7 Feb

Biography: May Maxwell

When May Maxwell was 11 years old she had two dreams. She dreamt of sunlight so brilliant that she was physically blinded the following day. Later she dreamt that angels carried her through space until she saw a light that symbolized the earth. Upon the earth she saw seals and a single word, however, of this word she could read only two letters: a “B” and an “H”. Then a man came to her, a majestic figure in Eastern garb, and He beckoned her from across the Mediterranean Sea. When she awoke, she knew that the “B” and the “H” would transform her life (these dreams were the inspiration behind this short film created by my Ruhi Book 8 group).

This particular story and every other story I have read of May Ellis Maxwell (nee Bolles) fills my soul with awe and light. May came in contact with the Bahá’í Faith through a close family friend named Phoebe Hearst. But it was Lua Getsinger who lit the flame of love for God within her heart. The moment May set eyes on Lua, she was astounded by the spirit and inner fire that she saw in her and sought with her entire being to understand it. This passionate desire won her an invitation to join Mrs. Hearst and the others in the first group of American believers to go on pilgrimage to Israel and to meet the Personage whom she had dreamt of nearly 20 years earlier.

She described meeting the Master thus:

Of that first meeting I can remember neither joy nor pain nor anything that I can name. I had been carried suddenly to too great a height; my soul had come in contact with the Divine Spirit; and this force so pure, so holy, so mighty had overwhelmed me… And when He arose and suddenly left us we came back with a start to life: but never again, oh! never again, thank God, to the same life on this earth! … As we gazed on Him I realized that we could in no way comprehend Him; we could only love Him, follow Him, obey Him and thereby draw nearer to His beauty… When He had finished speaking we were led gently away … and for a moment it seemed that we were dying… until, as we drove away … suddenly His spirit came to us, a great strength and tranquility filled our souls… We had left our Beloved in His glorious prison that we might go forth and serve Him; that we might spread His Cause and deliver His Truth to the world; and already His words were fulfilled—’The time has come when we must part, but the separation is only of our bodies; in spirit we are united forever.’

These beautiful words describe the story of her life. Every breath she took, every word she spoke, and every single interaction she had after that pilgrimage had her love for God as its impetus.

May and her husband William Sutherland Maxwell were married in 1902 and were blessed to host ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in their home for four days in Montreal, Canada and she also dedicated much time and energy arranging for the talks He gave. Through her selfless service and her unprejudiced love, she helped lay the foundation for the existence of a Bahá’í community in Canada and is often regarded as its mother.

Sources and photo credit:


1 Comment

  • I live in Montreal.
    I love your Book 8 project.
    Thank you for sharing.
    This is a special year for us as we are celebrating the 100 anniversary of the visit of Beloved Abdu’l-Baha to Montreal.
    May and William Sutherland Maxwell are instrumental for so much of the rich Baha’i history we enjoy today in Montreal.
    May Maxwell is not only the Mother of the Baha’i community in Canada she also is considered the mother of the Baha’i communities of France and UK. I love all those early Baha’i women who recognized the station of Abdu’l-Baha and fallowed Him in service to humanity.