October 9, 2020

Lady Sara Louisa Blomfield (1859 – 1939) - “Sitárih [star] Khánum”, named by 'Abdu'l-Bahá; “dearly beloved”; “outstanding co-worker”; author of “Chosen Highway”; compiler of "Paris Talks"

“Profoundly grieve passing dearly beloved outstanding co-worker Sitarih Khánum. Memory her glorious, services imperishable. Advise English community hold befitting memorial gathering. Assure relatives, my heartfelt sympathy and loving fervent prayer.” (Cable from the Guardian, 1939; The Baha'i World 1938-1939)

In her inspiring, richly informative book about certain phases of Baha'i history, ‘The Chosen Highway’, Sara Louisa, Lady Blomfield, named Sitarih Khanum by 'Abdu'l-Baha, has given an account of the first time that she and her daughter Mary, called Parvine by Him, heard the Baha'i Faith mentioned. At a reception given by Madame Lucien Monod at her house in Paris in 1907, an attractive young guest, Miss Bertha Herbert, after seating herself between them, said to the Blomfields, "We have been taught to believe that a great Messenger would again be sent to the world: He would set forth to gather together all the peoples of good will in every race, nation, and religion on the earth. Now is the appointed time! He has come! He has come!"[1]

Lady Blomfield wrote, "These amazing words struck a chord to which my inner consciousness instantly responded, and I felt convinced that the portentous announcement they conveyed was indeed the truth. Great awe and intense exaltation possessed me with an overpowering force as I listened." [2]

Assured by Lady Blomfield that she and Mary were deeply interested in her remarks, Miss Herbert soon made an appointment for them to meet a gifted miniature painter, Miss Ethel Rosenberg, the second woman in the British Isles to enter the Faith, and a distinguished scholar, Hippolyte Dreyfus, the first French believer. These two remarkable people gave the Blomfields much information about the Faith.

On their return to London, they became acquainted with Mrs. Thornburgh-Cropper, the first Baha'i in the British Isles. She and Ethel Rosenberg held meetings with the Blomfields to make plans for spreading the message. After hearing about the Revelation of Baha’u’llah, Lady Blomfield's foremost aim became to serve His Cause.

Mary has described her mother: "At this time she had the beauty of a mature soul. The moulding of her face was lovely .... Her facial expressions, ever changing, reflected the spiritual harmony within .... She wore garments with long flowing lines which made her seem taller than her natural height ...."[3]

Early in August 1911, when 'Abdu'l-Baha was still in Egypt, but preparing to leave for Europe, she sent Him an invitation to stay at her house at 97 Cadogan Gardens in London. A few days later, she received the following telegram in reply: "'Abdu'l-Baha arriving in London 8th September. Can Lady Blomfield receive Him?" [4]

Lady Blomfield has written that when 'Abdu'l-Baha entered her house, "A silence as of love and awe overcame us, as we looked at Him.... One saw, as in a clear vision, that He had so wrought all good and mercy that the inner grace of Him had grown greater than all outer sign, and the radiance of this inner glory shone in every glance, and word, and movement as He came with hands outstretched." [5]

Every day the famous, the obscure, the talented, the ordinary, the rich and the poor came there to meet the Master. With much charm and consideration Hippolyte Dreyfus-Barney and his wife, Laura, both of whom knew Persian, translated what the Master said into English for everyone to hear. His hostess has told touching stories of His deeply compassionate treatment of individuals in great distress, other stories that showed His delightful sense of humour, and described occasions in which He answered pertinent questions like the following: "Will this misery-laden world ever attain happiness?" a visitor asked one day. The Master replied:

"It is nearly two thousand years since His Holiness the Lord Christ taught this prayer to His people: 'Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.' Thinkest thou that He would have commanded thee to pray for that which would never come? That prayer is also a prophecy." [6]

After 'Abdu'l-Baha had been in London for almost four weeks, He left for Paris on 3rd October, and stayed in an attractive apartment that the Dreyfus-Barneys had found for Him at 4 A venue de Camoens near the Quai de Passy and the Trocadero Gardens.

Every morning in His sitting-room, 'Abdu'l-Baha explained the Baha'i Teachings to the many people of all types and conditions who came to see Him. He gave special attention to workers in humanitarian societies who were trying to relieve the suffering of the poor. The Dreyfus-Barneys now translated what He said into French.

