“This Is a Symbol of My Power,” She Said 1
JOAN OF ARC’s SILVER suit shone in the afternoon sun. You wouldn’t have been able to hear her horse’s hooves on the pavement, because on every side traffic officers blew their whistles, marching bands played, and cheers rose from the crowds clogging every inch along the sidewalks.
The women’s suffrage march in New York had taken place two weeks ago, on May 4, 1912, while ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was in Chicago. At five o’clock sharp, an army began to march up Fifth Avenue from Washington Square. There were 10,000 of them, including 838 men. It was a parade “the like of which New York never knew before,” the New York Times said. Nearly half a million people had emptied the surrounding buildings to look on.
Today, on May 20th, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was standing in front of a suffrage meeting beneath the huge McKinley Memorial Organ at the Metropolitan Temple, on Seventh Avenue at 14th Street in New York. “Universal Peace is impossible without Universal Suffrage,” he said. “It has been objected by some that woman is not equally capable with man and that she is by creation deficient. This is pure imagination. The difference which exists between man and woman is a difference due solely to education.”
Talk at Woman’s Suffrage Meeting, Metropolitan Temple, Seventh Avenue and Fourteenth Street, New York 2
The most momentous question of this day is international peace and arbitration, and universal peace is impossible without universal suffrage. Children are educated by the women. The mother bears the troubles and anxieties of rearing the child, undergoes the ordeal of its birth and training. Therefore, it is most difficult for mothers to send to the battlefield those upon whom they have lavished such love and care. Consider a son reared and trained twenty years by a devoted mother. What sleepless nights and restless, anxious days she has spent! Having brought him through dangers and difficulties to the age of maturity, how agonizing then to sacrifice him upon the battlefield! Therefore, the mothers will not sanction war nor be satisfied with it. So it will come to pass that when women participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world, when they enter confidently and capably the great arena of laws and politics, war will cease; for woman will be the obstacle and hindrance to it. This is true and without doubt.
New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 3
Monday [May 20th] and Tuesday [May 21st] were spent in interviews and public talks such as one to a Woman’s Suffragist group in the Metropolitan Temple.
Monday, May 20, 1912 4
Among those visiting the Master at the [Mr. and Mrs. Edward B.] Kinney’s home were some narrow-minded Christian ministers. He spoke to them about the misunderstandings among Christians about Islam. After the Master spoke emphatically with reasoning and proofs to establish the reality of Islam, the ministers left humbly and joyfully, impressed by His explanations.
In the evening an enthusiastic gathering of women suffragists gathered to hear the Master’s address. While riding in Mr. [Mountfort] Mills’s automobile, the Master said: ‘You will learn of the value of this automobile later because it will be said that the servants of the Blessed Beauty sat in it.’
When He entered the gathering, the entire audience stood with great joy and excitement. The chairman of the meeting Mrs [Eliza Jean Nelson] Penfield first gave an introductory account of the persecutions and imprisonment of the Master and explained the meaning of the name ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The Master then spoke at length about the education and rights of women. There was great excitement in the audience, and, as in other gatherings, the people were deeply moved and both men and women shook His hand, supplicating for assistance.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “‘This Is a Symbol of My Power,’ She Said.” 239 Days in America, May 20, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/20/this-is-a-symbol-of-my-power-she-said/. ↩
- 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, 134-135. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/9#759960588. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 71. ↩
- ’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#section57. ↩