Women's Service on the Universal House of Justice
H-BahaiDocuments on the Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Movements, Vol. 3, No. 2 (May, 1999)

The Service of Women on the Institutions of the Baha'i Faith

Anthony A. Lee, Peggy Caton, Richard Hollinger, Marjan Nirou, Nader
Saiedi, Shahin Carrigan, Jackson Armstong-Ingram, and Juan R. I. Cole.

From 1844, the year of the founding of the Babi religion, to the
present day, women have played important roles in Baha'i history.
Babi and Baha'i women have often acted as leaders in the community,
holding its highest positions and participating in its most
important decisions. In the first days of His Revelation, the Bab
Himself appointed Qurratu'l-'Ayn, Tahirih, as one of His chief
disciples - one of the nineteen Letters of the Living who were the
first to believe in Him and were entrusted by Him with the mission
of spreading His Faith and shepherding its believers. This
remarkable woman would soon become one of the most radical and
influential of the Bab's disciples and the leader of the Babis of
Karbala. Her vision and achievement have become legend. [1]
In later periods of Baha'i history, women have acted in central
roles of leadership within the community. Bahiyyih Khanum, the
Greatest Holy Leaf, the sister of 'Abdu'l-Baha, several times in
her lifetime was called upon to act as the de facto head of the
Baha'i Faith. When 'Abdu'l-Baha left the Holy Land to travel to
the West, for example, He chose to leave the affairs of the Cause
in the hands of His sister. Likewise, immediately after the
ascension of 'Abdu'l-Baha - before Shoghi Effendi, the new
Guardian, could arrive in Palestine to assume control of the Faith,
the Greatest Holy Leaf assumed leadership. The Baha'is in the Holy
Land instinctively turned to her as their guide and protector. And
again, during the Guardian's absences from his duties during the
early years of his ministry, he repeatedly entrusted the affairs of
the Cause to the Greatest Holy Leaf. [2]
After the passing of Shoghi Effendi, women were once more called
upon to serve the Baha'i Faith at its highest levels. The
international leadership of the religion fell to the Hands of the
Cause, the chief stewards of the Faith who had been appointed by
the Guardian during his lifetime. The women Hands served along with
the men to guide the Baha'i community through the turbulent years
preceding the election of the Universal House of Justice. Once
again, Baha'i women demonstrated their capacity to administer the
affairs of the Faith at its highest levels.


Nonetheless, the service of women on the elected institutions of
the Baha'i Faith has emerged only gradually. Although a few
exceptional Baha'i women have always set the example for their sex,
the role of women on Baha'i institutions in the community as a
whole has not been comparable to that of men. Traditional notions
of inequality, as well as the restrictions of a hostile
environment, have caused the participation of women to lag behind.
Even to the present day, the participation of women on National
Spiritual Assemblies, Boards of Counsellors, and Auxiliary Boards
is not equal to that of men, as the charts show. A long road has
yet to be travelled.

Participation of Women in Baha'i Institutions

"The equality of men and women is not, at the present time,
universally applied. In those areas where traditional inequality
still hampers its progress we must take the lead in practicing this
Baha'i principle. Baha'i women and girls must be encouraged to take
part in the social, spiritual and administrative activities of
their communities." The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 1984.

Numbers of women members on National Spiritual Assemblies
Country 1953 1963 1973 1979 1985
Africa 0 4 58 53 103
Americas 18 82 86 106 131
Asia 0 11 35 33 39
Australasia 5 8 26 24 33
Europe 11 44 40 44 48
World 34 149 245 260 354 

The following table shows, by continent, the numbers of National Assemblies with their
corresponding numbers of women members
indicated by the column
headings. For example, column 1, line 1,
there are 4 Assemblies
in Africa with no women members.

Number of women on a National Spiritual Assembly0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Africa 4 9 13 6 6 4 1 0 0 0
Americas 1 4 8 10 12 4 1 1 0 0
Asia 5 14 3 3 0 2 0 0 0 0
Australasia 2 6 4 2 2 1 0 0 0 0
Europe 1 4 6 7 1 0 0 1 0 0
World 13 37 34 28 21 11 2 2 0
Percentage of Women members of Institutions

(Information provided by the Department of Statistics at the Baha'i
World Centre, and reprinted from dialogue, volume 1, no. 3
(Summer/Fall 1986), p 31.)
The gradual emergence of women on the institutions of the
Faith should not come as a surprise, however. Virtually all Baha'i
laws and practices have gone through a gradual evolution in Baha'i
history. The recognition of the principle of the equality of men
and women, and its gradual application in the development of Baha'i
Administration is no exception.
The principle of progressive revelation, the concept of the
gradual emergence of divine purpose, is a universal principle which
applies within the dispensation of each Manifestation, as well as
between dispensations. Baha'u'llah Himself has explained:

Know of a certainty that in every Dispensation the light of
Divine Revelation hath been vouchsafed to men in direct
proportion to their spiritual capacity. Consider the sun. How
feeble its rays the moment it appeareth above the horizon. How
gradually its warmth and potency increase as it approacheth its
zenith, enabling meanwhile all created things to adapt
themselves to the growing intensity of its light. How steadily
it declineth until it reacheth its setting point. Were it all
of a sudden to manifest the energies latent within it, it would
no doubt cause injury to all created things....
In like manner, if the Sun of Truth were suddenly to reveal,
at the earliest stages of its manifestation, the full measure
of the potencies which the providence of the Almighty hath
bestowed upon it, the earth of human understanding would waste
away and be consumed; for men's hearts would neither sustain
the intensity of its revelation, nor be able to mirror forth
the radiance of its light. Dismayed and overpowered, they
would cease to exist. [3]

The Universal House of Justice has demonstrated how this
principle of progressive revelation has applied, and continues to
apply, to the implementation of Baha'i law, particularly to the
laws of the Kitab-i Aqdas. The Central Figures of the Faith have
promulgated these laws only gradually as the condition of the
Baha'i community would allow. [4]
Similarly, 'Abdu'l-Baha recognised that women could not take
their rightful place in the affairs of the world all at once.
Throughout history women have been deprived of education and
opportunity. Therefore, it was impossible that they would be able
to immediately play an equal role in Baha'i life. But 'Abdu'l-Baha
has insisted that all distinctions of sex will be erased once
women attain proper education and experience. He says:

Woman's lack of progress and proficiency has been due to her
need for equal education and opportunity. Had she been
allowed this equality, there is no doubt she would be the
counterpart of man in ability and capacity. [5]

In a talk given in New York, 'Abdu'l-Baha again pinpoints
education as the key to women's equality:

...if woman be fully educated and granted her rights, she will
attain the capacity for wonderful accomplishments and prove
herself the equal of man. She is the coadjutor of man; his
complement and helpmeet. Both are human, both are endowed
with potentialities of intelligence and embody the virtues
of humanity. In all human powers and functions they are
partners and co-equals. At present in spheres of human
activity woman does not manifest her natal prerogatives
owing to lack of education and opportunity.[6]

In Paris He said:

...the female sex is treated as though inferior, and is not
allowed equal rights and privileges. This condition is not
due to nature, but to education. In the Divine Creation
there is no such distinction. Neither sex is superior to the
other in the sight of God. Why then should one sex assert the
inferiority of the other...If women received the same
educational advantages as those of men, the result would
demonstrate the equality of capacity of both for scholarship.

