News clips

Intellectual Food of Crumbs Alone Kept Women Down

Intellectual Food of Crumbs Alone Kept Women Down
New York (No Paper)
New York

So ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Declares, Holding That But for Lack of Training She Is Man’s Equal — Says if She Had the Power War, Humanity’s Greatest Crime, Would Vanish From the Earth — His Simple Faith.


He is known as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, which being translated from the Persian, means Servant of God. A proudly humble title. He comes to us to tell us of the Bahá’í movement. He comes to us a leader whose followers have been numbered even to one hundred thousand. There are those who hail him as the Messiah. Certainly his name will go down in history as one of the great teachers of the Orient.

And ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, son of Bahá’u’lláh, has looked upon the glory of seventy Persian summers. Wherefore his [text missing] eyes are filmed. For forty years [text missing] suffered imprisonment in the fortress of Akka for his faith, and the faith of his father. Wherefore his heart is very brave and very kind. And his hair is long and gray, and his beard is the beard of a prophet, and there is that about him which silences jest as he stands in his cream cloth robe with his turban wound with white. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbas will receive you,” said the interpreter, and I entered the presence.

There was no stage setting. No lowered lights nor retinue of servants. Only the one swift-footed attendant, gliding close to the wall, his back never turned to the much-honored one; a litter of steamer luggage, the garish furniture of an expensive hotel suite, and the occidental interpreter in western clothes. That was all. An interview like any other interview. But in the centre of it a man who calls himself the Servant of God. A man with the wisdom of many ages and the soul of a poet. And somehow I thought of one who long years ago was a tent-maker in the land of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. And there came to me the haunting, mocking, weary voice:

There was the Door to which I found no key;
There was the Veil through which S might not see.
Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
There was — and then no more of Thee and Me.

Abdu’l-Bahá made a sweeping gesture and murmured something.

He says you may be seated,” said the interpreter.

Tell me,” I asked, “what is the standing of women in the Bahá’í teaching?”

And ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke:

Woman was [text missing] equal [text missing]”

[text missing] intellectual crumbs man has left her. We do not know to what strength she might have grown had she been fully fed.”

In all vegetable life there is male and female. In all vegetable life the male and female are equal. Only sometimes the female plant is more gorgeous or more luscious than the male plant. In all animal life the male and the female are equal. Not until we reach the plane of the human being do we find the stronger devouring, absorbing the weaker. Not until we look among living creatures who have souls do we find creatures who would crush the soul in each other.”

Given an equal chance, do you believe women would become the equals of men in all things?” I asked.

Surely,” said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “And in some things women would become the superiors of men. For women are the mothers of men. The heart of a mother is big. Her tenderness passes the understanding of men. Men go to war and kill each other by hundreds. They slay the sons of many mothers without a pang. But women cannot hear or look upon such horrors. The heart of a woman is truly great. Women, were they in power, would never permit war. They would not risk their own sons on a battlefield. Nor could they bear that the sons of other women be slain.”

You speak of war as the supreme horror,” I said

I speak of war as the supreme sin,” answered ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “There is no greater wickedness than that men shall kill each other.

We do not come except for the purpose of uniting whosoever is upon the earth and bringing them to harmony and agreement. I am but here in your country to preach the doctrine of peace and brotherly love.”

But,” I suggested, “do you believe that nations will ever reach a stage of development where war will be impossible, where armies and navies are no longer necessary or maintained?”

Why not?” queried ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “In this, your own great country, were many tribes years ago. Many tribes all at war with one another. Now throughout the length and breadth of your land is peace and understanding. What a country has done, nations may do.

The men of all countries are but men at heart; brothers if you will. The time must come when the love of brother for brother must awaken in their hearts.

Then the wickedness of war will have ended.”

On what is the religion of Bahá’í founded?” I asked.

The truth,” said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “I preach a morality, not a religion. All religions and sects are as one to me. All living creatures are equal. What a blasphemy to think that a religion may be made a cause of variance. True morality is to unite the people with love and friendship toward all.”

Can you give me three laws of the Bahá’í teachings?” I asked.

The Beyan are many,” answered ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; “but here are three writings for every day:

Man should know his own self, and know those things which lead to loftiness or to baseness, to shame or to honor, to affluence or to poverty.

Knowledge is like unto wings for man and is as a ladder for his ascending. To acquire knowledge is incumbent on all, but of those sciences which may profit the people of the earth and not such sciences are begin in mere words and end in mere words.

Waste not your time in idleness and slothfulness, but occupy yourself with that whereby you will profit yourself and others.

These,” concluded ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “are but fragments of the teachings of the Báb, who founded the Bahá’í religion in 1844, and was martyred [text missing] faith. Also they are the teachings of my father Bahá’u’lláh, and the words for which I suffered forty years’ imprisonment. The price has been great but the prize is far greater.”

Abdu’l-Bahá laid his hands on my shoulders, “Peace be with you, my daughter,” he said — “Farewell.”