Corinne Knight True

photo of Corinne True

The Center is named for Corinne Knight True (1861-1961) who became a Bahá’í in Chicago in 1899. She married Moses Adams True in 1882 and the couple had eight children. The successive deaths of her husband and, eventually, five of the children (including all four boys) caused her to turn to the Bahá’í Faith for solace and particularly to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), its Head. He wrote her more than fifty Tablets of love and encouragement, a remarkable volume of correspondence for such a busy individual.

An early gathering of Chicago Baha'is, perhaps 1907, including Corinne True.

Corinne True quickly became one of the leading members of the Chicago Bahá’í community, and when that community’s governing body—the House of Spirituality—decided to build a Bahá’í House of Worship in 1903, True became its principal advocate. She was one of the women who found the site of the temple in Wilmette, a suburb of Chicago, and convinced the House of Spirituality to purchase it. When she went on pilgrimage in 1907 to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (the first of her nine pilgrimages to Haifa), she brought a petition signed by hundreds of American Bahá’ís pledging support for the project, and He gave her detailed instructions about the design of the Temple. “Go back and work for the Temple; it is a great work,” He said; “make a beginning, and all will come right.” When delegates representing the Bahá’ís of North America gathered in Chicago in 1909 to form the Bahai Temple Unity, she was elected to its Executive Board and was chosen as its financial secretary. She was present on May 1, 1912, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá laid the cornerstone of the temple, and again in May 1953, when the temple was completed and dedicated to public worship.

She was dedicated to study of the Bahá’í scriptures. She encouraged Bahá’ís to learn the sacred texts well enough so that they could quote them accurately in their talks. She was known for holding regular study classes in her house where the Bahá’í teachings were studied “enthusiastically and thoroughly.”

She traveled extensively to speak about the Faith and encourage the Bahá’ís. In 1948-52, in her late 80s and early 90s, she spoke at many gatherings across western Europe. She made a trip to Jamaica to speak at a Bahá’í conference in 1957, when she was 95. Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957), the Head of the Bahá’í Faith, designated her as a Hand of the Cause of God in February 1952, a special rank in the Bahá’í Faith as a trusted advisor and encourager in the Bahá’í community.

Of her three surviving daughters, two were elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and one was appointed a Continental Counselor, an officer of the Faith carrying responsibilities similar to the Hands of the Cause of God. Corinne True is informally remembered as the “Mother of the Temple” and was affectionately called “Mother True” because of her warmth and tenderness. In 1952, Shoghi Effendi stated that “Mrs. True is to be regarded as the most venerable figure among the pioneers of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh in the West.” It is therefore fitting to name this center for the study of Bahá’í history and its teachings for her.

(biographical information summarized from Honor Kempton, “Corinne Knight True,” The Bahá’í World: An International Record, vol. XIII, 1954-1963 [Haifa: Universal House of Justice, 1970], 846-49. Also see Nathan Rutstein, Corinne True: Faithful Handmaid of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá [Oxford: George Ronald, 1987].)

Listen to an interview with Corinne True here.