Lady Blomfield, Mary, her sister Ellinor named Nuri by the Master, and their friend Miss Beatrice Platt called Verdiyeh by Him, who had all followed the Master to Paris, took notes in English on His addresses. After the ladies had carefully assembled their notes, they sent them to the Master for His consideration. Well pleased with their work, He asked for its immediate publication. As a result, during May of 1912 this collection of superlative lectures came out in England under the title of ‘Paris Talks’, and somewhat later in the United States as ‘The Wisdom of 'Abdu'I-Baha. Thanks to the devotion and efficiency of the four ladies just mentioned, who had the foresight to record the Master's words in English, this book will always serve as a priceless introduction to the Faith and as a source of illumination to the believers of the West.

The Master gave lectures not only in His own apartment, but in many other places. On October 22nd He concluded a most powerful address with these reassuring words:

God leaves not His children comfortless, but, when the darkness of winter overshadows them, then again He sends His Messengers, the Prophets, with a renewal of the blessed spring. The Sun of Truth appears again on the horizon of the world shining into the eyes of those who sleep, awaking them to behold the glory of a new dawn. Then again will the tree of humanity blossom and bring forth the fruit of righteousness for the healing of the nations. Because man has stopped his ears to the Voice of Truth and shut his eyes to the Sacred Light, neglecting the Law of God, for this reason has the darkness of war and tumult, unrest and misery, desolated the earth. I pray that you will all strive to bring each child of God into the radiance of the Sun of Truth that the darkness may be dissipated by the penetrating rays of its glory and the winter's hardness and cold may be melted away by the merciful warmth of its shining. [7]

On December 2nd, 'Abdu'l-Baha left Paris for Egypt. After He had spent the winter there, He sailed from Alexandria to New York City, where He arrived on 11th April 1912. At the end of His historic journey throughout the United States of America, lasting almost eight months, He sailed for England to arrive at Liverpool on December 13th, and in London three days later.

Staying with Lady Blomfield as before, 'Abdu'l-Baha again received a constant stream of visitors at her house. The Hand of the Cause Hasan Balyuzi has reported this delightful incident that took place there:

"When 'Abdu'l-Baha sat down to dinner on Christmas Eve, He said, playfully, that He was not hungry, but He had to come to the dinner table because Lady Blomfield was very insistent; two despotic monarchs of the East had not been able to command Him and bend His will, but the ladies of America and Europe, because they were free, gave Him orders." [8]

One evening, in the drawing-room of her house, the Master asked Mrs. Gabrielle Enthoven, "What is your great interest in life?" She replied, "The Drama." 'Abdu'l-Baha said, "I will give you a play. It shall be called ‘The Drama of the Kingdom’." [9] Without notes and only pausing for the translator to speak, the Master gave her the outline of a moving, elaborate pageant about the coming of the Promised One. Some years later, Mary Blomfield, by then married to Captain Basil Hall, R.N., wrote a play based on the Master's outline. It was published by the Weardale Press in London in 1933.

Lady Blomfield's father-in-law, Dr. Charles James Blomfield, Bishop of London for twenty-eight years, had once been a tutor to Queen Victoria. Through him Lady Blomfield knew people at Court. On 16th January 1913 she gave the Master a statement which she had written about the Faith and the purpose of His visit to London. She asked His permission to send this statement to King George V hoping in this way to arrange a meeting between 'Abdu'l-Baha and the King.

Although the Master liked her statement, He advised her not to send it to the King for fear that her action might result in misunderstanding.

On that same day at her house, the Master gave an enormously instructive talk. He said that the believers needed to have wisdom, divine insight and steadfastness and that they should give their undivided attention to the Cause in order to achieve its advancement. On 21st January 1913 He left London to visit Paris for the second time.

When the First World War began, Lady Blomfield, Mary and Ellinor were living in Geneva. Soon afterwards they moved to the Hotel d'Jena in Paris and began to work for the French Red Cross in the Haden Guest Unit at the Hospital Hotel Majestic. Mary has written: "Any kind of suffering touched my mother profoundly, but the sight of young men maimed for life, and the new and horrible experiences she had to endure during the dressing of their wounds, tortured her beyond words." [10]

Despite the heart-breaking experiences to which they were constantly exposed, the Blomfields continued to help with the wounded in Paris, until in March 1915 their hospital unit was sent to another city. For the remaining three years of the war, Lady Blomfield served on committees in London, gave regular assistance in various hospitals and kept open house for wounded soldiers. Despite her vigorous pursuit of these tasks directly concerned with the war, she never failed to support Baha'i meetings whenever it was possible to hold them and irrespective of how many were able to attend.

