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Finds Land Full of "Taken For Granted" Divorces

Finds Land Full of "Taken For Granted" Divorces
Boston Herald
May 26, 1912
Boston, MA

Finds Land Full of ‘Taken for Granted’ Divorces

Abdu’l-Bahá Would Have Health Certificate One Requisite to Reform Marriage.


It is not every advocate of equal suffrage who contends that it would make
for peace within the home. The opposite contention of its opponents is usually met with a mere denial. But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Persian prophet and preacher of universal peace, not only believes in the absolute equality of the sexes, but declares that not until women have the same social and political privileges, as well as the same educational advantages as men, can certain reforms necessary for the establishment of universal peace be brought about.

In all principles of international peace that are being promoted throughout the world, there is none so important as peace in the home,” declared the sage. First comes the united family, then the unity of the city, after which the unity of a country and then of the whole world. But the foundation must begin in the home. Peace-loving attributes must be rooted there first of all. If you don’t educate the child along peaceful lines, how can you make the man, the leader or the ruler able to grasp it in the broad, civic way?

First of all, there should be equal rights in the home. Each should respect the wishes and needs of the others. The idea of serving on the part of either man or woman can never bring about unity. An equal partnership must exist, with the rights of each firmly recognized.”

These utterances do not come from the lips of the speaker to the ears of the hearer in the consecutive form just given, for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá does not speak English, and expresses himself through an interpreter. He pauses at short intervals, sometimes breaking up his sentences, for the sake of clarity; but the directness and fluency of his own speech show that the sentence in finished in his mind long before the last instalment leaves his lips.

Marriage in This Country.

The question of marriage was naturally linked closely with that of suffrage.

Of all freedoms that exist in your free country,” continued the speaker, “the freedom of marriage is abnormal. There is not enough importance attached to it. Anybody can get married. It seems to be one of the easiest things you can do here. The coming existence is hardly considered. There should be perfect understanding with respect to habits, temperaments and peculiarities. Too much of this is hidden before the marriage ceremony. People do not speak plainly, nor do they give an account to each other. The state should demand this accounting.”

Asked what accounting he should suggest, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá replied:

The purposes of two contracting parties as to a reasonable basis of livelihood, to insure comfort; a physical certificate of health so that progeny may not suffer, and a general assurance that the parties have hopes and ambitions in common. On account of lax marriage laws your country is overwhelmed not only with granted divorces, but with those taken for granted — what I call natural divorces. I found many American men traveling in Europe without their wives, who did not seem to make any secret of the fact that they would rather be away from them. This is fundamentally due to the hasty, uncalculated marriage that is allowed in this country.”

The Herald representative was received, along with half a dozen disciples of the teachings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in his quiet apartments at the Charlesgate, early yesterday morning. In spite of the many fatigues of the day before, the stately old man was up betimes — for 8 o’clock is certainly betimes on a Sunday morning in the city. A sound of voices from the bedroom preceded his entrance, and suddenly the audience seemed to “sense” his approach, for every one rose and remained standing before he came into the room.

It has been said and written that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has a kindly smile. It is more than kindly; it is genial — there is almost recognition in it, even for a complete stranger, and it has at moments an infectious gleam of humour. He shook hands with everyone present, repeating a certain phrase with each handshake, and then sat down with a general remark which Mirza Ahmad Sohrab interpreted:

You are all welcome.”

There was a respectful silence; and then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá — otherwise “The Servant of God,” whose real name and rank, although he has repudiated them for the former, is Abbas Effendi — began to talk of the principles for which he stands. They are familiar to the public here, thanks to his many addresses of last week, although they seemed to take on a new significance, uttered in the quiet atmosphere of the little drawing room, by the old man, leaning back in his chair, to a group of hushed devotees.

The gleam of humor was evoked when the equality of the sexesew as under discussion.

Children of One God.

They are all one kind of creature — all children of one God, all have bodies and souls, and human instincts. There is no real distinction, except that men have beards and women do not; and Americna men,” he added with a twinkle, “shave their faces; so that even that distinction does not exist in this country.” Responding to a general smile, he laughed heartily.

He had something to say also about the newspapers, objecting that many of them had quoted him too briefly, while others had printed things he never said.

One paper,” he declared, “said that I wore a red turban. Can you think of anything more contrary to truth? In all my life I never had a red turban. I dislike them very much!”

He was wearing at the time a mode fez, with a long, loose robe of the same color, lined with soft fur. The fez wound with a white cloth, got slightly askew from time to time as ‘Abdul Effendi, in the animation of discussion, turned his head first to the right and then to the left, against the high back of the chair. He would laugh, put up his hands and straighten his head dress. His speech was accompanied for the most part with tappings of his hands on the arms of the chair.

The latter part of the interview was interpreted by Dr. Ameen Fareed, who brought to The Herald representative, after the audience was closed, a fascinating little glass of Persian tea, strong but delicate, sweet and hot. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had to make preparations for an address to the Syrians down town, but he went about it in a leisurely way, and was in and out of the room several times while little groups lingered and talked. He seemed to take the invasion of his apartments as a matter of course, and his cordiality never flagged. Each time that he entered, he had a courteous little foreign speech to make, accompanied with a handshake. And when the visitors left, each received a handful of bonbons; for it is a little ceremony to present the departing guest with a gift, to signify that he has not been to see a “dead one.” A pretty custom, but not at all necessary in the case of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

[picture caption: ‘ABDU’L-BAHA, Persian Preacher and Advocate of Equal Suffrage and Universal Peace, Who Is Visiting and Teaching in Boston.]