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Early Bahá’ís in Hawaiʻi

Photograph by Frank H. Nowell
Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Collection
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Martha Louise Root

1872 - 1939

“Thou art, in truth, a herald of the Kingdom and a harbinger of the Covenant. … Thou art truly self-sacrificing. Thou showest kindness unto all nations. Thou art sowing a seed that shall, in due time, give rise to thousands of harvests. Thou art planting a tree that shall eternally put forth leaves and blossoms and yield fruits, and whose shadow shall day by day grow in magnitude.”

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in a letter to Martha Root,

Martha Louise Root

Miss Martha Louise Root, Hand of the Cause of God, was born in Richwood, Ohio in 1872 of pioneer American stock. After completing a degree at the University of Chicago she embarked on a career as a journalist. She encountered the Bahá’í Faith and became confirmed shortly thereafter.

For the next twenty years she roamed the globe interviewing the famous and powerful while spreading the teachings of Baha’u’llah. She was the first to travel and teach in South America.

When Martha Root passed away in Honolulu on September 28, 1939, Shoghi Effendi notified the Baha’is “Martha’s unnumbered admirers throughout Bahá’í world lament with me the earthly extinction of her heroic life. Concourse on high acclaim her elevation to rightful position in galaxy of Bahá’í immortals. Posterity will establish her as foremost Hand which ‘Abdu’-Bahá’ís will has raised up in first Bahá’í century.

Martha Root’s gravesite is located in Oahu Cemetery at 2162 Nuuanu Avenue, about nine (9) miles from the Honolulu International Airport.

The hours of the cemetery are 7:00 am to 6:00 pm

Agnes Baldwin Alexander

1875 - 1971

“I declare by the Lord of Hosts that had this respected daughter founded an empire, that empire would not have been so great! For this sovereignty is eternal sovereignty and this glory is everlasting glory.” ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Agnes Baldwin Alexander

Miss Agnes Baldwin Alexander, Hand of the Cause of God, was born in Honolulu in 1875. In 1900 she discovered the Bahá’í Faith while in Rome on a tour of the United States and Europe. In 1901 she returned to Hawaii as its first Bahá’í.

In 1915 Miss Agnes Alexander pioneered to Japan. In 1921 she was the first to introduce the Faith to Korea. In 1957, Shoghi Effendi elevated Miss Alexander to the rank of Hand of the Cause of God. In 1964, the Universal House of Justice appointed Miss Alexander as their representative to the election of the first National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the Hawaiian Islands.

Miss Agnes Alexander passed away in 1971 and is buried behind Kawaiahao Church in Honolulu.

Mrs. Mary Kealiʻikahumoku Tilton Fantom

1897 - 1972

“I declare by the Lord of Hosts that had this respected daughter founded an empire, that empire would not have been so great! For this sovereignty is eternal sovereignty and this glory is everlasting glory.” ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Mrs. Mary Kealiʻikahumoku Tilton Fantom

Mrs. Mary Fantom has the distinction of being the first Bahá’í of Hawaiian blood. She was affectionately known and was closely associated with Hand of the Cause Agnes Alexander.

Mrs. Fantom served faithfully for many years as the recording secretary of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Maui which was established in 1928 and was among the first to hold children’s classes. Each year, in June, Bahá’ís and their friends gathered in her spacious gardens for a special Unity Feast. Long confined to a wheelchair, but undeterred by this physical handicap, she was a devoted servant of the Faith to the end of her life.

To each friend who attended she gave the gift of a plant, a symbol of the Faith, as one guest remarked, “for they bear seeds and will keep growing.” Although she and her husband, James, had no children of their own, she may truly be regarded as an “international mother”, for her love and generosity extended to many now scattered across the face of the globe.

Dr. George Jacob Augur

1853 ~ 1927

Dr. George Jacob Augur

Dr. Augur, Disciple of ’Abdu’l-Baha was born in New Haven, Connecticut and educated at Yale University. In 1898 Dr. Augur and his wife Ruth and their son Morris moved to Hawaii. Sometime in 1909 the Augur’s became Bahá’ís.

In 1914 Dr. Augur became the first to pioneer in Japan. Shoghi Effendi later elevated Dr. Augur to the rank of a Disciple of ‘Abdu’l-Baha.

Dr. George Augur’s gravesite is located in Oahu Cemetery at 2162 Nuuanu Avenue, about nine (9) miles from the Honolulu International Airport. The hours of the cemetery are 7:00 am to 6:00 pm