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Traces That Remain:
A Pictorial History of the Early Days of the Bahá'í Faith among the Japanese

by Barbara R. Sims

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Chapter 40

40. Esperanto and English Clubs, and Other Organizations

In the early days of the Faith in America, 'Abdu'l-Bahá recommended that the Bahá'ís study Esperanto. Among the first to do so was Miss Martha Root. Although she was a fine journalist and lecturer, many doors opened to her because of her knowledge of Esperanto.

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Miss Alexander started studying Esperanto before she came to Japan. In Japan she saw how effective it was for her friend, Martha, so she made efforts to associate with Esperantists. The value of this cannot be over-emphasized. In Japan about the time Miss Alexander arrived, the Japanese were ready to become more internationally minded. In those days Esperanto seemed to have been more of an intellectual activity with fewer of the political overtones it later acquired.

Esperanto and English societies abounded during that time and Miss Alexander found many opportunities to teach, speak before, and participate in the activities of both groups. Her talks before them and her discussions with the participants were always on some aspect of the Bahá'í Faith.

Miss Alexander can be seen in all the following photographs, usually the only foreigner present.


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Miss Alexander and Miss Root meet with Keio University students, 1923. It was during Miss Root's second visit to Japan.

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Miss Alexander with Nagoya Esperantists, 1923. This picture appeared in the Nagoya Shimbun (newspaper) under the heading "Apostle of Peace", and it reported that Miss Alexander went to Nagoya under the auspices of the Nagoya Esperanto Society to give a lecture on "Esperanto and Bahá'í". The article also said that she gave a Bahá'í lecture on the Shimin Jiyu Daigaku (Free Citizens University).


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Miss Alexander with women students. The photograph was undated but it probably was taken in the early 1920s.

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Miss Alexander with a group of Tokyo Esperanto students, 1924.

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Miss Alexander was invited to attend the Third Conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations, in Kyoto, 1929. Delegates and observers from many countries participated. Miss Alexander (fourth row, middle left) was not on the program, nevertheless she was pleased to take part in the conference.

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On her way back to Tokyo from the Conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations, Miss Alexander stopped at the city of Tsu to see her good friends, Mr. and Mrs. Torii. Mr. Torii (left of Miss Alexander) invited some Esperantists from nearby towns to hear of the Faith. Akira Torii who was then twelve can be seen between Miss Alexander and Mr. Torii.


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At the Tokyo YMCA, 1930. Miss Alexander spoke to them in Esperanto about the Bahá'í Teachings. One of the members of the class translated into Japanese.

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On her way back to Japan from China in 1930, Miss Alexander's ship stopped one day in Nagasaki. A group of Esperantists gathered to meet her. Miss Alexander wrote that whenever she met with Esperantists a brotherly spirit was felt. She took every opportunity to lead Esperantists closer to the Faith, using the need for an international language as a point from which to talk. In the early days many Esperantists came into the Faith.

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The 18th Annual Esperanto Congress at Kanazawa, 1930.

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One of the many Esperanto classes Miss Alexander spoke before, this time all women.


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This photograph was not identified but shows Miss Alexander with one of the many student groups with which she had contact. She went to some of them weekly but as they kept changing membership she continually reached new students. Her willingness to speak before and associate with student groups afforded her the chance to teach the Faith to literally thousands of young people through the years.

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Miss Alexander (sitting third from the left), spoke before the Tokyo School for the Blind. This photograph was dated 1930. She often had opportunities to speak of the Faith to the blind. She wrote, "God's Bounty to me was the love He put into my heart for these blind friends, and my greatest joy was in sharing with them His blessings to me."

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Seikei School festival, 1930. Miss Alexander took part in the Esperanto program.

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Miss Alexander celebrates with members of the Seikei School faculty.


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This undated photograph shows Miss Alexander with university students, probably either an Esperanto group or an English club, about 1930. In those days there were few personal cameras. Consequently there were few impromptu pictures. Most were carefully posed.

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Nineteenth Esperanto Congress, Kyoto, 1931. Of this Congress, Miss Alexander wrote, "I was, as usual, the only foreigner present, but felt as though I was among brothers."

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Keio University Esperanto Club, 1931. Miss Alexander's friend Mr. Aibara is seated second from the right.


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Miss Keith Ransom-Kehler spoke at this Buddhist Temple the same place Miss Alexander had spoken earlier in the year, 1931. Mr. Ito who was a Bahá'í, third from the left, translated for her. Both Miss Ransom-Kehler and Miss Alexander are seated second from the top row.

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The Twentieth Esperanto Congress, in Tokyo, 1932. Miss Alexander seems to be the only foreigner, as usual. Can you find her?

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Miss Alexander with teachers and students of the Sakurai Jogakko (Sakurai Women's School), in 1932.


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Esperanto festival at a high school in Akabane, Shiba, 1935.

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Meiji University English Club. This photograph was taken in December 1935.


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Miss Alexander often met with the Meiji University English Conversation Club. She was invited this evening, January 22, 1937, to a farewell dinner for four members who were graduating. She wrote that every meeting gave her a chance to speak on the Faith.

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