I was very curious when I heard about a new Baha’i-inspired podcast called “Who was she?” produced by Tara Jabbari; there are few things that I love more than hearing about the stories of early Baha’i women. With a whole first season already available, I reached out to Tara and she graciously agreed to tell us all about her podcast. Here’s what she shared: Continue reading
Nora Crossley (1893-1977). Photo courtesy of George Ronald.
As a young girl, Nora was admired for her beautiful hair. It was a rich auburn color and so long that it almost reached as far as the hem of her dress. Every night and every morning, Nora’s mother would brush it for an hour until it shone like gold. Artists travelled from across the North of England to paint Nora’s portrait. Into adulthood, she considered her hair her only redeeming feature.
Nora Crossley was born in Old Trafford, Manchester in 1893 into a wealthy family. But her childhood was not a happy one and her adulthood was equally severely difficult. After the First World War, she married her penniless childhood sweetheart against her separated parents’ wishes. War had irrevocably changed her husband. He was later diagnosed as schizophrenic, but at that point his erratic behaviour was beyond any explanation. He refused to return to work, preferring to play the organ and repair hymn books for the church, but never accepting any payment. So began more than 50 years of severe tests at home for Nora, who soon became a mother to two sons. Continue reading
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.
Amelia Engelder Collins (7 June, 1873-1 January, 1962). Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.
The very first time I heard of Amelia Collins was when I was a child, maybe five or six, visiting the Holy Land with my family. We were walking along the wide path in Bahji, the only sound our footsteps on the white pebbles, and before us towered a beautiful wrought-iron gilded gate, leading to the Shrine of Baha’u’llah.
‘This is the ‘Collins Gate’’, my mother whispered to me. ‘Named after Amelia Collins.’
In my child’s mind’s eye, Amelia Collins too, was a figure who towered above me like this enormous gate. When I finally saw photos of her, it surprised me that, as described by Hand of the Cause Mr Abu’l-Qasim Faizi, she was, in fact, quite small – ‘a slender, white-haired, very upright, elderly lady.’ When I began to read about her life, however, I realised that this incredible woman was, indeed, like this gate: strong, upright and truly a spiritual giant. Mr Faizi goes on to describe the gate itself as standing ‘silently…as a loving remembrance of the one who adored the Guardian of the Faith – Shoghi Effendi.’ Continue reading
Baha’is today are considered the spiritual descendants of the Dawn-Breakers, the very early Baha’is in Persia. But some are blessed to be able to actually trace their ancestry to families that played important roles in the history and the development of the Baha’i Faith. Judy Hannen Moe is one such person, and for the last few years she has been working on a book called Aflame with Devotion: The Hannen and Knobloch Families and the Early Days of the Baha’i Faith.
Judy shared the story behind putting this book together and what she learned in the process:
Baha’i Blog: Hi Judy! To begin, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a life-long Baha’i who grew up in this family of many generations of Baha’is, as you will discover when you read my book. I grew up in the vicinity of the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette, attending classes there with my four siblings, participating in a North Shore Baha’i youth group, attending many Baha’i functions, and listening to many wonderful Baha’i speakers. I attended Northern Illinois University back in the days of the civil rights movements and antiwar protests and met my husband of fifty years, Bruce Moe, there. We moved to Rockford 45 years ago and I have served on the Local Spritual Assembly there ever since. I’m very involved in community social action such as our Eliminate Racism Group and the Interfaith Council. My husband and I are both retired teachers now. We love going on road trips together around the country. I taught English as a Second Language for 25 years which gave me the opportunity to travel abroad several times. I have two grown children a son-in-law and a granddaughter spread out across the country. I love gardening, singing, creating art, crocheting, and going out to eat with my friends.
I’m excited to share a short film called ‘Hope From Iran 2’ by my dear friend Flavio Azm Rassekh in collaboration with Persian BMS.
‘Hope From Iran 2‘ is a follow-up film to its predecessor ‘Hope From Iran‘, but this film takes on a slightly different angle by exploring the lives of four very talented women who have been touched, not only by the Baha’i Faith, but in particular by the life and example of a famous Persian poetess and Baha’i heroine known as Tahirih.
