“The Great Educator of Man Is Woman” 1
“I AM DELIGHTED TO speak before this gathering of revered ladies,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá began, “who have met for the purpose of investigating the realities of life.” On Tuesday, October 16, 1912, he addressed the Century Club of California, a private social club for women founded in 1888, which devoted its energies and financial resources to the advancement of women. Phoebe Hearst had been its first president. Julia Morgan, the architect of Ms. Hearst’s estate in Pleasanton, had also designed the club’s illustrious Edwardian mansion. Ella Cooper, who had traveled in Mrs. Hearst’s party to ‘Akká in 1898, in the first group of Americans to visit ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, sat in on the gathering, scribbling down ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s words as they were translated.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá made his position on gender equality unequivocal. “Some believe that man is the greater and preferable member of the body politic,” he told the women, “that he is created with certain superior virtues, and that woman, however great may be her attainment, can never reach man’s level, because she is not endowed with equal faculties.” He refuted this position, noting instead that in the eyes of growing majority, and surely in the eyes of God, “perfect equality already exists.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá turned to the role of mothers in the development of society. “The great educator of man is woman,” he argued, “for it is the mother who is the first teacher.” “In the world of humanity the most productive and useful member, after all, is woman,” he said to reinforce his point, “for it is woman who educates man, not the reverse. She rears the children; she cares for the home upon which the body politic is founded; she gives birth to mighty leaders.”
It is, therefore, men’s duty to be “grateful” to womankind, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá argued. It would be impossible for men to progress without women, he pointed out, yet “when woman demands her rights she is refused. . . .”
But the crowds kept coming, and round of public meetings continued to the last moment.
Wednesday, October 23, 1912 3
Today there was a public meeting in Oakland at the home of Mrs Cooper and Mrs Goodall. The Master spoke kindly about the devotion and steadfastness of His hostesses and praised the firmness and enthusiasm of the California Bahá’ís. As these were the last days of His stay, the friends’ hearts were moved and their enthusiasm and affection increased. He had lunch and dinner there.
In the evening the Master spoke of the retirement of the Blessed Beauty and the distress of the believers, speaking at length of Áqá Abu’l-Qásim-i-Hamadání. ‘From the circumstances, as reported,’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá continued,
“we surmised that because Áqá Abu’l-Qásim-i-Hamadání had previously been with Bahá’u’lláh and had also set out on a journey when the Blessed Beauty disappeared, then Darvish Muhammad was really the Blessed Beauty and must be in the vicinity of Sulaymáníyyih. Thus it was that we sent the friends to petition Him, implore and supplicate Him to return to Baghdád.”
After the meeting the Master went to His room but the friends implored His presence among them. He then returned to the gathering, saying, among other things:
“I have now been for some time in these regions. In any city I have entered I have met with the friends and other people. In all the gatherings and most of the churches I have called out to the Abhá Kingdom and invited people to the Cause of the Blessed Beauty. At night I have implored and supplicated and prayed and asked for assistance, so that the rays of the Sun of Reality may shine on this country, illumine all the regions of America, bestow everlasting life; that its citizens may acquire heavenly civilization and that they may be bountifully favored through the teachings of the Blessed Beauty.
“Praise be to God! This has come to pass through the grace of the Blessed Beauty and the assistance of the Abhá Kingdom. The call of God has been raised in all the cities of America. Accounts of the greatness of the Cause have been published even in the newspapers.”
He also spoke with joy and happiness about the establishment of the Cause in the countries of the East and the firmness and steadfastness of the Persian friends.
One day, as He was strolling, He called to remembrance the days of the Blessed Beauty, referring with sadness to His sojourn in Sulaymáníyyih, to His loneliness and to the wrongs inflicted upon Him. Though He had often recounted that episode, that day He was so overcome with emotion that He sobbed aloud in His grief . . . All His attendants wept with Him, and were plunged into sorrow as they heard the tale of the woeful trials endured by the Ancient Beauty, and witnessed the tenderness of heart manifested by His Son. 4
The Master remained in Oakland for the night.
12 October 1912, Talk at Temple Emmanu-El, 450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California 5
Praise be to God! The medieval ages of darkness have passed away and this century of radiance has dawned, this century wherein the reality of things is becoming evident, wherein science is penetrating the mysteries of the universe, the oneness of the world of humanity is being established, and service to mankind is the paramount motive of all existence. Shall we remain steeped in our fanaticisms and cling to our prejudices? Is it fitting that we should still be bound and restricted by ancient fables and superstitions of the past, be handicapped by superannuated beliefs and the ignorances of dark ages, waging religious wars, fighting and shedding blood, shunning and anathematizing each other? Is this becoming? Is it not better for us to be loving and considerate toward each other? Is it not preferable to enjoy fellowship and unity, join in anthems of praise to the most high God and extol all His Prophets in the spirit of acceptance and true vision? Then, indeed, this world will become a paradise, and the promised Day of God will dawn. Then, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, the wolf and the lamb will drink from the same stream, the owl and the vulture will nest together in the same branches, and the lion and the calf pasture in the same meadow. What does this mean? It means that fierce and contending religions, hostile creeds and divergent beliefs will reconcile and associate, notwithstanding their former hatreds and antagonism. Through the liberalism of human attitude demanded in this radiant century they will blend together in perfect fellowship and love. This is the spirit and meaning of Isaiah’s words. There will never be a day when this prophecy will come to pass literally, for these animals by their natures cannot mingle and associate in kindness and love. Therefore, this prophecy symbolizes the unity and agreement of races, nations and peoples who will come together in attitudes of intelligence, illumination and spirituality.
’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
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “‘The Great Educator of Man Is Woman.’” 239 Days in America, 23 Oct. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/10/23/abdul-baha-exalts-the-role-of-mothers/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 170. ↩
- ’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=8#section214 ↩
- Effendi, Shoghi. God Passes By. 1944. Reprint, Wilmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1970, 293-294. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/shoghi-effendi/god-passes-by/21#543609895 ↩
- 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, 369-370. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/27#302121517 ↩