First Bahá’í in Our Family

The first Bahá’í in our family was my great, great grandmother Leonora Georgiana Stirling.  She was born and raised in London and went as a missionary to County Cork Ireland.  From here she emigrated in 1868 to Canada and then the United States.  This photograph was taken in Dublin sometime between 1850 and 1860.  She did not find the Bahá’í Revelation for another approximately 40 years.

Leonora Georgiana Stirling – Dublin – c.1850-1860

This second photo is of my Great Grandmother Stirling at about the time she found the Baha’i Revelation through a friend in Brooklyn, New York.  It was 1906 and she deepened through correspondence with Isabella Brittingham. She met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá when he visited America in 1912, both in Boston and New York, in which during one visit He gave her a white rose.

Great Grandmother Stirling – New York – c. 1900

Pilgrimage in 1930

In 1930 Leonora Stirling Holsapple (later to become Armstrong) boarded a ship in Rio de Janeiro for Spain.  She stayed in Madrid studying Spanish in order to improve her ability to translate the Baha’i Writings into Spanish as requested by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith.  Much to her distress she fell seriously ill and was beside herself being unable to achieve her goals in the time set aside.  Meanwhile, she wrote to the Guardian in Haifa expressing her disappointment in the precious opportunity lost due to her illness, and he responded with an invitation to her to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  So from Barcelona she took a ship to Haifa.  Below is a photo that she took of The Greatest Holy Leaf – Bahíyyih Khánum – daughter of Bahá’u’lláh and great aunt of Shoghi Effendi.

The Greatest Holy Leaf photographed by Leonora Holsapple Nov. 1930 - Haifa

 

Miss Holsapple

Leonora Stirling Holsapple with Mrs. Elizabeth Greenleaf, Green Acre 1923

Hudson, N.Y. January 25th, 1921

“Yes, Leonora sailed away on 15th Inst. and kept up bravely to the last – smiling and waving goodbyes to her father and sister after they had left the ship.”

No one believed she could do it. No one thought she should.  Everyone said she was crazy. Her friends said it was too far away – to go half way round the world – and unsafe.  Her father said he wouldn’t allow it!  But she went and bought the one way ticket for the ships travel to Brazil anyway!  This was not a girls’ whim, or a dare for high adventure. This was a yearning of the soul – a yearning to follow the desires for her of the Master to become a spiritual physician, to minister to people’s hearts.  She had been ministering to young minds, drilling them in Latin.  But what she really yearned for was to fulfill ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s admonition in His Tablet to her to become a spiritual physician healing mankind with the Word of God.