Corinne Knight True
Corinne Knight True (November 1, 1861 - April 3, 1961) was appointed as a Hand of the Cause of God by Shoghi Effendi on February 29, 1952.
Mrs. Corinne True was reared near Louisville, Kentucky in the embrace of decency and good will nurtured by the love of God. Her father, a Presbyterian minister, believed that the study of the Bible should be a paramount part of the life of the family and made sure that it was. As a result, Corinne acquired an extensive knowledge of that Holy Book which firmly established her inclination towards applying spiritual solutions to the challenges of her life.
Corinne’s Mother, Martha Thomas, descended from landed slave owners. When she married she inherited both the land and the slaves. But Corinne’s father, Moses Green Knight, was not comfortable in the role of chattel owner and insisted that the slaves be set free. Some of the slaves resisted the idea of freedom and elected to remain with the family that had treated them with a degree of compassion uncommon in the experience of most of their peers.
The family’s plantation life came to a sudden end in the mid 1870’s when circumstances prompted them to take up residence on Chicago’s west side. Corinne, then in her mid-teens, attended high school there and upon the completion of her studies attended a prestigious finishing school in Virginia. During one of her visits back home she met her neighbor, Moses True. The pair, despite the strong objection of Corinne’s Father, married soon after their meeting.
Moses and Corinne lost four of their eight children, some in tragic circumstances and were baffled by the misfortunes that seemed to plague their lives. As Corinne grieved and tried to understand what these trials were meant to teach her, a friend directed her to a lecture about the Bahá’í Faith that would set her life on a course she never even faintly imagined. She listened to the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh including those that clarified what our attitude towards our fellow man should be such as, “It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” and soon became an avowed believer.
She undertook a meticulous study of the Bahá’í Teachings and constantly shared with those whom she met the Message of love, of hope and forgiveness and the promise of a brighter world that the Faith espoused.
When it was first proposed that the time had come for the building of the first Bahá’í House of Worship in the United States Mrs. True did not support the idea.
In response to a plea sent to by some of the believers asking for permission to build a House of Worship in the United States, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá granted their request and wrote to Mrs. True about the significance of this great enterprise and the blessings that would redound to those who took part in establishing it: “Now the day has arrived in which the edifice of God, the divine sanctuary, the spiritual temple, shall be erected in America! I entreat God to assist the confirmed believers in accomplishing this great service and with entire zeal to rear this mighty structure which shall be renowned throughout the world. The support of God will be with those believers in that district that they may be successful in their undertaking, for the Cause is great and great; because this is the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkar in that country and from it the praise of God shall ascend to the Kingdom of Mystery and the tumult of His exaltation and greetings from the whole world shall be heard!
“Whosoever arises for the service of this building shall be assisted with a great power from His Supreme Kingdom and upon him spiritual and heavenly blessings shall descend, which shall fill his heart with wonderful consolation and enlighten his eyes by beholding the glorious and eternal God!”
In May 1901 an all-male body was elected to conduct the affairs of the Chicago Bahá’í Community. To assist this committee a Women’s auxiliary was formed and Mrs. True was chosen as its corresponding secretary. Corinne shared ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s letter about the building of the House of Worship with her fellow committee members who decided to take some action that would signify their commitment to a mission as momentous as this. Although it did not amount to much, they offered a sum of money to establish a savings account meant to support the venture. However, several years elapsed before any significant action towards the building of the temple was taken. The sudden loss of Mrs. True’s son Lawrence in a boating accident on Michigan’s Lake Huron seems to have been the catalyst for her re-dedication to this undertaking. With renewed energy she searched for a suitable location for the Temple and in March 1908 found a scenic and peaceful spot, situated near the shores of Lake Michigan in Wilmette, Illinois.
Because of her unwavering commitment and earnest dedication to the establishment of the Mother Temple of the west, the Holiest House of Worship as designated by the pen of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’ís the world over bestowed upon Corinne the appellation “Mother of the Temple”. Shoghi Effendi, grandson of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá who succeeded Him as the Head of the Faith, would later elevate Corinne to the rank of “Hand of the Cause of God” a spiritual achievement marked by her untiring efforts in service to the Cause of God particularly her notable contributions towards the establishment of the first Bahá’í House of Worship on American soil. On April 3, 1961, just months before her one hundredth birthday, Mrs. Corinne True passed away.