On another occasion he made the same point:

The only difference between them [ie: men and women] now is
due to lack of education and training. If woman is given equal
opportunity of education, distinction and estimate of inferiority
will disappear. [8]

And again:

Therefore, woman must receive the same education as man and
all inequality be adjusted. Thus, imbued with the same virtues as
man, rising through all the degrees of human attainment, women will
become the peers of men, and until this equality is established,
true progress and attainment for the human race will not be
facilitated. [9]

It was clearly 'Abdu'l-Baha's position that lack of education
and opportunity had relegated woman to an inferior position in
society, and that through education and experience all inequalities
of sex would be gradually removed. His own policies and actions
concerning the service of women on the institutions of the Faith
reflected this belief in gradualism.


Any investigation of the history of the development of the
Baha'i Administrative Order will reveal that Baha'i women only
gradually took their place beside the men in this area of service
- and not without struggle. This has been especially true in the
East, where women were most heavily restricted. But lack of
education and other cultural circumstances have affected the
participation of women on Baha'i institutions all over the world.
The first Hands of the Cause appointed by Baha'u'llah were,
for example, all males. 'Abdu'l-Baha appointed no additional Hands,
and it was only during the ministry of Shoghi Effendi that women
were appointed to this rank. Even so, it has been only Western
Baha'i women who have been found qualified for this distinction.
At later times, when the first Auxiliary Boards to the Hands
of the Cause were appointed, and then the first contingents of
Boards of Counsellors, women were included. But circumstances
dictated that it be mostly Western women who were appointed, and
that their numbers were far fewer than those of men. As the above
chart shows, that situation remains the same today. This is not due
to any policy of discrimination on the part of the institutions of
the Faith, but simply due to historical circumstances. As the
position of women improves - especially in Asia and Africa - with
respect to education and experience, we can expect that the current
situation will change in favour of more participation of women.

The House of Justice of Tehran

The struggle for the equal participation of women in Baha'i
Administration has been played out most dramatically, however, in
the arena of the development of local institutions. The first of
these bodies was formed in Tehran, Iran, at the initiative of
individual believers.
In 1873, Baha'u'llah revealed the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the Most
Holy Book, His book of laws. Here He established the institution of
the House of Justice (bayt al-'adl). The Kitab-i-Aqdas states:

The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice
(bayt al-'adl) be established wherein shall gather
counsellors to the number of Baha [i.e., nine], and should it
exceed this number it does not matter ... It behoveth them to
be the trusted ones of the Merciful among men and to regard
themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that
dwell on earth. It is incumbent on them to take counsel
together and to have regard for the interests of the servants
of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests,
and to choose that which is meet and seemly.[10]

In the same book it is written:

O ye Men of Justice! (rijal al-'adl) Be ye in the realm of
God shepherds unto His sheep and guard them from the ravening
wolves that have appeared in disguise, even as ye would guard
your own sons. Thus exhorteth you the Counsellor, the

There are other references in the Kitab-i-Aqdas to the House of
Justice (bayt al-'adl) or the Place of Justice (maqarr al-'adl)
which define its function and fix some of its revenues. In most
cases, these references are not specific but refer to the general
concept of a House of Justice rather than a particular institution.
The Universal House of Justice has explained:

In the Kitab-i-Aqdas Baha'u'llah ordains both the Universal
House of Justice and the Local Houses of Justice. In many of
His laws He refers simply to "the House of Justice" leaving
open for later decision which level or levels of the whole
institution each law would apply to.[12]

Although the Kitab-i-Aqdas was revealed in 'Akka in 1873, it
was withheld for some time by Baha'u'llah before it was distributed
to the Baha'is of Iran.[13] It appears that it was not until around
1878 that the Baha'is of Tehran received copies of the book and began
to implement some of its laws in their personal lives.
Upon reading the Kitab-i Aqdas, Mirza Asadu'llah Isfahani, a
prominent Baha'i teacher living in Tehran, was particularly struck
by the command of Baha'u'llah that a House of Justice should be
established by the Baha'is in every city. Mirza Asadu'llah is an
important figure in Baha'i history: he eventually married the
sister of 'Abdu'l-Baha's wife; he was (as we shall see) one of the
earliest Baha'i teachers sent to America by 'Abdu'l-Baha to
instruct the new Western believers and he later accompanied
'Abdu'l-Baha on his travels in Europe. In any case, in 1878 he was
the first to undertake the organization of a local House of Justice
in Iran. He took the initiative to invite eight other prominent
believers to form a body, responding to the laws of the Kitab-i
Aqdas, which they referred to as bayt al-'adl (House of Justice) or
bayt al-a'zam ( the Most Great House).
The organization of this first House of Justice was kept a
secret, even from the believers. However, it met sporadically in
the home of Mirza Asadu'llah for a couple of years. After consulting
with this body, the prominent Baha'i men who had been invited to
attend its meetings would seek to take action as individual Baha'i
teachers that would implement its decisions.
Around 1881, the Tehran House of Justice was reorganized and
more members were added. The House adopted a written constitution
and pursued its activities with more organization and vigour than
before. The constitution mandated, however, that the meetings
remain strictly confidential, hidden from the body of the believers.
This constitution also assumes that the members of the House would
all be men (aqayan). Naturally, considering the social conditions
in Iran at the time, no other arrangement was possible.
Some of the minutes of this early House of Justice survive
today. It was a gathering of the older and more prominent Baha'i
men of Tehran. Meetings were attended by invitation only, and at
times included fourteen members or more. Eventually, this meeting
came to be called the Consultative Gathering (majlis-i shur),
while the house where the body met was referred to as the House of
Justice (bayt al-'adl). These meetings sought to assist and
protect the Baha'is through consultation on various problems.
The House in Tehran sent Baha'i teachers to other cities in Iran
to organize Houses of Justice there. Again, the decisions of the
House were always carried out by individuals, and the consultations
remained secret.
The organization of this body eventually met with some
controversy. One important Baha'i teacher, Jamal-i Burujurdi, who
later - in the time of 'Abdu'l-Baha - would become a notorious
Covenant-breaker, objected strongly to the organization of a House
of Justice in Tehran. Because of these objections, the Baha'is
involved on the House appealed to Baha'u'llah for guidance.
Baha'u'llah replied with a Tablet in which He approved of the
House of Justice and strongly upheld the principle of
consultation in the Baha'i Faith. [14]

