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The Calling: Tahirih of Persia and Her American Contemporaries
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Tahirih & Women of the West

Contemporaneously with the life of Tahirih but many worlds away in the United States, the people of central and western New York State lived with such spiritual intensity that the whole region came to be known as the ‘Burned-Over district’ and saw the emergence of the Shakers, the Church of Jesus-Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, the Adventists, the Church of Christ Scientist, and spiritualism. These were part of a Great Awakening that would energize important reform movements which sought to remedy the injustices and socially noxious habits which were holding the country back from its future—slavery, alcoholism, limited education, and the lack of rights for women. What began in the world of spirit deeply affected the social realities if the United States.

Elizabeth Stanton

Elizabeth Stanton

Born on November 12, 1815, in Johnstown, New York, Elizabeth Cady grew up amidst wealth and privilege, the daughter of Daniel Cady, a prominent judge, and Margaret Livingston. She attended the progressive Troy Female Seminary, where she received the best education available for a young woman of the early 1830s. After her graduation in 1833, she became immersed in the world of reform at the home of her cousin Gerrit Smith. There she fell in love with the abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton. Following their marriage in 1840, she met the woman who would become her most important mentor in her development as a feminist, the abolitionist Lucretia Mott. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was outraged when the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London (1840), denied official standing to women delegates, including Lucretia Mott . When the Stantons moved from Boston to the village of Seneca Falls, New York, in 1847, Elizabeth suffered from the lack of an intellectual community. From this despair emerged her resolution to transform women’s place in society. With Mott and three other women, Elizabeth spearheaded the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls in July 1848. At this gathering, she presented their Declaration of Rights and Sentiments, a document she composed. The Declaration and its 11 resolutions demanded social and political equality for all women, including its most controversial claim, the right to vote.

Women's Suffrage

The Seneca Falls Convention — the first convention for women's rights — began on this date in 1848. It was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her friend Lucretia Mott. They had been getting together frequently to talk about the abuses they suffered as women, and they finally decided to have a public meeting to discuss the status of women in society. Just a few days before the meeting, Stanton took the Declaration of Independence as her model and drafted what she titled a Declaration of Sentiments, calling for religious, economical, and political equality and which said, "The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman." Elizabeth Cady Stanton read the declaration and then made a radical suggestion, that the document should also demand a woman's right to vote. At that time, no women were allowed to vote anywhere on the planet. And many of the other women there objected to the idea. They thought it was impossible. Reaction to the convention in the press and the pulpit was mostly negative. The Oneida Whig wrote: "This bolt is the most shocking and unnatural incident ever recorded in the history of womanhood. If our ladies will insist on voting and legislating, where, gentlemen, will be our dinners and our elbows? Where our domestic firesides and the holes in our stockings?" Philadelphia's Public Ledger and Daily Transcript declared: "A woman is nobody. A wife is everything. The ladies of Philadelphia [...] are resolved to maintain their rights as Wives, Belles, Virgins and Mothers." Seventy-two years later, women would be granted the right to vote. Only one of the signers of the original Declaration of Sentiments was still living at the time.

Sojourner Truth


Isabella Baumfree (Sojourner Truth) (1797–November 26, 1883) was an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. Born Isabella Baumfree, on June 1, 1843, Truth changed her name to Sojourner Truth and told her friends: "The Spirit calls me, and I must go." She became a Methodist, and left to make her way traveling and preaching about the abolition of slavery. In 1844, she joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry in Northampton, Massachusetts. Founded by abolitionists, the organization supported women's rights and religious tolerance as well as pacifism. Her best-known extemporaneous speech on gender inequalities, "Ain't I a Woman?," was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves. Mob Convention—September 7, 1853: At the convention, young men greeted her with "a perfect storm,” hissing and groaning. In response, Truth said, "You may hiss as much as you please, but women will get their rights anyway. You can't stop us, neither." Sojourner, like other public speakers, often adapted her speeches to how the audience was responding to her. In her speech, Sojourner speaks out for women's rights. She incorporates religious references in her speech, particularly the story of Esther. She then goes on to say that, just as women in scripture, women today are fighting for their rights. Moreover, Sojourner scolds the crowd for all their hissing and rude behavior, reminding them that God says to "Honor thy father and thy mother.”

Fox Sisters

Fox Sisters

Mature lives Leah, on the death of her first husband, married a successful Wall Street banker. Margaret met Elisha Kane, the Arctic explorer, in 1852. Kane was convinced that Margaret and Kate were engaged in fraud, under the direction of their sister Leah, and he sought to break Margaret from the milieu. The two married, and Margaret converted to the Roman Catholic faith. Kane died in 1857, and Margaret eventually returned to her activities as a medium.[14] In 1876 she joined her sister Kate, who was living in England. Kate traveled to England in 1871, the trip paid for by a wealthy New York banker, so that she would not be compelled to accept payment for her services as a medium. The trip was apparently considered missionary work, since Kate sat only for prominent persons, who would let their names be printed as witnesses to a séance. In 1872, Kate married H.D. Jencken, a London barrister, legal scholar, and enthusiastic Spiritualist. Jencken died in 1881, leaving Kate with two sons.[15] Kate Fox was considered to be a powerful medium, capable of producing not only raps, but "spirit lights, direct writing, and the appearance of materialized hands," as well as the movement of objects at a distance.[16] She was one of three mediums examined by William Crookes, the prominent scientist, between 1871 and 1874, who said of her ability to produce raps.

Mother Ann Lee

Mother Ann Lee

Mother Ann Lee (29 February 1736–8 September 1784)was the charismatic founder of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, commonly known as the Shakers. After a difficult early life, she joined a group of Christians in Manchester, England, who had split from George Fox's Quaker movement. Their unorthodox views and impassioned convulsions in worship drew ridicule and persecution, along with the nickname "Shakers." Imprisoned, Ann received a revelation that she was the embodiment of the second coming of Christ, in feminine form. Later visions called her and a few followers to America, where in 1774 they settled near Albany, at present-day Watervliet, New York. They sought with some success to attract converts to a gospel of pacifism, celibacy, racial and gender equality, and industrious communal living. Mother Ann herself endured persecution and even physical attacks when traveling to evangelize. The movement expanded after her death, peaking in the 1830's with some 6,000 Shakers living in 19 communities under the leadership of male and female elders and deacons.


Tahirih the Liberator

Tahirih was a trumpet blast. Persia had sunk into cultural, spiritual, intellectual, and economic stagnation. Once she had accepted the claims of the prophetic figure of Siyyid Ali Muhammad, ‘the Bab’ or ‘Gate’, she fearlessly proclaimed that the Islamic order which had guided them for centuries was now fulfilled and that a new day of Divine Revelation was upon them. In her fearless proclamation of this new teaching, she and liberated herself completely from the confines in which women were expected to remain by setting aside all social conventions which sought to restrict the public activities of women—especially those regarding religious teaching. She moved women who met her to liberate their own spirits and challenged her society to liberate itself from age-old and now outworn traditions.

The example of Tahirih’s life is becoming known around the world as the Baha’i Faith spreads across nations. Tahirih as a symbol may come to deeply influence the way women around the world view themselves and their potential and to liberate all people from conventional thinking by pointing to the power of God to re-create human society.

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