‘Abdul-Bahá came to the United States during a unique historical period — the Nineteenth Amendment, which would give women the right to vote, was eight years from being ratified, the First World War was soon to be fought in two years time, and racial segregation was a social reality legally upheld by the United States Supreme Court. In the midst of this climate, ‘Abdul-Bahá courageously and enthusiastically spoke in universities, churches, and homes about the equality of men and women, the abolition of war, and racial unity. Many of these revolutionary comments were published in newspapers throughout the country and print media played a substantial role in documenting ‘Abdul-Bahá’s discourses in 1912.
Equality of Men and Women
The following emphatic statement was published in The Sacramento Bee on October 4th: “Abbas Effendi declares that women should be educated as thoroughly as men and that they should have the same rights in all things.”[i]
On June 10th, He was quoted in a Philadelphia newspaper: “There is no distinction whatever between them [men and women]. The only difference which exists now is due to education. If womankind be educated equally with man, there is no doubt that no distinction will remain, for the world of humanity has two wings — one is the female and the other the male. A bird cannot fly with one wing, and if one wing be defective, the strong wing, the perfect wing, will not be capable of flying.”
World War I
The September 11th issue of the Buffalo Courier published this statement of ‘Abdul-Bahá: “the continent of Europe is one vast arsenal, which only requires one spark at its foundations and the whole of Europe will become a wasted wilderness.”[ii]
On August 24th, ‘Abdul-Bahá called for the recognition of oneness of humanity in the Montreal Daily Star, saying: “War must cease. There is something above and beyond patriotism…When we see this and know in very truth the brotherhood of man, war will appear to us in its true light as an outrage on civilization, an act of madness and blindness. If the hand fights against the foot all the body must suffer, and no one’s part can possibly be the gainer.”[iii]
In the Lincoln Nebraska Daily Star on 23 September ‘Abdul-Bahá is quoted to have said: “According to the teaching of Baháoallah [Bahá’u’lláh], racial prejudices, political and patriotic prejudices are destroying the foundations of humanity. So long as the world is not free from these prejudices; construction progress and peace is impossible, and the human world will not be composed and secure. [iv]
On September 4th, this statement of the Master was published in the Montreal Gazette: “Man cannot live a solitary life but is ever in need of co-operation and mutual help. If left in a wilderness he will ultimately starve, therefore he is in need of co-operation and reciprocity. The reason is that man originated as one family. For this reason each member of the race should remember that he is part of the body politic, and if anyone is afflicted, all the other members must suffer.”[v]
Although many of the articles published contained inaccuracies, they proved to be invaluable in disseminating the principles of the Bahá’í Faith, reaching many who may not have heard first-hand ‘Abdul-Bahá’s messages of love, peace and universal brotherhood.