Early Organisation in America

When the first rudimentary local Baha'i institutions were
organized in the United States, their membership was also confined
to men. Later, as various forms of Baha'i organization at the local
level became more common, men and women served together. But it was
the understanding of the Baha'is at the turn of the century that
consultative bodies in the Baha'i community should be composed of
men. This understanding became firmly institutionalized in the
largest Baha'i communities of New York, Chicago, and Kenosha,
Wisconsin, and was sanctioned by 'Abdu'l-Baha.
A scholarly history of the beginnings of Baha'i organization
in America has yet to be written. Many of the details of these
events have yet to be uncovered. However, it appears that the
early American Baha'is were moved to form local councils for the
first time in 1900, as a consequence of the defection of Ibrahim
Kheiralla from the community. Kheiralla, a Lebanese Christian who
had been converted to the Baha'i Faith in Egypt by a Persian
Baha'i, 'Abdu'l-Karim Tihrani, had brought the Baha'i teachings to
America and had acted as the head of the Faith in the West until
that point. His repudiation of 'Abdu'l-Baha as the rightful leader
of the Faith and chosen successor to his Father caused a temporary
rift among the Baha'is.
In the fall of 1899, Edward Getsinger, a leading American
Baha'i, appointed five men as a "Board of Counsel" for the Baha'is
of northern New Jersey.[15] Isabella Brittingham was made the
honorary corresponding secretary, but was not a member of the body.
Later, in a letter dated March 21, 1900, Thornton Chase wrote from
Chicago: "We have formed a 'Board of Council' with 10 members." In
this letter, Chase lists the names of nine of these members, all of
whom were men. [16]
In June of 1900, however, it appears that the Chicago Board
was reorganized. 'Abdu'l-Karim Tihrani had travelled to America at
the request of 'Abdu'l-Baha and had arrived in Chicago at the end
of May. The Baha'is of Chicago immediately asked him to draw up
rules and regulations that would govern the affairs of their
Board. As a result, the Board of Counsel was expanded to nineteen
members, some of whom were women. In a statement to the press the
Baha'is indicated that this Board was being organized to replace
Ibrahim Kheiralla, whom they repudiated as the leader of the Faith.
Although 'Abdu'l-Karim remained in Chicago for only a short
time, his nineteen-member Board appears to have functioned for
about a year. However, on May 15, 1901, a nine-member, all-male
House of Justice was elected in Chicago to replace it. This was
done at the direction of Mirza Asadu'llah Isfahani, who had been
sent to America by 'Abdu'l-Baha. Writing to the House of Justice
in New York that had already been established, the Chicago House

Recently His Honor, Mirza Assad'Ullah, received a Tablet from
the Master, Abdul-Baha, in which He has positively declared
to be necessary the establishment here of the House of
Justice by election by the believers with order and just
dealing. According to this blessed Announcement, our
believers have elected those whom they deemed best fitted,
and thus The House of Justice was established. [19]

It was Mirza Asadu'llah who instructed the Baha'is of Chicago
that the new House of Justice should be composed only of men. He and
his company appear to have regarded the nineteen-member Board as
illegitimate, possibly because women served as members.
The change to an all-male institution was not accomplished
without anguish. Writing years later, Fannie Lesch, who had served
on the Board of Counsel, wrote:

We had a Council Board of men and women after Dr. Kheiralla
left us... Mirza Assad'Ullah ignored us, although they were
all invited to meet with us, and he established a House of
Justice of men only...[20]

Only days after the election of the Chicago House of Justice, a
Ladies' Auxilliary Board was organized at the suggestion of Mrs.
Ella Nash and Mrs. Corinne True. This Board was later to be known
as the Women's Assembly of Teaching. It appears that the Ladies'
Auxilliary was able to maintain control of the funds of the Chicago
Baha'i community despite the election of the House of Justice.[21]

Men of Justice

The belief that women were not eligible for service on local
Baha'i institutions was based on the language of certain passages
of the Kitab-i Aqdas which refer to the House of Justice. Of course,
as we have noted above, these passages do not make a distinction
between local, national, and international bodies. The institution
as a whole is addressed. Baha'u'llah twice uses the Arabic word
rijal (gentlemen) to refer to the members of the Houses of Justice.
He says:

O ye Men (rijal) of Justice! Be ye in the realm of God
shepherds unto His sheep... [22]


We have designated a third of all fines for the Place of
Justice (maqarr al-'adl), and exhort its members (rijal) to
show forth perfect equity...[23]

The word rijal (plural; singular is rajul) is exclusively
masculine in Arabic. A dictionary would render an English
definition of rajul as: man, gentleman; important man, statesman,
nobleman. (A related form of the word, rujula or rujuliyya, would
be translated as: masculinity; virility.) Since Baha'u'llah
addressed the members of the Houses of Justice using this term,
it appears that it was universally assumed that only men were
eligible for service on such institutions.

The word rijal, meaning men, is used in the Qur'an and is
part of an important passage which establishes the relationship
between men and women in Islam (Qur'an 4:34):

Men (rijal) are superior to women (nisa') on account of the
qualities with which God hath gifted the one above the other, and
on account of the outlay they make from their substance for them.

However, Baha'u'llah has in His Writings clearly established
the principle of the equality of men and women. It is therefore
possible that when He used the word rijal He did not intend its
normal meaning.
Although rijal is the normal Arabic word for men (as opposed
to women), there are passages in the Writings of Baha'u'llah that
indicate that He may have used the term in a special sense. Such
passages suggest that, in a Baha'i context, the word may be
understood to include women. Baha'u'llah has stated that women in
His Cause are all to be accorded the same station as men - and He
has used the very term rijal to make this point. For example, He

Today the Baha'i women (lit., the leaves of the Holy Tree)
must guide the handmaidens of the earth to the Lofty Horizon
with the utmost purity and sanctity. Today the handmaidens of
God are regarded as gentlemen (rijal). Blessed are they!
Blessed are they! [24]

And in another passage:

Today whoever among the handmaidens attains the knowledge of
the Desire of the World [i.e., Baha'u'llah] is considered a
gentleman (rajul) in the Divine Book. [25]

And in another place:

...many a man (rajul) hath waited expectant for God's
Revelation, and yet when the Light shone forth from the
horizon of the world, all but a few turned their faces away
from it. Whosoever from amongst the handmaidens hath
recognized the Lord of all Names is recorded in the Book as
one of those men (rijal) by the Pen of the Most High. [26]

Likewise, 'Abdu'l-Baha in one of his Tablets has made the same

Verily, according to Baha'u'llah, women are judged as
gentlemen (rijal). [27]

However, such passages were not raised as an issue at the
time, either because the believers were not aware of them, or
because they did not find them applicable. Certainly, the
American Baha'is had no access to these texts and had to rely on
the understandings of the Persian teachers who were sent by
'Abdu'l-Baha to guide them.

