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Amelia Collins

February 11, 2015


Note: At this stage, this is a draft which is mostly compiled from Richard Francis’ 1993/2003 article Amelia Collins: The Fulfilled Hope of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. It is my intention to continue to add details, links and references.

7 June 1873 Amelia Mary-Margaret “Milly” Engelder Collins was born Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA to “Catherine Groff and Conrad Engelder, a German emigrant and Lutheran clergyman. She was the seventh child of a family of nine sons and five daughters.” She was brought up in a “strict Lutheran household (Francis 1993/2003).”

She married “a mining engineer named Thomas H. Collins and lived in Calumet, Michigan and later Bisbee Arizona. Thomas met great success in Bisbee by developing the porphyry copper mining operations that eventually become the Phelps-Dodge Mining Company (Francis 1993/2003).”

1920s They moved to California (Francis 1993/2003).

1919? Millie became a Bahá’í.? in California.

1923 Millie “made her first pilgrimage to Haifa in early 1923 when she was fifty years old. Thomas Collins accompanied her and was shown great kindness by Shoghi Effendi (1897 – 1957) (Francis 1993/2003).”

1924 Millie was the first Baha’i to visit Iceland. She arrived there on a cruise ship. During that trip she met Hólmfríður Árnadóttir, who became the first Icelandic Bahá’í (UHJ 1976:205).(Francis 1993/2003). Later in 1935 Martha Root visited the country for a month and with the help of Árnadóttir proclaimed the religion in the press, during lectures, and on the radio (Bahá’í News 1935: 1; Wikipedia).

1924 Millie was “elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada and was re-elected every year until 1933 (Francis 1993/2003).”

1926 Millie and Thomas Collins purchased property on Mount Carmel (Francis 1993/2003).

1934 Millie and Thomas Collins provided funding at Davison, Michigan, for the first publication of Bahá’i literature in Amharic (Francis 1993/2003).

1936 Millie and Thomas Collins developed and built the extension of the Geyserville School properties in northern California (Francis 1993/2003).

1937 Thomas Collins died from a heart attack. Although he never became a Baha’i, he “supported Millie’s Bahá’i activities. These included the financial contributions that maintained the solvency of the Geyserville School (Francis 1993/2003).”

1937 Millie was 64. “After arranging her substantial estate in order, one that would eventually establish the institutions of the Bahá’i World Center, Millie later that same year, made her second pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The tie between the Guardian and she became significantly closer. This included a friendship with the Guardian’s wife, Ruhíyyih Khánum. In a letter to her, shortly after this pilgrimage, the Guardian wrote:

“The days you spent under the shadow of the Holy Shrines will long be remembered with joy and gratitude. I have during these days increasingly appreciated and admired the profound sense of devotion, the passionate fervor, the intense love and attachment that animates you in the service of the Holy Cause. For such noble qualities I feel thankful, and I am certain that the fruits they will yield will be equally outstanding and memorable. Rest assured and be happy.”

1937 The Guardian “sent a sacred gift to the American Bahá’i Community through Millie. This was the lock of Baha’u’llah’s hair that had been preserved by the Greatest Holy Leaf, to be placed beneath the dome of the American Bahá’i Temple. She presented the gift during the 1938 National Bahá’i Convention mounted in a silver frame, the first of many sacred gifts from the guardian to become part of the National Bahá’i Archives (Francis 1993/2003).”

1938 Millie was re-elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada and “served until the Guardian called her to service at the Bahá’i World Center (Francis 1993/2003).”

1939 Millie “supported the publication of the first translation of Baha’i literature in Icelandic: Esslemont’s Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era (Francis 1993/2003).”

1939 Millie made the “first contribution to the Bahíyyih Khánum Fund toward the erection of the Mother Temple of America” and contributed to the Persian Temple Fund (Francis 1993/2003).”

1944 Millie “sent the Guardian a generous contribution that covered most of the cost of constructing the superstructure for the Shrine of the Báb on Mount Carmel (Francis 1993/2003).”

