The Amazing and Versatile Barneys of Washington 1
On ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s second day in Washington he spoke to a group of children who visit Alice’s [Barney] “Studio House” every weekend for Sunday classes. She had designed it years before, to showcase artifacts she had collected during her travels. Its Spanish Mission façade jumps out, in true Barney fashion, from the Beaux Arts style of the surrounding buildings. Tiger and bear pelts, mouths agape, are spread on the tiled floor. The columns in the first floor reception room bear bunches of carved grapes; the textures and colors of the fabrics are a feast for little hands and eyes. But perhaps the most surprising detail is what the house lacks: neither a bed nor a closet can be found in it.
But although the press knows Mrs. Barney primarily for her bizarre tastes, the Times also writes about her “deep sympathy with human kind.” The Studio House is not the only building in which Mrs. Barney has crystallized her ideals. Today, on May 10, 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá will visit a settlement house that she established in 1901. The settlement movement in America aimed to improve the lives of the urban poor. It is here that Alice Barney applies her many talents, teaching sculpture, theatre, painting, and other arts to assist Washington’s less fortunate.
Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C. 2
On Friday, May 10, He spoke at a women’s meeting, visited a settlement house for children, and went to Mrs. Alice Barney’s for supper, where He talked late into the night. The next day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left Washington.
Floating in a sea of happiness 3
Several distinguished people came to visit ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the morning. After a private interview involving lengthy questions and answers, He spoke in detail on the preeminence and progress of this century and the decline of the dogmatic formalism of the nations.
In the afternoon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke to a gathering of distinguished women on the rights and education of women. Later, after a drive in the park, He visited a home for the poor which had been established through the efforts of Mrs [Alice Barney-] Hemmick. In the evening, He spoke about the influence of the Cause of God, the spiritual power of Bahá’u’lláh, ending His talk with loving exhortations to the Bahá’ís.
The Master dined at the home of Mrs Hemmick and Mme [Laura] Dreyfus-Barney. Everyone was delighted to be in His presence and floated in a sea of happiness until late at night listening to His loving admonitions and exhortations.
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “The Amazing and Versatile Barneys of Washington.” 239 Days in America, May 10, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/10/the-amazing-and-versatile-barneys-of-washington/. [return]
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 64. [return]
- ’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#section47. [return]