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Marion Jack (1866 - 1954)
Marion Jack was born on 1 December 1866 in Saint John, New Brunswick, into a prominent family and received much of her education in England and, particularly, in France, where she studied art. Landscape painting was her special field. She first learned of the Bahá’í Faith at a social gathering during her student days in Paris. From that time forward, she dedicated her life to service of the Bahá’í Faith. She spent some time in ‘Akká and, in 1908, taught English there to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s grandchildren. She continued her painting while she was there.
By 1914 she had returned to North America and began teaching the Bahá’í Faith in Alaska, Toronto, Montreal, and many other places. “Jackie,” as she was affectionately called, was ageless in her complete comfort with young and old alike and was beloved wherever she went, drawing all to her and to each other through her faith, love, and devotion.
Marion Jack returned to Haifa in 1930 and, following this visit, moved on to Sofia, Bulgaria, where she spent the remainder of her life. In Sofia, she held frequent meetings that were well attended by people of prominence and capacity. As World War II approached, and all who could fled the country, the Guardian suggested that she go to Switzerland or some other safe country. She pleaded to be allowed to stay at her post, preferring, as she put it, to “remain at the switch.” Living on a small pension, which did not always reach her, suffering serious deprivation, aged, and in poor health, she remained at her post. It was not without reason that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá used to call her “General Jack.”
For the duration of the Second World War, and especially after Sofia fell behind the Soviet “Iron Curtain,” Marion Jack displayed constancy, fearlessness, and self-abnegation by remaining in Sofia and teaching the Bahá’í Faith. Being a Canadian citizen, she ran great risks by remaining. Despite living in extreme poverty, with an enlarged heart and many other ailments, exposed to the misery of a nation torn by war, and despite friends pleading with her to leave, Marion Jack remained in Bulgaria more than 20 years, until her last day on 25 March 1954.
In its tribute to Marion Jack, published as an insert to its Bahá’í News of April 1955, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada cited the following Words of Bahá’u’lláh:
When the victory arriveth, every man shall profess himself as believer and shall hasten to the shelter of God’s Faith. Happy are they who in the days of world-encompassing trials have stood fast in the Cause and refused to swerve from its truth.1
* Adapted from Bahá’í World, Vol. 12, 1950-1954, “In Memoriam,” pp. 674-7.