1945 Millie was 72. “In 1945, Millie was invited by Miss Arnadottir to come to Iceland. In response, the Guardian replied through his secretary that instead of going to Iceland where her health might be compromised, that she should go to America.

“As he cabled you, he feels your presence in America more important than Iceland at this time… The Small Assemblies in America are badly in need of Bahá’i’ education…”

1940s “Millie was the first to initiate the teaching of the American Indians in accordance to ‘Abdú’l-Bahá’s Tablets of the Divine Plan. In 1948, the first Indian Bahá’i Assembly on the American continent was formed on the Omaha Indian Reservation at Macy, Nebraska (Francis 1993/2003).”

1942 Millie was 69. Shoghi Effendi sent Millie to design and erect “the memorial to May Maxwell, Ruhíyyih Khánum’s mother in Buenos Aires. She even located a block of Carrara marble with the right characteristics for the project. Travel arrangements were nearly impossible because of the wartime conditions (Francis 1993/2003).”

1946 Millie was 73. Millie traveled to “Latin America to attend conferences and teaching work (Francis 1993/2003).”

1947? “Shoghi Effendi proclaimed that Millie Collins has been made his ninth Hand of the Cause of God. This singled her out as one who was uniquely loved and privileged by the Guardian. Millie Collins traveled several times to Europe after the close of World War II (Francis 1993/2003).”

1949 Millie was 76. Millie traveled to “Latin America to attend conferences and teaching work (Francis 1993/2003).”


On 24 December 1951 Shoghi Effendi cabled the Bahá’ís of the world, announcing the appointment of the first contingent of the Hands of the Cause. He took the “long inevitably deferred step in conformity with provisions of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Testament” of naming twelve individuals Hands of the Cause, “equally allocated Holy Land [i.e., the Bahá’í World Center], Asiatic, American, European continents.” Millie was one of the first to be appointed a Hand of the Cause. She was also appointed vice-president of the International Bahá’í Council by Shoghi Effendi.

1951 Millie was 78. Millie “traveled at the request of Shoghi Effendi to Turkey and Egypt. While in Cairo, despite becoming so ill that she could hardly stand, she gave an address to a large public meeting at the Hazíratu’l-Quds. Her role seemed to be from this time on, to ignore illness and her increasingly crippling arthritis, going forward, putting her whole trust in God (Francis 1993/2003).”

1951 “Shoghi Effendi appointed Millie Collins in January 1951 as the vice -president of the International Bahá’i Council and she went to live in Haifa. This work continued for the rest of her life (Francis 1993/2003).”

“The Guardian, in a cable to the Bahá’í world dated January 9, 1951, had proclaimed his “weighty epoch-making decision” to form the first International Bahá’í Council, the “forerunner” of the “supreme administrative institution”‘ of the Faith, which was destined to emerge in the fullness of time, and he characterized this “historic decision” as “Marking most significant milestone evolution Administrative Order Faith Bahá’u’lláh course last thirty years.” Those thirty years were his own ministry since the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in 1921. This first International Bahá’í Council was not elected but selected by Shoghi Effendi himself from individual believers of long standing and proven dedication to the service of the Cause. Less than one year later, on December 24, 1951, he announced the names of the first contingent of Hands. In view of the clear distinction in the Teachings between the elected Universal House of Justice and the appointed Hands of the Cause, it seems to me portentous that the first membership of the International Bahá’í Council included three people soon to be nominated Hands, and that, at the time of the beloved Guardian’s passing, five of its officers, so designated by him, namely, myself as liaison between it and him, Mason Remey, its President, Amelia Collins, its Vice-President, Leroy Ioas its Secretary General, and Ugo Giachery, its Member at Large-who lived in Italy and functioned as a European Hand, but frequently visited Haifa at Shoghi Effendi’s request-were all Hands of the Cause. In addition to being members of the International Bahá’í Council, these Hands, resident and serving at the World Centre, constituted a separate body, specified by Shoghi Effendi to act as liaison between him and the other Hands throughout the world, conveying their messages to him and his to them, thus giving us, during his own lifetime, a dual function as Hands directly serving under him and officers of the International Bahá’í Council. I believe that at that particularly dangerous juncture in Bahá’í history this duality was providential and greatly reinforced the authority and power of the Custodians when faced by the crisis of his sudden passing. When that terrible blow fell upon the Bahá’í world, these five Hands had been constantly serving under his personal instructions for almost six years.”(Custodians)

1953 MIllie was 80. Millie and Ruhíyyih Khánum represented the Guardian at the All-American Conference in Chicago as part of the ten-year World Crusade (Francis 1993/2003).”