Names and Terminology

In any case, it was the goal of Mirza Asadu'llah to establish a
House of Justice among the believers in Chicago, as he indicated
to the Baha'is that 'Abdu'l-Baha had instructed him to do. He had
been at the centre of the organization of the first House of
Justice in Tehran, and he assumed a similar role in Chicago. At
his direction, the Baha'is in Chicago elected nine men by ballot
to a new institution. Those elected were: George Lesch, Charles H.
Greenleaf, John A. Guilford, Dr. Rufus H. Bartlett, Thornton
Chase, Charles Hessler, Arthur S. Agnew, Byron S. Lane and Henry L.
Goodall. [28]
At its first meeting, the House of Justice decided to raise
the number of its members to twelve. The body appointed three
additional Baha'i men to serve. The minutes of the meeting read:

Motion made and seconded that Messrs. Ioas, Pursels and
Doney be selected as add'n [additional] members of this Board
of Council. Said motion approved by Board. Secretary
instructed to notify said members. [29]

This action was taken, no doubt, in accordance with the statement
of Baha'u'llah in the Kitab-i Aqdas that the minimum number of
members for a House of Justice is nine, "and should it exceed this
number it does not matter." It is instructive to note that, in its
first minutes, the secretary of the House of Justice refers to it
as a "Board of Council." This illustrates the fluidity of
terminology that was used for Baha'i meetings and institutions at
the time. Standard terms for the Baha'i institutions did not
become fixed and universal until well after the passing of
'Abdu'l-Baha. Today, the elected local and national Baha'i
institutions are known as "Spiritual Assemblies," while the term
"House of Justice" is reserved exclusively for the supreme,
international institution. In the early years of this century,
however, though these same terms were in use among the Baha'is,
they were not used in the same ways.
'Abdu'l-Baha himself confirmed the legitimacy of the
election of the first Chicago House of Justice. A Tablet,
probably received in September 1901, is addressed from
'Abdu'l-Baha "To the members of the House of Justice, the
servants of the Covenant, the faithful worshippers of the Holy
Threshold of the Beauty of El-Abha." Two such Tablets addressed to
the House of Justice of Chicago are translated in the compilation
Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas. [31]
Shoghi Effendi, writing much later in 1929, has discussed the
significance of these Tablets. He says:

That the Spiritual Assemblies of today will be replaced in
time by Houses of Justice, and are to all intents and purposes
identical and not separate bodies, is abundantly confirmed by
'Abdu'l-Baha Himself. He has in fact in a Tablet addressed to
the members of the first Chicago Spiritual Assembly, the first
elected Baha'i body instituted in the United States, referred
to them as members of the "House of Justice" for that city,
and has thus with His own pen established beyond any doubt the
identity of the present Baha'i Spiritual Assemblies with the
House of Justice referred to by Baha'u'llah. For reasons which
are not difficult to discover, it has been found advisable to
bestow upon the elected representatives of Baha'i communities
throughout the world the temporary appellation of Spiritual
Assemblies, a term which, as the position and aims of the
Baha'i Faith are better understood and more fully recognised,
will gradually be superseded by the permanent and more
appropriate designation of House of Justice. [32]

This "temporary appellation" was assumed at the instruction of
'Abdu'l-Baha about a year after the election of the Chicago House
of Justice. The minutes of the House of Justice for May 10, 1902,

Mr/ Greenleaf stated that he was instructed by Mirza Assad
Ullah to inform this Body that here after and until otherwise
informed it shall be known as the "House of Spirituality," in
accordance with a Tablet recently received from our Master.
Motion made and seconded that the command of Master changing
name of this Body as transmitted by Mirza Assad Ullah be entered
upon our records.
Approved by House.
Motion made and seconded that a copy (translation) of that
portion of tablet setting forth the change as above mentioned
be procured and placed on file.
Approved by House. [33]

Extracts from this Tablet were indeed translated for the House of
Justice, now the House of Spirituality. The heading to the
translation indicates that the Tablet was received in Chicago by
Mirza Assadu'llah on May 3, 1902. One extract reads:

The House of Justice of Chicago should be called "the House
of Spirituality" (or the Spiritual House).
In short, no one must hurt the weak ones, there, but must
treat them in kindness. Because now is the cycle of kindness
and forgiveness to all people. [34]

In what is apparently a second Tablet on the subject,
'Abdu'l-Baha explained the reasons for the change. This Tablet was,
some time later, translated and published:

The signature of that meeting should be the Spiritual
Gathering (House of Spirituality) and the wisdom therein is
that hereafter the government should not infer from the term
"House of Justice" that a court is signified, that it is
connected with political affairs, or that at any time it will
interfere with governmental affairs.
Hereafter, enemies will be many. They would use this
subject as a cause for disturbing the mind of the government
and confusing the thoughts of the public. The intention was
to make known that by the term Spiritual Gathering (House of
Spirituality), that Gathering has not the least connection
with material matters, and that its whole aim and
consultation is confined to matters connected with spiritual
affairs. This was also instructed (performed) in all Persia.

At the same time, and in the original Tablet received on May 3,
'Abdu'l-Baha had instructed that the name of the Women's Assembly
of Teaching be changed to the "Spiritual Assembly." He instructed
that "Spiritual Assemblies" should be organized in every place.
However, although the change of name for the House of Justice was
effected immediately, the instruction to change the name of the
women's institution was ignored. This is probably because the
translation of this command into English was so poor as to render
it incomprehensible.
And so we read the following in the minutes of the House of
Spirituality three years later (July 29, 1905):

Mr. Windust read portions of the Tablet received from the
Master in May, 1902 authorizing change of name of this body
from "House of Justice" to "House of Spirituality"; as it
also stated in said Tablet that the name of the Women's
"Assembly of Teaching" be changed to "Spiritual Assembly."
It was decided that this matter be spoken of at some future
joint meeting [with the women's group], as it had evidently
been overlooked. [37]

As we have seen in the Tablets quoted above, in the first year
after the election of the Chicago House of Justice, 'Abdu'l-Baha
Himself used various terms to refer to that body. (Of course, we
have quoted His Tablets in translation - the translations available
to the Baha'is at the time.) These Tablets reflect the use of at
least three different designations during this period: House of
Justice (bayt al-'adl) in the earliest Tablets, House of
Spirituality (probably, bayt-i rawhani) in one Tablet, and
Spiritual Gathering (mahfil-i rawhani) in another.
This last term, mahfil-i rawhani, can also be translated as
"Spiritual Assembly." However, it was usually translated as "House
of Spirituality" in the publications and translations made at this
time, even though this translation was in error. The Chicago body
came to be known as the House of Spirituality from 1902, and so the
translators rendered 'Abdu'l-Baha's references to it in these
words, even if the original Persian did not warrant such a
designation. This was because the term "Spiritual Assembly" had no
fixed meaning in the early community and could refer to a number of
different Baha'i meetings. 'Abdu'l-Baha had asked, for example,
that the term be used for the Ladies' Auxiliary. It was also used
by the Baha'is of this time to refer to any Baha'i community as a
whole, some weekly teaching meetings, any consultative body, or
any gathering of believers.
Terms used to designate the local administrative body were
also fluid in 'Abdu'l-Baha's writings. In addition to the three
designations above, the following additional names can be found:
mahfil-i shur (Assembly of Consultation), mahfil-i shur rawhani
(Spiritual Assembly of Consultation), bayt al-'adl rawhani
(Spiritual House of Justice), anjuman (Council), anjuman-i adl
(Council of Justice), and marakiz-i 'adl (Centres of Justice).