In the spring of 1918 she received a deeply disturbing telephone message from a source of authority. "'Abdu'l-Baha in serious danger. Take immediate action." [11] Without delay she went to Lord Lamington, a prominent member of Parliament who much admired 'Abdu'l-Baha, and told him what she had just heard. Lord Lamington promptly wrote a letter to the Foreign Office in which he stressed the noble services that 'Abdu'l-Baha was rendering, not only to the people of Palestine, but to all humanity, and he gave this letter to Arthur Balfour, at that time Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. On the same day Balfour sent a cable to General Allenby. It said: "Extend every protection and consideration to 'Abdu'l-Baha, His family and His friends, when the British march on Haifa." [12] As soon as General Allenby had taken Haifa, several days before he was expected to do so, he sent a cablegram to London the news of which brought joy to the heart of every Baha'i: "Have to-day taken Palestine. Notify the world that 'Abdu'l-Baha is safe." [13]

Lady Blomfield learned afterwards that her old friend, Major Wellesley Tudor-Pole, had sent the terrifying message which she had heard on the telephone. On learning that the Turkish High Command had threatened to crucify 'Abdu'l-Baha on Mount Carmel if their army should have to evacuate Haifa, Major Tudor-Pole had made every effort to insure His safety. Although the influential men whom he first approached knew nothing about 'Abdu'l-Baha and saw no urgent reason to assist Him, Tudor-Pole found one officer with important connections who showed some interest in the matter. With his help, Tudor-Pole was able to send a message to the British Foreign Office.

At the end of the war, domestic affairs at home kept the Blomfields from making their intended pilgrimage. Around 1920 Lady Blomfield decided to spend part of each year in Switzerland, in Geneva. While in that country she became a close friend of Eglantyne Jebb, founder of the 'Save the Children Fund'. After Miss Jebb had seen at first hand the tragic situation of great numbers of children in Central and Eastern Europe at the end of the war, she, with her sister's help, had set up this fund to save starving and refugee children from all over the world. Deeply interested in this noble work, Lady Blomfield established a special 'Blomfield Fund' at 4 rue Massot in Geneva, under the sponsorship of Lord Weardale in London. She explained in a pamphlet called ‘The First Obligation’ that the purpose of this fund was to finance "workrooms for children or for other relief work of a constructive character, which will increasingly constitute a more and more important part of the activities of the Save the Children Fund movement." [14]

A Tablet which Lady Bloomfield received from 'Abdu'l-Baha dated 23rd July 1921 served as a perfect foreword to her pamphlet. He revealed: "To contribute towards the cause of these pitiful children, and to protect and care for them is the highest expression of altruism and worship, and is well pleasing to the Most High the Almighty, the Divine Provider." [15] 

During the long periods of time that she lived in Geneva, Lady Blomfield struggled hard to attract people to the Faith who were working for the League of Nations. She gave weekly meetings at her hotel and as many as a hundred people often gathered there to hear speakers of noble intention and pioneers in philanthropic work. Every speaker illustrated a Baha'i principle. At the end of each talk, Lady Blomfield, acting as Chairman, always gave a further explanation of this principle. In quiet conversations that she had with them after the meetings, individuals often asked her, "Who is this Persian Prophet you quote so much?" "She would tell them and thus the seed was sown." [16] She also spent many hours in writing to people about the Faith.

Early in July 1920 Shoghi Effendi arrived in England from Haifa in order to attend Balliol College, Oxford. He brought with him Tablets from the Master to Lady Blomfield, Lord Lamington and Major Tudor-Pole. These three arranged for Shoghi Effendi to meet distinguished professors and oriental scholars, both from Oxford and London University. During his sixteen months' stay in England the future Guardian became close to Lady Blomfield and several others.

On 29th November 1921 at midday, in the office of Major Tudor-Pole in London, Shoghi Effendi read in an open telegram the heart-breaking news that 'Abdu'l-Baha had ascended to the Abha Kingdom. When the Major entered the room a moment later, he found Shoghi Effendi in a state of collapse. Miss Grand, a believer, took him to her home nearby and put him to bed for several days. Lady Blomfield, Miss Grand, Shoghi Effendi's sister Ruhangiz, and some others, did what they could to comfort him.

Delayed for some days by passport difficulties, Shoghi Effendi, Ruhangiz and Lady Blomfield sailed from England to Egypt on December 16th, and taking a train from there they arrived in Haifa on December 29th. Mary, who had now become Mrs. Basil Hall, felt sure that her. mother's companionship on this trip was of great help to the grief-stricken Shoghi Effendi.

