Sunday, August 13, 2017

Who is Mary Maxwell AKA Ruhiyyih Khanum AKA Amatul Baha

August 8. On this date in 1910, Mary Maxwell Sutherland was born in New York City. In 1937 she married Shoghi Effendi who would appoint her to the International Bahá'í Council in 1951 and in 1952 named her a Hand of the Cause of God. She was titled Amatu'l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum.

Mary Sutherland Maxwell was born in New York City on August 8, 1910 to William Sutherland Maxwell and May Maxwell, early prominent Bahá'ís. William Sutherland Maxwell was the architect who would design the Shrine of the Bab. In 1912, during his tour of North America, 'Abdu'l-Bahá stayed in the Maxwells' home in Montreal where he would give his famous talk discussing his views on native cultures, Africans, indigenous North Americans and pre-Columbian America.

During her youth she twice traveled to Palestine for pilgrimage, the first time with her mother at age twelve and the second time with her mother's friends at age sixteen. It was during these pilgrimages that she first met Shoghi Effendi.

As a young woman, Mary had expressed a great desire to learn Spanish. However, her plans to travel to Republican Spain were thwarted with the Spanish Civil War. Instead, Mary chose to live with her cousin in Nazi Germany in 1935, a move which was endorsed by Shoghi Effendi. In Germany, Shoghi Effendi encouraged Mary to strengthen the fledgling Bahá’í community. The young Mary assimilated herself in German culture, wearing a dirndl and learning to speak German fluently. Whilst in Germany, Mary received an invitation from Shoghi Effendi to make a pilgrimage with her mother. Mother and daughter accepted the invitation.

Arriving in Haifa in January 1937 with her mother, she and Shoghi Effendi began a brief courtship. In February the couple were engaged, and Mary cabled her father to come as soon as he could to Haifa. On March 24 at the age of 26, Mary married Shoghi Effendi. The newlyweds made a trip to Switzerland and Shoghi Effendi introduced his young bride to his favorite sights in the country to which he would often travel. It was only a year after his wedding that Shoghi Effendi in 1938 praised Germany's Anschluss of Austria.

In 1951 Shoghi Effendi appointed her to the International Bahá'í Council and in 1952 a Hand of the Cause of God, as a replacement for her father who had died shortly before her appointment. She accompanied Shoghi Effendi during his various visits with the leadership of the newly-established State of Israel.

After Shoghi Effendi's death, for the remainder of her life, she traveled extensively and gave numerous talks. From 1969 through 1973, she undertook a Great African Safari. Around 1981, she spoke to the Persian Bahá'í community in Los Angeles "upbraiding them for settling in a such a decadent urban center, implying they should never have left Iran, and that if they had insisted on doing so should at least have had the decency to settle as missionaries in some remote village of the global South...When someone from the audience asked where they should have settled instead, she replied in Persian that it was self-evident: "Khar kih nistid" ("you are not asses")."

She died on January 19, 2000, at the age of 89 in Haifa, Israel where she is buried at the Bahá'í World Centre.

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