1953 “Shoghi Effendi acknowledged in his message to the twelve Annual Conventions, Millie’s “munificent donation” toward the purchase of many Hazíratu’l-Quds and endowments on five continents (Francis 1993/2003).”

c. 1954 or 1956 Valera and John Allen, described their visit in December in the 1950s as Ruhiyyih Khanum prepared for a dinner party with over twenty people in honour of Josephine Baker. Guests included the “American Consul and his wife, the Italian Consul and his wife and various other dignitaries of Haifa with Josephine Baker and her entourage… All in all it was a very nice party and Miss Baker was very impressed, I am sure, and the next day when she visited the Shrine and Gardens with Ruhiyyih Khanum she expressed her appreciation and a desire to know more about the Faith. Our only regret was to have miss one evening with the beloved Guardian as he does not attend such functions.”

The next weekend Amelia Collins, Ruhiyyih Khanum, “Leroy Ioas and Ugo Giachery, and three other members of the International Council, Jessie and Ethel Revel and Dr. Lotfullah Hakim, Iraj Hakim, Angeline Giachery, Mr. and Mrs. Esfandiar Bakhtiari, Persian friends from Pakistan (He is a member of the NSA of Burma-Pakistan- India), Shadah” … and the Allens went to Bahji for the week end. “Ruhiyyih Khanum and Millie Collins left to go back to Haifa.”

1957 In his last Convention message Shoghi Effendi acknowledged Millie’s donations for the “building of the Mother Temples in Europe, Australia and Africa. The Guardian named the main gate to the shrine of Bahá’u’lláh in her honor (Francis 1993/2003).”

1957 Millie was 84. “The beloved Guardian passed away in November, 1957. Millie was planing to meet him in Haifa, and upon her arrival there, heard the calamitous news of his passing that put the entire Baha’i world into shock. Millie immediately departed for London to join Ruhíyyih Khánum in her time of need. Millie became like a mother to her and gave spiritual support during the proceeding four dark years (Francis 1993/2003).”

Immediately after the funeral the five Hands of the Cause, Ruhiyyih Khanum, Mr. Remey, Mrs. Collins, Dr. Giachery, and Mr. Ioas opened the Shoghi Effendi’s Will.(Custodians).

“One of our most pressing worries concerned the heavy financial obligations left us in the plans of Shoghi Effendi regarding not only the construction of Bahá’í Temples but other properties, and the monetary support we had to give to the new National Bahá’í Assemblies in developing countries. The national Bahá’í bodies in a position to provide any substantial aid at that period were those of Iran and America (Custodians).”

25 November 1957 The Hands of the Cause nominated and appointed from our own number to act on our behalf as the Custodians of the Bahá’í World Faith
Ruhiyyih Rabbani, Charles Mason Remey, Amelia E. Collins, Leroy C. Ioas, Hasan Balyuzi, ‘Ali-Akbar Furutan, Jalal Khazeh, Paul E. Haney and Adelbert Muhlschlegel (Custodians).


“The main income of the Hands was from the contributions of the Persian Bahá’í community, which was the oldest and at that time the most affluent Bahá’í community in the world. This monetary aid we estimated at about $100,000 a year. In June 1960, as we considered our financial position, we felt obliged to vote this entire sum for Temple construction, the expenses of the Institution of the Hands and support to the National Assemblies, nearly all of which at that period were not self-supporting and received most of their annual budget from the Hands at the World Centre (Custodians).”
“The munificent financial contributions of our fellow-Hand and Custodian Amelia Collins were of great assistance to the Hands; her outstanding generosity afforded infinite comfort to our heavily-burdened minds and hearts as we faced the ever-increasing financial needs of the Faith. The following minute from our Conclave meeting in 1959 conveys only one instance of her magnanimous spirit: “Milly offered to provide one-third entire sum to be given by Hands Holy Land to Hands in the continents.”
The Hands living at the World Centre practised rigid economy; as the pilgrimage had been suspended for a nine-month period of mourning throughout the Bahá’í world after the passing of Shoghi Effendi our Eastern and Western Pilgrim Houses were available and the newly-chosen Custodians and their wives resided in them for some time, only moving to more suitable accommodation when the pilgrimage was reopened (Custodians).”

