Thornton Chase, named by the Master as the first American Bahá’í, along with Carl Scheffler and Arthur Agnew, members of Chicago’s House of Spirituality, arrived in the Holy Land, right after Corrine True had departed and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá surprised them all. When, responding to a question by Mr. Chase about the Temple, He said, “When you return consult with Mrs. True – I have given her complete instructions.” These directions baffled the three men because, up to that point, only men had served on the House of Spirituality and were involved in decision-making. Being given the responsibility for the Temple was extremely challenging, particularly as a woman in a country where women did not yet have the opportunity to vote.
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 110-111)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s sense of justice and equality also embraced the quality of relationship between men and women. He once smilingly turned to the ladies in a group of listeners in America and said that, ‘in Europe and America, many men worked very hard so that their wives could have luxuries. He related, again with a smile, the story of a husband and wife who once visited Him. Some dust had settled on the wife’s shoes, and she told her husband peremptorily to wipe it off, which he dutifully did. Did she do the same for her husband, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had queries. No, had been the reply, she cleaned his clothes. But that was not equality, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had remarked. “Now, ladies,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, “you must sometimes stand up for the rights of men.” It was all said with good humour, but the lesson was plain: moderation in all things.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 113)
At one meeting, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked Emmeline Pankhurst, the suffragist: Give me your reasons for believing that women today should have the vote?
Answer: I believe that humanity is a divine humanity and that it must rise higher and higher; but he cannot soar with only one wing.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá expressed his pleasure at the answer, and, smiling, replied: But what will you do when one wing is stronger than the other?
Answer: then we must strengthen the weaker wing.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá smiled and asked: What would you say if I prove to you that women is the stronger wing?
The answer came in the same bright vein: You will earn my eternal gratitude!
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 30-31)