education, among other themes. Continue reading
Resting Place of the Greatest Holy Leaf (1846 - July 15, 1932), Bahiyyih Khanum, the daugher of Baha’u’llah, in the Monument Gardens on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel. Photo: courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.
Dearly-beloved Greatest Holy Leaf! Through the mist of tears that fill my eyes I can clearly see, as I pen these lines, thy noble figure before me, and can recognize the serenity of thy kindly face. I can still gaze, though the shadows of the grave separate us, into thy blue, love-deep eyes, and can feel in its calm intensity, the immense love thou didst bear for the Cause of thine Almighty Father, the attachment that bound thee to the most lowly and insignificant among its followers, the warm affection thou didst cherish for me in thine heart.
The tenderness and profound love in the description of those “blue, love-deep eyes” is one that has stayed in my mind and heart years after I read Shoghi Effendi’s moving and poignant love letter in remembrance of his beloved great aunt, the Greatest Holy Leaf, Bahiyyih Khanum.
Described by her Father, Baha’u’llah, as “one of the most distinguished among thy sex”, with “a station such as none other woman hath surpassed”, Bahiyyih Khanum is regarded as the most outstanding heroine of the Baha’i dispensation. Continue reading
Our Friend Mona is a new biography about Mona Mahmudnizhad, an Iranian teenager who was killed 35 years ago because of her beliefs, such as the universal spiritual education of children.
Mona was a remarkable young woman, known for her love of children, her dedication and devotion to the principles of the Baha’i Faith, her courage, and her sweet voice. She was arrested and eventually executed along with nine other Baha’i women in Shiraz; they were forced to watch each other hang in a final attempt to persuade them to recant their Faith. Mona, the youngest of the women at only 16 years old, asked to go last. She was killed on June 18, 1983.
Azadeh Rohanian Perry knew Mona and Our Friend Mona is a biography of this radiant lion-hearted young woman. Co-written with her husband, Mark Perry, Our Friend Mona shares poignant details of Mona’s story that you may never have read before. I remember watching Doug Cameron’s music video Mona With the Children when I was a child, and her story is etched on my heart. I am so thankful to Azadeh (or Azi, as she is affectionately known) and Mark to creating this book and for taking the time to tell us a little bit about it:
Queen Marie of Romania (29 October 1875 – 18 July 1938)
O Queen in London!… We have been informed that thou hast forbidden the trading in slaves, both men and women. This, verily, is what God hath enjoined in this wondrous Revelation. God hath, truly, destined a reward for thee, because of this.
This passage is part of a Tablet that Baha’u’llah addressed around 1867 to the “renowned” Queen Victoria, “whose sovereignty” Shoghi Effendi characterized as “[extending] over the greatest political combination the world has witnessed.” Baha’u’llah likewise praises Queen Victoria for having “entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of the people,” and even includes in His Tablet advice on how the members of her Parliament should represent the people, should be trustworthy and just. What distinguishes this Tablet and another, written about the same time to “the omnipotent Czar of the vast Russian Empire,” Alexander II, from others Baha’u’llah addressed to the political and ecclesiastical rulers of His time, including Napoleon III, Pope Pius IX, William I, Francis Joseph, Abdu’l-‘Aziz, and Nasiri’d-Din Shah, is His commendation of acts the British and Russian monarchs had each performed during their reigns, directly or indirectly, that He indicated were well-pleasing to God. Continue reading
Emogene Hoagg (September 27, 1869 - December 15, 1945). (Photo: courtesy of the Baha'is of the United States, https://www.bahai.us/)
Henrietta Emogene Martin was born in 1869 in California. When her father died early and her mother remarried, Emogene was sent to live with her uncle and aunt. Despite her family’s indifference to matters of religion, Emogene engaged actively with her local church from a young age, and she would later teach her mother, sister and brother-in-law about the Baha’i Faith.
In 1889 she married John Ketchie Hoagg. Nine years after her marriage Emogene Hoagg became the first Baha’i of California, learning of the Faith through Phoebe Hearst, Lua and Edward Getsinger. Although there is no record of his formal enrolment in the Baha’i community, it appears John was financially and morally supportive of his independent wife and her extensive travel for the sake of the Faith. Abdu’l-Baha would refer to him as His son-in-law – the husband of His ‘daughter’ Emogene. Continue reading