The Women's Struggle

The election of an all-male House of Justice in Chicago was
a development to which some of the women in the Baha'i community
were never reconciled. It is Corinne True in particular who stands
out in the struggle to overturn the exclusion of women from that
body. After the election, she immediately helped to organize the
Women's Assembly of Teaching which worked side by side with the
House - and not always harmoniously - for over a decade. Beyond
this, she appealed directly to 'Abdu'l-Baha, asking that women be
elected to the House of Justice.
Mrs. True's letter, which has recently come to light,
indicates clearly that the change to an all-male body was the cause
of some dispute. She writes to 'Abdu'l-Baha:

There has existed a difference of opinion in our Assembly
[that is, the Chicago community] as to how it should be
governed. Every believer desires to carry out the Commands of
the Blessed Perfection [Baha'u'llah] but we want to know from
our Lord himself [that is, 'Abdu'l-Baha] what these Commands
are, as they are written in Arabic and we do not know Arabic.
Will Our Lord write me direct from Acca and not have it go
through any Interpretor [sic] in America and thus grant me
the Authority to say the Master says thus & so, for he has
written it to me...
Many in our Assembly feel that the Governing Board in
Chicago should be a mixed Board of both men & women. Woman
in America stands so conspicuously for all that is highest &
best in every department and for that reason it is contended
the affairs should be in the hands of both sexes. [39]

She was, however, disappointed when the Master would not
support her point of view. He confirmed the practise of electing
only males to the Baha'i governing board of Chicago, admonishing
her to be patient. She appears to have received her reply from
'Abdu'l-Baha in June of 1902, but refrained from sharing this
Tablet with the Chicago House until the fall of that year.
The Tablet is a famous one and reads in part (in modern

Know thou, O handmaid, that in the sight of Baha, women are
accounted the same as men, and God hath created all humankind
in His own image, and after His own likeness. That is, men
and women alike are the revealers of His names and attributes,
and from the spiritual viewpoint there is no difference
between them. Whosoever draweth nearer to God, that one is the
most favoured, whether man or woman. How many a handmaid,
ardent and devoted, hath, within the sheltering shade of Baha,
proved superior to the men, and surpassed the famous of the
The House of Justice, however, according to the explicit
text of the Law of God, is confined to men; this for a wisdom
of the Lord God's, which will ere long be made manifest as
clearly as the sun at high noon.
As to you, O ye other handmaids who are enamoured of the
heavenly fragrances, arrange ye holy gatherings, and found
ye Spiritual Assemblies, for these are the basis for
spreading the sweet savours of God, exalting His Word,
uplifting the lamp of His grace, promulgating His religion
and promoting His Teachings, and what bounty is there
greater than this? [40]

Since 'Abdu'l-Baha had confirmed that women should be excluded
from the Chicago House of Justice (later, House of Spirituality),
this practice continued for some time, in Chicago and elsewhere. We
might assume that the belief that women were to be permanently
excluded from local Baha'i executive bodies was widespread, at
least amongst the men. Women were to be involved in forming women's
groups, which 'Abdu'l-Baha had named "Spiritual Assemblies" in one
That did not end the issue, of course. It appears that
American Baha'i women continued to discuss the possibility of
membership on governing boards, with Corinne True being prominent
among them. In 1909, Mrs. True received a Tablet from 'Abdu'l-Baha
in response to her insistent questioning. It reads, in part:

According to the ordinances of the Faith of God, women are
the equals of men in all rights save only that of membership
on the Universal House of Justice [bayt al-'adl 'umumi], for,
as hath been stated in the text of the Book, both the head and
the members of the House of Justice are men. However, in all
other bodies, such as the Temple Construction Committee, the
Teaching Committee, the Spiritual Assembly, and in charitable
and scientific associations, women share equally in all rights
with men. [41]

This new Tablet from 'Abdu'l-Baha to Corinne True appears to
have opened up a nationwide controversy over the rights of women to
serve on Baha'i institutions. The use of the term "Universal House
of Justice" in this Tablet caused some confusion. Corinne True and
others assumed that 'Abdu'l-Baha intended by this Tablet that
women were now to be admitted to membership on local Baha'i bodies,
and more particularly to membership on the Chicago House of
Thornton Chase related the controversy which erupted in
Chicago in a letter written a few months later (January 19, 1910):

Several years ago, soon after the forming of the "House of
Justice" (name afterward changed by Abdul-Baha to House of
Spirituality on account of political reasons - as stated by
Him - and because also of certain jealousies) Mrs. True wrote
to Abdul-Baha and asked if women should not be members of
that House. He replied distinctly, that the House should be
composed of men only, and told her that there was a wisdom in
this. It was a difficult command for her to accept, and ever
since (confidentially) there has been in that quarter and in
those influenced by her a feeling of antagonism to the House
of Spirituality, which has manifested itself in various
forms... ...Mrs True received a Tablet, in which it was stated
(in reply to her solicitation) that it was right for women to
be members of all "Spiritual Gatherings" except the "Universal
House of Justice", and she at once construed this to mean,
that women were to be members of the House of Spirituality and
the Council Boards, because in some of the Tablets for the
House, it had been addressed as the "Spiritual Assembly" or
"Spiritual Gathering".
But the House of Spirituality could not so interpret the
Master's meaning... [42]

The difference of opinion was deep and serious. It took
place within a wider context of gender tensions within the American
Baha'i community at the time. The Chicago House of Spirituality
consulted on the new Tablet to Corinne True at its meetings on
August 31, 1909, and September 7, 1909. While it seemed clear to
them that the Tablet did not admit women to membership on the House
of Spirituality, they decided to write to 'Abdu'l-Baha for a
clarification of His meaning. [43]
It appears that no record of a reply to the House on this
point has survived. But, in the event, the practice of excluding
women from membership did not change. The men of Chicago assumed
that 'Abdu'l-Baha's reference to the "Universal House of Justice"
intended the local Chicago institution. This is a reasonable
assumption, given the lack of fixed terminology at the time.
The word 'umumi, with which 'Abdu'l-Baha qualified His
reference to the House of Justice in Arabic, means public, general,
or universal. Since it was known that Corinne True had asked about
women's service on the Chicago House - which was understood to be a
House of Justice, even if designated a House of Spirituality for
various reasons - His reply seemed to indicate that only men could
serve on the general (or universal) body, while women could serve on
all subordinate bodies, such as the Assembly of Teaching, the
Philanthropic Association, and so forth. And this is the
interpretation of the Tablet that would stand for some years to
In May of 1910, Thornton Chase wrote to a believer about this
question, which was still being debated:

