The Battles of Sarah J. Farmer 1
THE CAR APPROACHED FROM the direction of Kittery, slowed as it reached the streetcar depot at the top of Green Acre’s long driveway, and then stopped. While a tall man with dark hair kept watch in the front seat, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá got into the back, and sat next to Miss Sarah J. Farmer. It was Tuesday, August 20, 1912, and she had not set eyes on Green Acre for more than three years. The trouble had started way back during the 189os. The problem was that she was a woman.
In 1889, Sarah Farmer signed on as silent partner in the Eliot Hotel Company. Four local men had started the venture to capture the tourists flocking to nearby York Beach. But somehow the partners had overlooked the fact that Eliot was six miles from the sea, and the enterprise failed. They were therefore delighted, when, in 1894, Miss Farmer proposed to lease the boarded-up hotel each summer for a few weeks of lectures on religion.
Within two years, thousands of people were attending each July and August, and newspapers across the Northeast followed the proceedings. Sarah J. Farmer secured the leading public intellectuals of the era to speak at Green Acre, transforming it from a center for inter-religious dialogue into a place that encompassed the social and intellectual movements that were on the verge of launching the Progressive Era.
Green Acre 2
On August 22, in another of the crowds of people who continually came, was a woman who had survived the Titanic disaster. She said, “‘I am informed that you advised not to go by that boat.’” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá replied, “’Yes.’” She asked, “‘Did you know that it would happen thus?’” He responded, “’God sends a feeling of misgiving into man’s heart.’”
17 August 1912, Talk at Green Acre, Eliot, Maine 3
Bahá’u’lláh has proclaimed the promise of the oneness of humanity. Therefore, we must exercise the utmost love toward each other. We must be loving to all the people of the world. We must not consider any people the people of Satan, but know and recognize all as the servants of the one God. At most it is this: Some do not know; they must be guided and trained. They must be taught to love their fellow creatures and be encouraged in the acquisition of virtues. Some are ignorant; they must be informed. Some are as children, undeveloped; they must be helped to reach maturity. Some are ailing, their moral condition is unhealthy; they must be treated until their morals are purified. But the sick man is not to be hated because he is sick, the child must not be shunned because he is a child, the ignorant one is not to be despised because he lacks knowledge. They must all be treated, educated, trained and assisted in love. Everything must be done in order that humanity may live under the shadow of God in the utmost security, enjoying happiness in its highest degree.
Thursday, August 22, 1912 4
So many assembled this morning in the Master’s home that there was no room to stand. The Master said that it was not possible to speak to each individually, therefore He stood in front of the group and spoke about the teachings and divine exhortations. At one point He said, ‘I hope that harvests will be reaped from the seed-sowing and that it will receive heavenly blessings.’
After the meeting the Master gave permission to some earnest seekers to see Him privately. Afterwards, He went to visit the homes of some of the friends.
Today a lady who had survived the Titanic disaster came to see Him. ‘I am told,’ she said, ‘that you advised not to travel by that ship.’
The Master replied in the affirmative. She questioned, ‘Did you know that this would happen?’ The Master said, ‘God inspires man’s heart.’
When He returned to the Inn, some prominent people came to see Him. In the course of the conversation they said, ‘We have always understood that religion is opposed to science but we are now indebted to your discourses and teachings for throwing a new light on our thinking.’
The Master gave another talk on these issues for their enlightenment. Another group of people came to visit Him, expressing their heartfelt sorrow that He intended to leave Green Acre. They begged Him to write them a few words in His own handwriting and He wrote brief prayers for them in His exquisite script.
In the afternoon He paid farewell visits to some of the friends at their homes. At each gathering He offered life-giving words and in each home He was as the beloved one who steals hearts. He then returned home extremely exhausted, to the point that He could not even sit down. ‘Our condition’, He said, ‘is like that of the exhausted iron worker’s apprentice whose master said to him, “Die, but pump.”‘
After a brief rest He went to the hall at Eirenion and gave a talk on unity among the races, the elimination of prejudice amongst the peoples and nations, and the necessity for the oneness of the world of humanity in this enlightened age. At the end He chanted a prayer in such melodious and sweet tones that every heart was attracted to the divine kingdom and every soul turned to the Beauty of the Beloved.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Menon, Jonathan. “The Battles of Sarah J. Farmer.” 239 Days in America, 22 Aug. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/08/22/battles-sarah-j-farmer/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 130. ↩
- 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, 269-270. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/19#451722796 ↩
- ’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=6#section151 ↩