The Amazing and Versatile Barneys of Washington 1
On ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s second day in Washington he spoke to a group of children who visit Alice’s [Barney] “Studio House” every weekend for Sunday classes. She had designed it years before, to showcase artifacts she had collected during her travels. Its Spanish Mission façade jumps out, in true Barney fashion, from the Beaux Arts style of the surrounding buildings. Tiger and bear pelts, mouths agape, are spread on the tiled floor. The columns in the first floor reception room bear bunches of carved grapes; the textures and colors of the fabrics are a feast for little hands and eyes. But perhaps the most surprising detail is what the house lacks: neither a bed nor a closet can be found in it.
But although the press knows Mrs. Barney primarily for her bizarre tastes, the Times also writes about her “deep sympathy with human kind.” The Studio House is not the only building in which Mrs. Barney has crystallized her ideals. Today, on May 10, 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá will visit a settlement house that she established in 1901. The settlement movement in America aimed to improve the lives of the urban poor. It is here that Alice Barney applies her many talents, teaching sculpture, theatre, painting, and other arts to assist Washington’s less fortunate.
Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C.
On Friday, May 10, He spoke at a women’s meeting, visited a settlement house for children, and went to Mrs. Alice Barney’s for supper, where He talked late into the night. The next day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left Washington. 2
Talk at Hotel Schenley, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 7 May 1912
The sixth principle or teaching of Bahá’u’lláh concerns the equality of man and woman. He has declared that in the estimation of God there is no distinction of sex. The one whose heart is most pure, whose deeds and service in the Cause of God are greater and nobler, is most acceptable before the divine threshold—whether male or female. In the vegetable and animal kingdoms sex exists in perfect equality and without distinction or invidious estimate. The animal, although inferior to man in intelligence and reason, recognizes sex equality. Why should man, who is endowed with the sense of justice and sensibilities of conscience, be willing that one of the members of the human family should be rated and considered as subordinate? Such differentiation is neither intelligent nor conscientious; therefore, the principle of religion has been revealed by Bahá’u’lláh that woman must be given the privilege of equal education with man and full right to his prerogatives. That is to say, there must be no difference in the education of male and female in order that womankind may develop equal capacity and importance with man in the social and economic equation. Then the world will attain unity and harmony. In past ages humanity has been defective and inefficient because it has been incomplete. War and its ravages have blighted the world; the education of woman will be a mighty step toward its abolition and ending, for she will use her whole influence against war. Woman rears the child and educates the youth to maturity. She will refuse to give her sons for sacrifice upon the field of battle. In truth, she will be the greatest factor in establishing universal peace and international arbitration. Assuredly, woman will abolish warfare among mankind. Inasmuch as human society consists of two parts, the male and female, each the complement of the other, the happiness and stability of humanity cannot be assured unless both are perfected. Therefore, the standard and status of man and woman must become equalized.
Among other teachings and principles Bahá’u’lláh counsels the education of all members of society. No individual should be denied or deprived of intellectual training, although each should receive according to capacity. None must be left in the grades of ignorance, for ignorance is a defect in the human world. All mankind must be given a knowledge of science and philosophy—that is, as much as may be deemed necessary. All cannot be scientists and philosophers, but each should be educated according to his needs and deserts. 3
Friday, May 10, 1912 4
Several distinguished people came to visit ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the morning. After a private interview involving lengthy questions and answers, He spoke in detail on the preeminence and progress of this century and the decline of the dogmatic formalism of the nations.
In the afternoon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke to a gathering of distinguished women on the rights and education of women. Later, after a drive in the park, He visited a home for the poor which had been established through the efforts of Mrs [Alice Barney-] Hemmick. In the evening, He spoke about the influence of the Cause of God, the spiritual power of Bahá’u’lláh, ending His talk with loving exhortations to the Bahá’ís.
The Master dined at the home of Mrs Hemmick and Mme [Laura] Dreyfus-Barney. Everyone was delighted to be in His presence and floated in a sea of happiness until late at night listening to His loving admonitions and exhortations.
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “The Amazing and Versatile Barneys of Washington.” 239 Days in America, May 10, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/10/the-amazing-and-versatile-barneys-of-washington/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 64. ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 108. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/7#714526334 ↩
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=3#section47. ↩