As to women being members of the House, there is no question
at all. Abdul-Baha's reply to Mrs True years ago, settled
that, viz, that the members of the House should be men, and
that the time would come when she would see the wisdom of
that. This was in direct answer to her question to Him as to
this matter. He has never changed that command, and He cannot,
because it is the command of Baha'o'llah also, as applied to
such bodies of business controllers.
But, in a Tablet to me, 'Abdu'l-Baha said "The House of
Spirituality must encourage the women as much as possible".
There is the whole procedure. "Encourage the women as much
as possible". That is what He does: that is what we should
do. Not to be members of the H. of S., but to all good
works in the Cause, which they can possibly accomplish. It
seems to me that the matter of membership in H. of S. should
be simply ignored, not talked about, but if it obtrudes
itself too strongly, just get out that Tablet to Mrs. True
and the one to me (just mentioned) and offer them as the
full and sufficient answer. [44]

Chase's views are undoubtedly representative of the
understandings of the majority of Baha'is at the time. It was the
common understanding that the Chicago House of Spirituality was
properly composed of men only, and that ultimately all local
Baha'i boards should be similarly composed. This was a position
which was repeatedly sustained by 'Abdu'l-Baha, but which was
never fully accepted by some Baha'i women.
In Kenosha, which had had an all-male "Board of Consultation"
for some years, the issue of women's service on the Board became a
matter of dispute in 1910, as a result of Corinne True's 1909
"Universal House of Justice" Tablet. On July 4, 1910, the Kenosha
Board wrote to the House of Spirituality in Chicago asking if they
had any Tablets from 'Abdu'l-Baha which instructed that women
should be elected to local institutions. They explained that two of
the Baha'i ladies in their community had insisted that such Tablets
existed. [45]
The reply from the House of Spirituality, dated July 23, 1910,
is very instructive. [46] The House was able to find three Tablets
from 'Abdu'l-Baha which had bearing on the subject. One was the
1909 Tablet to Corinne True which had opened the controversy. Two
others had been received from 'Abdu'l-Baha in 1910, in reply to
more inquiries.
In a Tablet to Louise Waite (April 20, 1910), 'Abdu'l-Baha had

The Spiritual Assemblies which are organized for the sake
of teaching the Truth, whether assemblies for men,
assemblies for women or mixed assemblies, are all accepted
and are conducive to the spreading of the Fragrances of God.
This is essential. [47]

'Abdu'l-Baha goes on to state that the time had not come for the
establishment of the House of Justice, and he exhorts the men and
the women to produce harmony and conduct their affairs in unity.
In another Tablet directed to the Baha'is of Cincinnati,
where the question of women's participation in local organization
had also become an issue, 'Abdu'l-Baha wrote something similar:

It is impossible to organize the House of Justice in these
days; it will be formed after the establishment of the Cause
of God. Now the Spiritual Assemblies are organized in most of
the cities, you must also organize a Spiritual Assembly in
Cincinnati. It is permissible to elect the members of the
Spiritual Assembly from among the men and women; nay, rather,
it is better, so that perfect union may result. [49]

The House of Spirituality concluded from these Tablets that:

...in organizing Spiritual Assemblies of Consultation now, it
is deemed advisable by Abdul-Baha to have them composed of
both men and women. The wisdom of this will become evident in
due time, no doubt. [50]

By this time, Baha'is in different parts of the United States had
established a variety of boards and committees as a means of local
organization. Women had served on the Washington, D.C., "Working
Committee" since its formation in 1907. They had been a part of the
Boston "Executive Committee" from its beginning in 1908. Women also
acted as officers of communities in places where Baha'is had elected
no corporate body. But these were regarded, for the most part, as
temporary, ad-hoc organizations not official Baha'i institutions,
which were thought to be properly all male.
'Abdu'l-Baha's Tablets recognized all of these local bodies as
"Spiritual Assemblies" (or Spiritual Gatherings, mahfil-i rawhani)
and by 1910, He was urging that these Assemblies consist of both men
and women. The House of Spirituality in Chicago was obviously
puzzled by this command, though it expressed confidence that the
wisdom of mixed Assemblies would "become evident in due time."
However, since it knew that the Kenosha Board of Consultation had
been established as an all-male body in accordance with earlier
instructions from 'Abdu'l-Baha, the House of Spirituality suggested
that the Kenosha Baha'is might wish to take a vote to determine
whether a majority of believers would be in favour of a change. [51]
Rather than do this, however, the Kenosha Board of
Consultation submitted the question to 'Abdu'l-Baha. The
"supplication" (as they termed it) was signed by all of the men of
the Board. It asked if the Board should be dissolved, to be
reelected with women as members. The Board members pledged to the
Master that if it was His wish they would dissolve, but they
stated that their intentions had been pure at the founding of the
Board and that it had been established in accordance with a Tablet
that had been revealed for the House of Spirituality some years
before. [52]
'Abdu'l-Baha, however, would not support the idea of
dissolving the all-male Board. His reply, received March 4, 1911,

Now Spiritual Assemblies must be organized and that is for
teaching the Cause of God. In that city you have a spiritual
Assembly of men and you can establish a spiritual Assembly for
women. Both Assemblies must be engaged in diffusing the
fragrances of God and be occupied with the service of the
The above is the best solution for this problem... [53]

As in other Tablets, He stated that conditions for the
establishment of the House of Justice did not yet exist, and He
urged unity between the men and women of the Baha'i community.
And so, through 1911, the status quo that had been
established by Mirza Assadu'llah in Chicago in 1901, with the
election of the first American House of Justice, held firm.
All-male institutions continued to function in the most important
Baha'i communities. These were supplemented by parallel women's
groups. A variety of committees and boards had been established in
smaller Baha'i communities that included women as members, but
these were regarded by most Baha'is as only informal groups. While
'Abdu'l-Baha was urging that new "Spiritual Assemblies" include
both men and women, He would not sanction the reorganization of the
longer-established male bodies. Baha'i women in various parts of
the country continued to discuss the need for change.

The Change Comes

It was not until 1912, during the visit of 'Abdu'l-Baha to
America, that a decisive change was finally made. While
'Abdu'l-Baha was in New York, He sent word to the Baha'is of
Chicago that the House of Spirituality should be reorganized and a
new election held. He chose Howard MacNutt, a prominent Baha'i from
Brooklyn, to travel to Chicago as His personal representative.
MacNutt was instructed to hold a new election for a "Spiritual
Meeting" (probably mahfil-i rawhani) of the Baha'is of Chicago. For
the first time, women were eligible for election to this body.
MacNutt arrived in Chicago on August 8, 1912. At
'Abdu'l-Baha's instructions, a feast was held on August 10, at the
home of Mr. and Mrs. George Lesch, where the entire Chicago Baha'i
community was invited to be the guests of 'Abdu'l-Baha. MacNutt
delivered to the community 'Abdu'l-Baha's message of unity and love.
The election was held the following day on August 11.
The Baha'i magazine, Star of the West, carried this account of
that historic election:

On Sunday evening, the 11th, the Chicago Assembly [meaning
here, the whole Baha'i community] selected a "Spiritual
Meeting" of nine, composed of men and women, whose service -
according to the wish of Abdul-Baha - is, first, to
promulgate the teachings of the Revelation, and, second, to
attend to other matters necessary to the welfare of the
assembly. Mr. MacNutt was present and gave an inspiring

A long struggle had ended.