From 1957 to 1963, (Custodians)

“When the appointed and much-loved Head of our Faith suddenly passed away on November 4, 1957 in London, we were twenty-seven in number, five women and twenty-two men, drawn from all continents of the globe, some of whom had never even met the Guardian personally, indeed, eight of us had only been appointed to the rank of Hand by Shoghi Effendi a few weeks prior to his death. Those of us of longer standing felt great compassion for this last contingent of our peers, who, in addition to the shock each one of us had experienced when we were elevated to this high position, were now faced with the additional shock of the realization that Shoghi Effendi was no longer there to guide them personally, that this door was closed forever. The eldest among us, Corinne True, one of the early group of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s disciples in America, was already 96; the youngest, Enoch Olinga, a native of Uganda, only 31; listing us according to our diminishing ages, covering sixty-five years of difference, we were, after Corinne True, Clara Dunn in Australia-herself 88, Amelia Collins [who was 84-years-old] at the World Centre, Tarazu’llah Samandari, in Persia, Mason Remey at the World Centre, Agnes Alexander in Japan, Musa Banani; in Africa, Horace Holley in America, Shu’a’u’llah ‘Ala’i in Persia, Leroy Ioas at the World Centre, Ugo Giachery, in Italy, Jalal Khazeh in Persia, Adelbert Muhlschlegel, and Hermann Grossmann in Germany, John Robarts, in Africa, Dhikru’llah Khadem in Persia, ‘Ali-Akbar Furutan; in Persia, Abu’l-Qasim Faizi, in Arabia, Hasan Balyuzi in England, Paul Haney in America, (Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum at the World Centre, ‘Ali-Muhammad Varqa in Persia, William Sears in Africa, Collis Featherstone in Australia, John Ferraby in England, Rahmatu’llah Muhajir in Indonesia and Enoch Olinga, in Africa. Among the men five held the title of “Doctor”, two of these being medical men; some of the others had university degrees but we five women, as far as I know, held no university degrees. I go into these details because this is the backdrop, these the leading actors, as the perilous drama of this most recent world religion played itself out successfully from November 4, 1957 to April 21, 1963.”

October 1961 Millie fell and “fractured her arm, requiring hospitalization. Despite her frailness, she returned to Haifa to assist the Hands of the Cause in regard to the first election of the Universal House of Justice. She had to be carried in a wheelchair to the meetings being held at Bahji, and was able to attend all but one (Francis 1993/2003).”

1 January 1962 At the age of 91, Millie Collins passed onto the Abhá Kingdom while being held in the arms of Ruhíyyih Khánum. Her body is buried in the Bahá’i cemetery at the foot of Mt. Carmel (Francis 1993/2003).”


Allen, Valera. December 1954. Haifa Impressions: Pilgrim Notes. (previously dated December 15-23, 1956; this may be incorrect)

Francis, Richard. 1993/2003. Amelia Collins: The Fulfilled Hope of ‘Abdu’l-Baha.

Harper, Barron. 1997. Lights of Fortitude. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-413-1

August 1935 “News of the Cause”, Bahá’í News (94): 1

Rabbani, R. (ed.) 1992. The Ministry of the Custodians 1957-1963. Bahá’í World Centre. xxiii. ISBN 0-85398-350-X.

Universal House of Justice. 1976. Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1968-73. Wilmette, IL: Bahá’i Publishing Trust

Related Wikipedia articles

Amelia Collins
Baha’i Faith in Iceland
Western Pilgrim House

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