During her first weeks in the Holy Land, Lady Blomfield had the great privilege of collaborating with Shoghi Effendi now the Guardian of course, on a pamphlet entitled ‘The Passing of ‘Abdu'l-Baha. It is composed of authentic accounts that they collected, and moving reflections by themselves about this agonizing event. In one most eloquent passage they have written:

The eyes that had always looked out with loving-kindness upon humanity, whether friends or foes, were now closed. The hands that had ever been stretched forth to give alms to the poor and the needy, the halt and the maimed, the blind, the orphan and the widow, had now finished their labour. The feet that, with untiring zeal, had gone upon the ceaseless errands of the Lord of compassion, were now at rest. The lips that had so eloquently championed the cause of the suffering sons of men, were now hushed in silence. The heart that had so powerfully throbbed with wondrous love for the children of God was now stilled. His glorious spirit had passed from the life of earth, from the persecutions of the enemies of righteousness, from the storm and stress of well nigh eighty years of indefatigable toil for the good of others. [17]

In March 1922 Shoghi Effendi called together a group of Baha'is from various countries, including Lady Blomfield. For as long as the Guardian remained in the Holy Land during her visit, he often consulted her and other Baha'is of experience on vital matters concerning the development of the Faith, but mainly about the possibility of his establishing the Universal House of Justice at that time. The Guardian decided that he could not possibly do this until the Local and National Assemblies were functioning in those countries where Baha'i communities existed.

While he was experiencing almost unbearable grief over the passing of the Master, and added strain and acute suffering caused by the enemies of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi, for the first few months of his ministry, carried out with no interruption his manifold and overwhelming tasks. At the end of this period on 5th April 1922, however, he left the Holy Land to make an extended trip to various countries in Europe and to remain there until he had regained sufficient physical strength and spiritual energy to resume his work of service. Before his departure, he appointed Baha'iyyih Khanum, the daughter of Baha'u'llah, the Greatest Holy Leaf, to "administer, in consultation with the family of 'Abdu'l-Baha, and a chosen Assembly, all Baha'i affairs during his absence." [18]

Lady Blomfield stayed in the Holy Land for several months after the Guardian had left. She listened to thrilling stories about the Heroic Age of the Faith from Baha'iyyih Khanum, Munirih Khanum, the widow of ‘Abdu'I-Baha, Tuba Khanum, His daughter, and several others who had lived through those early years. Lady Blomfield took comprehensive notes on these stories and kept her notes for some future time when she hoped to include them in a book.

Munirih Khanum wrote to Basil Hall: "We are all very glad to have the honourable Lady, Sitarih Khanum, Lady Blomfield in our midst. Her presence gives us much joy. We look upon her, not only as a friend, but as one of our own dear family." [19]

In 1930 Lady Blomfield made a second journey to the Holy Land. While there, she gathered more material for the book that she now definitely planned to write. At the end of her visit, she returned to England and for the rest of her life shared a house in Hampstead, a part of London, with the Basil Halls. Happy meetings with Baha'i travellers from many parts of the world often took place there. For several years Lady Blomfield worked constantly on her book. After overcoming great difficulties in so doing, she finished it a few weeks before her passing, after a brief illness, on the last day of 1939.

The Hand of the Cause Hasan Balyuzi, who at her request wrote the preface, but not in time for her to read, has declared: "The Chosen Highway will forever remain the greatest monument to the achievements of its author .... And to generations unborn it will hand a message rich in enlightenment." [20]

Although Mary had visited her mother in the nursing home twice on the day of her passing, she was not there at the actual moment that it took place. The nurses said that her mother had a peaceful, beautiful death.

While going through her papers, Mary was much surprised to find how much her mother had written. With no apparent thought of publication, she had described in diaries and in engagement books some of her dreams and visions. Mary felt that a prayer [21] which she had discovered written faintly in pencil on an old piece of paper well expressed the theme of her beloved mother's beautiful and saintly life:

O God! My Beloved!

All my affairs are in Thy hands.

Be Thou the Mover of my actions,

The Lode Star of my soul,

The Voice that crieth in my inmost being,

The object of my heart's adoration!

I praise Thee that Thou hast enabled me

To turn my face unto Thee,

That Thou hast set my soul ablaze

With remembrance of Thee!


1. Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway London: Baha'i Publishing

Trust, 1940, p. 1

2. ibid.

3. Baha'i World, vol. VIII, p. 651

4. Chosen Highway, p. 149

5. ibid. pp. 149-150

6. ibid. pp. 171-172

7. 'Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, London: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1912,


8. 'Abdu'l-Baha, p. 350

9. Chosen Highway, p. 155

10. Baha'i World, vol. VIII, p. 652

11. Chosen Highway, p. 219

12. ibid.

13. ibid. p. 220

14. 'Abdu'l-Baha, p. 436

15. ibid.

16. Baha'i World, vol. VIII, p. 653

17. Quoted in Baha'i World, vol. I, pp. 21 & 23

18. Priceless Pearl, p. 57

19. Baha'i World, vol. VIII, p. 653

20. Chosen Highway, v

21. Baha'i World, vol. VIII, p. 656

(O. Z. Whitehead, 'Some Early Baha'is of the West')