Baha'i Institutions in the East

From the time of the dissolution of the Chicago House of
Spirituality and its reelection, service on local Baha'i
institutions has always remained open to women in America.
'Abdu'l-Baha had made it perfectly clear that the restrictions
placed on women in this regard were intended to be only temporary
ones. From that point forward, women were fully integrated into the
emerging Baha'i Administration erected in the West.
The same was not true in the East, however. In Iran and in
the rest of the Muslim world, social conditions made it impossible
for the restriction on women's participation on local institutions
to be lifted for some time. Local and National Spiritual Assemblies
in Iran were limited to male membership during the entire period of
the ministry of 'Abdu'l-Baha, and for most of the ministry of
Shoghi Effendi. Again, the principle of gradualism was at play.
Of course, there were Baha'i women in Iran, as well in the
United States, who campaigned for a greater role for women in the
Baha'i community. Their concerns were not only with participation
on local Houses of Justice, but also with the elimination of other
social restrictions, such as the use of the veil in public. In a
Tablet to one such woman activist, 'Abdu'l-Baha urged restraint
and recommended a gradual approach:

The establishment of a women's assemblage (mahfil) for the
promotion of knowledge is entirely acceptable, but
discussions must be confined to educational matters. It
should be done in such a way that differences will, day by
day, be entirely wiped out, not that, God forbid, it will
end in argumentation between man and women. As in the
question of the veil, nothing should be done contrary to
Now the world of women should be a spiritual world, not a
political one, so that it will be radiant. The women of other
nations are all immersed in political matters. Of what benefit
is this, and what fruit doth it yield? To the extent that ye
can, ye should busy yourself with spiritual matters which will
be conducive to the exaltation of the Word of God and of the
diffusion of His fragrances. Your demeanour should lead to
harmony amongst all and to coalescence and the good-pleasure
of all...
I am endeavouring, with Baha'u'llah's confirmations and
assistance, so to improve the world of the handmaidens [that
is, the world of women] that all will be astonished. This
progress is intended to be in spirituality, in virtues, in
human perfections and in divine knowledge. In America, the
cradle of women's liberation, women are still debarred from
political institutions because they squabble. (Also, the
Blessed Beauty has said, "O ye Men [rijal] of the House of
Justice.") Ye need to be calm and composed, so that the work
will proceed with wisdom, otherwise there will be such chaos
that ye will leave everything and run away. "This newly born
babe is traversing in one night the path that needeth a
hundred years to tread." In brief, ye should now engage
in matters of pure spirituality and not contend with men.
'Abdu'l-Baha will tactfully take appropriate steps. Be
assured. In the end thou wilt thyself exclaim, "This was
indeed supreme wisdom!" [55]

Baha'i women were not admitted to service on the institutions
of the Faith in Iran until 1954. But this restriction was understood
to be temporary, to be removed as soon as circumstances would
permit. As Iranian society allowed a greater role for women in
general, and as Baha'i women became more educated and more prepared
for administrative service, this restriction was lifted. The
Guardian eventually made women's participation on Baha'i
institutions in the East one of the goals of the Ten Year World
Crusade (1953-1963). His hopes were rewarded by the signal
distinction which some Baha'i women have achieved as administrators
on local Assemblies and on the National Assembly of Iran.

The International House of Justice

The only remaining body within the Baha'i Faith whose
membership continues to be limited to men is its supreme
institution, the Universal House of Justice. First established in
1963, the Universal House of Justice is elected by the members of
the National Spiritual Assemblies of the world. Naturally, the
electors include many women. But the members of the House of
Justice itself, from its inception, have all been male.
Shoghi Effendi anticipated that the Universal House of
Justice would be established as an all-male body, even though he
passed away before he could see this implemented. He did not
comment generally on the subject, and he does not seem to have
devoted a great deal of time to the issue. But in answer to
questions from individual Baha'is, some letters were written on
the Guardian's behalf by his secretaries which comment on the
composition of the yet-to-be-formed House of Justice. For example,
his secretary writes:

As regards your question concerning the membership of the
Universal House of Justice, there is a Tablet from
'Abdu'l-Baha in which He definitely states that the membership
of the Universal House of Justice is confined to men, and that
the wisdom of it will be fully revealed and appreciated in the
future. In the local, as well as national Houses of Justice,
however, women have the full right of membership. It is,
however, only to the International House that they cannot be
elected. [56]

And in another letter:

As regards the membership of the International House of
Justice, 'Abdu'l-Baha states in a Tablet that it is confined
to men, and that the wisdom of it will be revealed as manifest
as the sun in the future. [57]


Regarding your question, the Master said the wisdom of having
no women on the International House of Justice, would become
manifest in the future. We have no indication other than
this... [58]


People must just accept the fact that women are not eligible
to the International House of Justice. As the Master says the
wisdom of this will be known in the future, we can only accept,
believing it is right...[59]

The remarkable similarity of these letters to individual
believers should be noted. In each case, the Guardian directed his
secretary to refer to the Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Baha to Corinne True
which was written in reply to her petition that women be elected to
the Chicago House of Justice. This Tablet explains that the reason
for the exclusion of women will become manifest in the future.
Subsequent events demonstrated that 'Abdu'l-Baha had intended that
this exclusion be only temporary - an exclusion that would be
followed by the full participation of women on this body.
The exclusion of women from the Universal House of Justice
today is observed by the Baha'i community primarily in obedience to
these letters of the Guardian. Most Baha'is assume that this
exclusion was intended to be a permanent one. However, since this
instruction of the Guardian is tied so closely to the meaning of the
one Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Baha which promises that the wisdom of the
exclusion of women will become manifest in the future, and since it
is known that the meaning of the Tablet was that women should be
excluded only temporarily from the Chicago House, the assumption
that women will be permanently excluded from the current Universal
House of Justice may be a faulty one. A temporary exclusion may
be intended.
The answer to this question, as with all other questions in
the Baha'i community, will have to be worked out over time. The
elements of dialogue, struggle, persistence and anguish which are
so evident in the history of the gradual participation of women on
local Baha'i administrative bodies will, no doubt, all attend the
working out of that answer in the future. These elements are all
present today.

A Tablet of Assurance

'Abdu'l-Baha repeatedly assured Baha'i women in His writings that
the women of the future would achieve full and complete equality
with men. In one of these Tablets He refers to the composition of
the House of Justice. The Tablet is dated August 28, 1913, and it
appears to have been written to a Baha'i woman in the East. In it,
'Abdu'l-Baha repeats His promise:

In this Revelation of Baha'u'llah, the women go neck and neck
with the men. In no movement will they be left behind. Their
rights with men are equal in degree. They will enter all the
administrative branches of politics. They will attain in all
such a degree as will be considered the very highest station
of the world of humanity and will take part in all affairs.
Rest ye assured. Do ye not look upon the present conditions;
in the not far distant future the world of women will become
all-refulgent and all-glorious, FOR HIS HOLINESS BAHA'U'LLAH
HATH WILLED IT SO! At the time of the elections the right to
vote is the inalienable right of women, and the entrance of
women into all human departments is an irrefutable and
incontravertible question. No soul can retard or prevent it...
As regards the constitution of the House of Justice,
Baha'u'llah addresses the men. He says: "O ye men of the
House of Justice!"
But when its members are to be elected, the right which
belongs to women, so far as their voting and their voice is
concerned, is indisputable. WHEN THE WOMEN ATTAIN TO THE
accounts. His Holiness Baha'u'llah has greatly strengthened
the cause of women, and the rights and privileges of women is
one of the greatest principles of 'Abdu'l-Baha. Rest ye
assured! [60] (Final emphasis added.)


