June 8, 2016

May Maxwell (1870-1940) – “that candle of the love of God”; “'Abdu'l-Bahá's beloved handmaid”; “the distinguished disciple”; a “martyr’s death”; “glorious sacrifice”; her name is mentioned in the Tablets of the Divine Plan

The just words, the words always to remember, were cabled by Shoghi Effendi: "'Abdu'l-Baha's beloved handmaid, distinguished disciple May Maxwell (is) gathered (into the) glory (of the) Abha Kingdom. Her earthly life, so rich, eventful, incomparably blessed, (is) worthily ended. To sacred tie her signal services had forged, (the) priceless honor (of a) martyr's death (is) now added. (A) double crown deservedly won. (The) Seven-Year Plan, particularly (the) South American campaign, derive fresh impetus (from the) example (of) her glorious sacrifice. Southern outpost (of) Faith greatly enriched through association (with) her historic resting-place destined remain (a) poignant reminder (of the) resistless march (of the) triumphant army (of) Baha'u'llah. Advise believers (of) both Americas (to) hold befitting memorial gathering."
–Shoghi Effendi (Cablegram, March 3, 1940; ‘Messages to America’)

…Shoghi Effendi once said to her [May Maxwell), one night when he came to dinner in the Western Pilgrim House after our union, that had I [Ruhiyyih Khanum] not been May Maxwell's daughter he would not have married me. This does not mean it was the only reason, but it was evidently a very powerful one, for in the cable he sent on 3 March 1940 officially announcing her death, which had taken place two days before, he said "To sacred tie her signal services had forged priceless honour martyr's death now added. Double crown deservedly won." These words clearly indicate her relationship to his marriage. In a Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to one of her spiritual children He had written "her company uplifts and develops the soul". Until I came under the direct influence of the Guardian, through being privileged to be with him for over twenty years, I can truly say that my character, my faith in Bahá'u'lláh and whatever small services I had so far been able to render Him, were entirely due to her influence. From these facts it will be seen that when I arrived with my mother, on my third pilgrimage to Haifa, in January 1937, the status of my father inside the Faith can best be described as being "Mrs. Maxwell's husband".
- Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, (‘The Priceless Pearl’)

She was born in Englewood, New Jersey, on January 14, 1870, the daughter of John B. Bolles and Mary Martin Bolles, in descent American through many generations. Her early years were spent in the Englewood home of her maternal grandfather, a man distinguished in New York's banking world. She had one brother, Randolph, whom she loved deeply and whose attraction to the Baha'i Faith, as evidenced in the last year before his death in 1939 (by his translation into English of the French footnotes of Nabil), gave her supreme content.