Nancy Lee Harper, “Dialectical Discourse: Untangling 7 Conceptions about Hand of the Cause Amelia E. Collins (1873-1962),” Oct. 27

Sunday, Oct. 27, 2 p.m. Eastern time

Within every story, there is usually both an element of truth and an element of distortion. This may occur for various reasons, such as misunderstandings, misrepresentations, or misconceptions; faulty memory by the storyteller and/or the receiver of the information; lack of access to primary sources; and others. Known as the “outstanding benefactress of the Faith”, there was much more to “Milly” Collins than what some stories portray about her. This presentation aims to delineate a dialectical discourse regarding some distortions about this beloved, outstanding, and high-ranking Bahá’í woman. It will examine seven conceptions, some recorded, and some presumed: 1) she carried and explained a letter by Shoghi Effendi to the 1923 National Convention; 2) she was a child when her father, a Lutheran minister, died; 3) she memorized only one sentence from the Writings and strove to live it; 4) she became a Hand of the Cause in 1951; 5) she left all her money to the Faith; 6) her chief contribution to the Faith was monetary; 7) a corollary to the
preceding idea: Shoghi Effendi appointed her a Hand because of her generous contributions to the Faith. The above conceptions are present either in secondary sources or exist unfortunately as vague notions among her family, as well as some Bahá’í and non Bahá’í public. Primary sources, such as the Guardian’s communications to Milly, her own letters to others, official records and transcripts, and documents housed in the United States Bahá’í National Archives and the Bahá’í World Centre, expose the facts in this dialectical argument. By untangling the truth of these stories, a clearer picture emerges about this illustrious soul, Amelia Engelder Collins.

Described as “an extraordinarily multi-talented American musician and scholar” (Music & Vision), pianist Nancy Lee Harper has performed and taught in 29 countries, on 4 continents. Nancy holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano performance from the University of North Texas. Now retired from the Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal, where she was Head of Piano and supervised Master’s, PhD, and postdoctoral research, Nancy concurrently served as a long-term pioneer to that country. She has authored over 250 scientific articles, various books on music subjects, and recorded several CDs. Her music is available for listening on Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud, and other platforms. Her name figures in American Keyboard Artists and Marquis Who’s Who. In 2006, she was nominated for a prize from the Samii-Houseinpour Foundation (Belgium). In her retirement, she has written on Bahá’í topics: “An interview with Mr. Hooper C. Dunbar on ‘Art and the Creative Process’” (Wilmette Institute and eli*x*ir magazine), Bahá’í Teachings, and the chapter “Dorothy Beecher Baker” in Barron Harper’s Lights of Fortitude). Nancy is currently writing a comprehensive biography of Hand of the Cause Amelia Collins and has recently presented facets of this topic on “More than Money: Contributions of Hand of the Cause Amelia Collins” (Clearwater Baha’is, YouTube, 2023).


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