Women’s Work 1
THE PROGRESSIVE ERA WAS not a rewarding time to be a working woman. While the wages of men were low, women’s pay was drastically lower. The number of females employed − typically in factories or as domestic servants − was rapidly increasing. Emma Goldman, a leading voice in the Socialist movement, wrote in 1910: “Nowhere is woman treated according to the merit of her work, but rather as a sex.”
Reverend George L. Perin, a pastor serving inner city Boston, decided to lend a helping hand. He was appalled at the housing that single, working women in Boston were compelled to live in. Through a tireless fundraising effort, Perin managed to buy an unoccupied hotel in Boston’s South End. His goal was to “furnish for girls living away from home a dwelling place which is morally safe, as well as comfortable and sanitary, and to give them food that is both palatable and wholesome.” The New York Times called Franklin Square House “the largest hotel for young working women and girl students in the world.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited Franklin Square House on the evening of August 26, 1912. He had been invited by its superintendent to give a talk to the nearly six hundred women that called the vine-covered, red brick building home. He began by confirming the equality of women and men. “[E]ach is the complement of the other in the divine creative plan.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá noted that God distinguishes a person’s “purity and righteousness” in “deeds and actions,” and not their gender. He acknowledged the history of the subordination of women, attributing it to a lack of equal access to education.
27 August 1912, Talk at Metaphysical Club, Boston, Massachusetts 2
It is evident, then, that each elemental atom of the universe is possessed of a capacity to express all the virtues of the universe. This is a subtle and abstract realization. Meditate upon it, for within it lies the true explanation of pantheism. From this point of view and perception pantheism is a truth, for every atom in the universe possesses or reflects all the virtues of life, the manifestation of which is effected through change and transformation. Therefore, the origin and outcome of phenomena is, verily, the omnipresent God; for the reality of all phenomenal existence is through Him. There is neither reality nor the manifestation of reality without the instrumentality of God. Existence is realized and possible through the bounty of God, just as the ray or flame emanating from this lamp is realized through the bounty of the lamp, from which it originates. Even so, all phenomena are realized through the divine bounty, and the explanation of true pantheistic statement and principle is that the phenomena of the universe find realization through the one power animating and dominating all things, and all things are but manifestations of its energy and bounty. The virtue of being and existence is through no other agency. Therefore, in the words of Bahá’u’lláh, the first teaching is the oneness of the world of humanity.
Everyone spoke of feeling the bounties of the Holy Spirit and of the need for these teachings of love and unity 3
‘Abdu’l-Bahá returned to Malden in the morning. He was occupied chiefly in writing letters to the American friends. Believers and seekers came by ones and twos and He lovingly received them.
In the evening there was a well-attended meeting at the Theosophical Society. The gathering became the dawning place of the confirmations of the Abhá Kingdom. The chairman of the meeting introduced the Master to an audience of some five hundred saying:
Several months ago I attended a convention on the emancipation of religions in this city. Many people of different religions and sects spoke, each one praising the beliefs of his own sect. But a very august personage then stood. By His bearing and by the first few words of His address, everyone felt that this person was spiritual and divinely inspired; that His explanations were heavenly; that He was speaking from God; that He could transform the souls; that He was with God and was the herald of peace and love; that what He said was first practiced by Himself; and that He was a flame from the Kingdom which brightened and illuminated the minds and hearts of all. That august person was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. I am not worthy to introduce His Holiness to you. You will yourselves know Him better than I.
’Abdu’l-Bahá then stood and gave a stirring address concerning the movement of atoms and the infinite forms that compose this contingent world and gave an explanation of the new teachings of the Cause. During the address, every heart and soul was enthralled. After the meeting everyone spoke of feeling the bounties of the Holy Spirit and of the need for these teachings of love and unity.
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “Women’s Work.” 239 Days in America, 27 Aug. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/08/27/womens-work/. [return]
- 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, 285-286. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/20#163204180 [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=6#section156 [return]