Flavio is a filmmaker from Brazil, and besides truly being like a brother to me, we’ve collaborated on numerous projects together over the years, and his unwavering dedication, hard work, and passion for serving the Baha’i Faith through various avenues of media and the arts is always an inspiration.
I decided to touch base with Flavio about ‘Hope From Iran 2’, and share what he had to say with our readers: Continue reading
Hands of the Cause of God Hyde Dunn and Clara Dunn with a group of Baha’is in Australia, c. 1940. Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community
While reading the Tablets of the Divine Plan, American Baha’i Clara Dunn looked up from her page and voiced a sincere plea to her husband Hyde Dunn:
“Let us go where Abdu’l-Baha wished to go.”
Where had Abdu’l-Baha wished to go? In the Tablets of the Divine Plan He said:
O that I could travel, even though on foot and in the utmost poverty, to these regions, and, raising the call of [Baha’u’llah] in cities, villages, mountains, deserts and oceans, promote the divine teachings! This, alas, I cannot do. How intensely I deplore it! Please God, ye may achieve it.
These tablets, written to the Baha’is of the United States and Canada in 1916 and 1917, set out strategies for ensuring that the Message of Baha’u’llah could be learned about in every corner of the world.
Clara made her plea in 1919, only two short years after she and Hyde Dunn had married. At that time, the couple was almost in a state of poverty. For many, the idea of leaving home at the ages of 52 and 65 respectively, and immigrating to a foreign land without any financial backing would be ludicrous. Hyde Dunn, unhesitatingly, answered with these words:
“Yes, we will go.” Continue reading
The image above is a drawing of the city walls of Zanjan, Persia, by French orientalist, Eugène Flandin. The drawing would have been done some time around the mid-1800s, a time when members of the Babi faith faced severe persecution. [Image copyright: Public Domain]
From their earliest years, generations of Baha’is have prayed: “Make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star.” Shining lamps and brilliant stars are only necessary, and only visible, in times of darkness. The women of Zanjan, a city in north-west Persia, who recognised the truth of the claim of the Bab, shone as brilliant stars through the darkness of the “most violent and devastating” of “the great conflagrations” which consumed the followers of the Bab in the East, South, West, and capital of Persia in the middle of the 19th century. Through the long months that came to be recognized as one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of the Babi Revelation, they struggled side by side with the Babi men, serving, sacrificing, suffering. The sole purpose of the men, as repeatedly stated by their leader Hujjat, was to preserve inviolate the security of the women and children from the attacks heaped upon them for their beliefs. At the same time the sole purpose of the women was to provide the means by which the men could continue to defend the community. They were part of one heroic interdependent whole. Continue reading
When I was eleven, my period leaked for the first time in my sixth-grade class. It was my second period ever, and while age and experience has now confirmed what my mother said to me the day it happened (“Every single woman in the world has leaked”) I was mortified to the point of being momentarily traumatized; boys bullied me for weeks about it, and I exerted all my efforts into avoiding the memory of it. From then on, when I had my period, nothing was more important to me than making sure I didn’t leak. All my thoughts, anxieties, and concerns through the day on those dreaded moments of a month revolved around how many pads or tampons I had in my bag, and how many opportunities I would have to go to the bathroom.
It wasn’t long before I realized this was a concern all my girlfriends shared, and we spent our days in middle and high school clandestinely passing each other pads and tampons in brown bags, so no one would see, and through the sleeves of each other’s shirts like we were exchanging contraband instead of products crucial to our health and well-being. We didn’t talk about our periods above whispers and used euphemisms like “our friend from down South” if we had to talk publicly or loudly. Characters in TV shows didn’t have or refer to their periods; no one in movies seemed affected. Pop stars and models were beautiful all the time and never caved over in cramps, migraines, or nausea, so we put smiles on our faces, saved the complaining for each other when we were home in our pajamas and watching TV, accepting the silence and secrecy as givens and normalcy for menstruating women.
I’d always been passionate about my faith and spirituality, I often talked about the Baha’i Faith’s advocacy for women’s rights, but I never saw how my humiliation or secrecy regarding my period had anything to do with the principle of gender equality. Sometime in my teenage years, I was reading my own copy of the Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book) that my Baha’i school teacher had given me. I came across the passage: 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