The Life of Louise Mathew Gregory
by Janet Fleming Rose
The life of Louise Gregory has been overshadowed by that of her brilliant husband, Hand of the Cause Louis Gregory. This book redresses the balance, showing that during her long life Louise achieved much in her own right.
‘I saw a seed in your heart . . . I wish it to produce many seeds,’ said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to Louise Mathew in 1911, on board the ship taking Him to America. He encouraged this quiet, self-effacing Englishwoman to embark on what must have seemed an almost impossible adventure: an interracial marriage that would, at that time and place, be considered eccentric at best and downright illegal at worst.
Louise Gregory achieved much in her own right: she attended university and qualified as a teacher, a remarkably modern achievement for a Victorian woman; in the early days of the 20th century she established herself as a single woman working and studying in Luxembourg and in Paris; as a new Bahá’í she travelled alone to Egypt and attained the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, later witnessing His talks in London and Paris and even accompanying Him, as one of a select group of westerners, when He sailed from Naples to America.
After her marriage she was the first Bahá’í to teach the Faith in Luxembourg. On her own initiative and with the blessing of Shoghi Effendi she was the first Bahá’í, after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit, to teach the Faith in Hungary. When she settled for months on end in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia she acquired the distinction of being the first Bahá’í pioneer to those countries.
She excelled, in her quiet way, at seeking out waiting souls and encouraging them in their spiritual quest by holding informal group meetings and study classes. Although reserved by nature, she was not afraid to address audiences when called upon to do so and her mastery of French, German and Esperanto aided her in her endeavours. Her efforts to give the message of Bahá’u’lláh to the peoples of the Balkans earned her the praise of the Guardian.
But surely her greatest achievement was her marriage to Louis Gregory, which she embarked upon when no longer in her youth, in accordance with the wishes of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, taking up her residence in an unfamiliar country and in the face of extreme prejudice from current society regarding her marriage. At the same time as being independent she achieved a happy and loving marriage to Louis. For nearly 40 years the couple were united by their love of their Bahá’í Faith and an enduring love for each other. Despite enforced separations when they were unable to travel together to states where the law prevented them from being together, they presented an example of a happy marriage and a role model for future unions of black and white. Truly they nourished the ‘seed’ that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had planted in their hearts.
George Ronald, Oxford
228 pages, plus photographs
23.4 x 15.6 cms (9.75 x 6.25 ins)