1. Nabil-i A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers, Wilmette, Ill.: Baha'i
Publishing Trust, 1932, pp 80-81, 270-71.
2. See, for example, Ruhiyyih Rabbani, The Priceless Pearl,
London: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1969, pp 39-42 and 57-58; Baha'i
Administration, Wilmette, Ill.: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1928,
pp 25-26.
3. The Universal House of Justice, A Synopsis and Codification of
the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book of Baha'u'llah, Haifa: Baha'i
World Centre, 1973, p 5.
4. Ibid., pp 3-7.
5. 'Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Wilmette,
Ill.: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1922-25 (1982), pp 136-37.
6. Ibid., pp 136-37.
7. 'Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, London: Baha'i Publishing Trust,
1912, p 161.
8. Promulgation, p 174.
9. Ibid., p 375.
10. Synopsis, p 13.
11. Ibid., p 16.
12. Ibid., p 57.
13. Ibid., pp 5-6.
14. All information in this section concerning the first House of
Justice of Tehran is based on Ruhu'llah Mihrabkhani, Mahafil-i shur
dar 'ahd-i Jamal-i Aqdas-i Abha, (Assemblies of consultation at the
time of Baha'u'llah) in Payam-i Baha'i, nos. 28 and 29, pp 9-11 and
pp 8-9 respectively.
15. Minutes of the North Hudson, N.J., Board of Counsel, National
Baha'i Archives, Wilmette, Ill.
16. Chase to Blake, 21/3/00, Chase Papers, National Baha'i Archives.
17. Regulations relating to the Chicago Board of Council (Abdel
Karim Effendi), Albert Windust Papers, National Baha'i Archives.
18. Kenosha Evening News, 29/6//00, p 1.
19. House of Justice in Chicago to House of Justice in New York,
23/5/01, House of Spirituality Papers, National Baha'i Archives.
20. Fannie Lesch, "Dr. C. I. Thatcher, Chicago, Illinois", (an
obituary), Albert Windust Papers, National Baha'i Archives.
21. Minutes of the House of Justice (Chicago), 26/1/02 and 28/6/01.
House of Spirituality Papers, National Baha'i Archives.
22. Marzieh Gail and Fadil-i Mazandarani (trans.), typescript
translation of the Kitab-i Aqdas.
23. Ibid.
24. Quoted in Ahmad Yazdani, Mabadiy-i Ruhani, Tehran: Baha'i
Publishing Trust, 104 Badi', p 109.
25. Ibid
26. Women: Extracts from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha,
Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice, comp. by The
Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, Thornhill,
Ont.: Baha'i Canada Publications, 1986, #7, p 3.
27. Quoted in Ahmad Yazdani, Maqam va Huquq-i Zan dar Diyanat-i
Baha'i, vol. 1, Tehran: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 107 Badi'.
28. Minutes of the House of Spirituality, 24/5/01, House of
Spirituality Papers, National Baha'i Archives.
29. Ibid., 20/5/01.
30. Synopsis, p 13.
31. Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas, Chicago: Baha'i Publishing
Society, 1909, vol 1, p 3.
32. Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, Wilmette, Ill.:
Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1938, p 6.
33. Minutes of 10/5/02, House of Spirituality Papers, National Baha'i
34. Extract from the Tablet of the Master, 'Abdu'l-Baha, to Mirza
AssadUllah, received in Chicago on the 3rd of May, 1902. House of
Spirituality Papers. National Baha'i Archives.
35. Tablets of Abdul Baha Abbas, p 6.
36. The translation reads "We named the assemblies of teaching in
Chicago the Spiritual Assemblies; you should organize spiritual
assemblies in every place"; ( extract from the Tablet from the
Master, se note 35 above).
37. Minutes, 29/7/05, House of Spirituality Papers, National Baha'i
38. See various published Tablets and public talks of 'Abdu'l-Baha,
including: Kitab-i baday 'u'l-athar, Bombay, 1921, vol.1, pp 65,
119, 120, 251; and
39. True to 'Abdu'l-Baha, 25/2/02, Document 11137, International
Baha'i Archives, Haifa, Israel.
40. Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, Haifa: Baha'i
World Centre, 1978, pp 79-80.
41. 'Abdu'l-Baha to Corinne True, 24/7/09, microfilm, National
Baha'i Archives.
42. Chase to Remey, 19/1/10, Chase Papers, National Baha'i Archives.
43. Minutes, 31/8/09 and 7/9/09, House of Spirituality Papers,
National Baha'i Archives.
44. Chase to Scheffler, 10/5/10, Chase papers, National Baha'i
45. Bahai Assembly of Kenosha to House of Spirituality, 4/7/10,
House of Spirituality Papers, National Baha'i Archives.
46. House of Spirituality (Albert R. Windust, LIbrarian) to Board
of Consultation, Kenosha, Wis., 23/7/10, House of Spirituality
Papers, National Baha'i Archives.
47. Ibid.
48. Ibid.
49. Ibid.
50. Ibid.
51. Ibid.
52. Kenosha Assembly to Albert Windust, 16/5/11, House of
Spirituality Papers, National Baha'i Archives.
53. 'Abdu'l-Baha to the members of the Spiritual Assembly and Mr.
Bernard M. Jacobsen, Kenosha, Wis., 4/5/11, House of Spirituality
Papers, National Baha'i Archives.
54. Star of the West, vol. 3, no. 10 (August 20, 1912) p 16. See
also, 'Abdu'l-Baha's instructions to Howard MacNutt, August 6, 1912,
microfilm collection, National Baha'i Archives.
55. Women, #11, pp 6-7.
56. Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, dated July 28, 1936,
Baha'i News, No. 105 (February 1937) p 2.
57. Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, dated December 14,
1940, quoted in Dawn of a New Day (New Delhi: Baha'i Publishing
Trust, n.d.) p 86.
58. Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, dated September 17,
1952, Baha'i News, No 267 (May 1953) p 10.
59. Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, dated July 15, 1947,
quoted in "Extracts on Membership of the Universal House of Justice"
(an unpublished compilation of the Universal House of Justice).
60. Quoted in Paris Talks (London: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1912) pp

Editor's Note: This paper was written in Los Angeles in 1988; many of the authors were young academics and intellectuals associated with dialogue Magazine. It was presented at an Association for Baha'i Studies conference in New Zealand the same year and was immediately suppressed by the Baha'i authorities, and its authors were forbidden to circulate it in any way.

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